Guest Worker Visa Troubles Visit McDonald's

"For Argentine college student Jorge Rios, a U.S. government cultural-exchange program had huge appeal: He would earn money and use it to explore the country.  But after spending $3,000 to participate, Mr. Rios said he found himself at the mercy of a McDonald's Corp. franchisee who was his employer and landlord.  This week, he and 14 other foreign students demonstrated outside a McDonald's after filing complaints with the State Department and Labor Department saying they were exploited at fast-food outlets in the Harrisburg, Penn., area and housed in substandard conditions.  The students were on a three-month J-1 visa for work and travel. ... "This is a cheap-labor program, nothing more," said Carl Shusterman, a Los Angeles immigration attorney and former Immigration and Naturalization Service official.  "Since when is flipping burgers a cultural exchange?"  Immigration attorneys said the J-1 visa program doesn't face the same oversight as other temporary-worker programs, such as the H-1B, commonly used to bring in skilled workers, or the H-2A, for seasonal agricultural laborers.  About 109,000 students came to the U.S. on the Summer Work Travel Program in 2011.  Charles Kuck, president of the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, says "employers of less-skilled workers are between a rock and a hard place.  So they are using a program like the J-1 for an unintended purpose."" - Wall Street Journal, Mar. 9, 2013.

[See also, Jerry Kammer, "Cheap Labor as Cultural Exchange: The $100 Million Summer Work Travel Industry"]