The Summer Work Travel program brings as many as 109,000 foreign university students to the United States each year to work for up to four months. The so-called J-1 program lets foreign college students work as waiters, desk clerks, lifeguards and other jobs. Created as a cultural exchange program, it has changed over time. Employers have taken advantage of foreign students whose rock-bottom wages are not subject to Social Security, Medicare and other taxes that businesses would owe on U.S. workers. That’s bad news for the guest workers. It’s worse news for the American young people without jobs. “Today the J-1 program has morphed into a low-wage jobs program to allow corporations like Hershey's and McDonald's and many others to replace young American workers with cheaper labor from abroad,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said. In a Senate floor speech on Tuesday, he worried about using the immigration reform bill now before the Senate to extend the guest worker program at a time of high youth unemployment in America. “If young people, young high school graduates, for example, are unable to find entry-level jobs, how will they ever be able to develop the skills, the experience and the confidence they need to break into the job market?” Sanders asked.
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