Friday, February 03, 2012

CETUSA Banned in Effort to Protect Foreign Students From Exploitation

I've been getting questions about whether CETUSA is banned from bringing in foreign students this summer under the State Department's work program. THE ANSWER IS YES. CETUSA IS BANNED FOR TWO YEARS. NO STUDENTS WILL BE BROUGHT IN BY CETUSA UNDER THE SUMMER WORK PROGRAM. See updates below.

However, I do not know if CETUSA has other programs that are still operating.


State Dept. Slaps Nonprofit for J-1 Violations
Nonprofit Quarterly
By Louis Altman

The U.S. State Department has clamped down on the nonprofit CETUSA, citing years of widespread abuse in its loosely-regulated cultural exchange visa programs. The recruiting agency has been banned from a popular J-1 visa program for two years.

Last year, CETUSA supplied 400 foreign “Summer Work Travel” (SWT) students to a Hershey Co. candy packaging plant (out of a total of 5,000 to 6,000 that CETUSA supplies via the SWT program—which is just one of the J-1 visa programs it engages in—annually). The students are officially supposed to have the opportunity to learn English and mingle with everyday Americans while working in safe, social jobs.

NYT Editorial: Closing the Student Sweatshop
New York Times editorial
February 2, 2012

The State Department took a modest step on Wednesday to cleaning up a major embarrassment. Its Summer Work Travel program for foreign university students was created decades ago to promote goodwill, education and cultural exchange but has since turned into a huge, poorly regulated and abuse-prone foreign guest-worker scheme. The department said it was barring one of the program’s largest sponsors, the Council for Educational Travel, USA, known as Cetusa, from bringing in any more workers, after it sent hundreds of young people to work in a Pennsylvania factory packing Hershey’s chocolates.

The students walked off the job in August to protest dangerous working conditions and low pay at a job they described as an elaborate bait and switch.

Each had paid $3,000 to $6,000 for the privilege of joining the J-1 visa program, which recruiters had billed as a rewarding summer: a taste of Willy Wonka plus the chance to see America. What the students got was endless hours packing and toting heavy boxes, risking injury for rock-bottom wages. There was no “cultural exchange,” unless you count immersion in the culture of an exploited, disposable work force. Once fees and jacked-up rents were deducted from their paychecks, the students netted between $1 and $3.50 an hour, far less than their American counterparts.

Which, as Professor Jennifer Gordon, a labor expert at Fordham Law School, recently noted in The Times, is the point. The summer program is the country’s largest guest-worker program because it is essentially unregulated and its workers are supercheap and lacking basic labor rights. Oversight is lax because the government relies on sponsors — which profit from the program — to do it.

The State Department is making an example of Cetusa, promising to tighten standards to keep sponsors in line and students out of dangerous industries like construction and roofing. The reforms need to go much further by explicitly protecting workers’ rights, including the right to organize, and giving oversight to the Labor Department.


Yet another misbehaving non-profit organization!

Company Banned in Effort to Protect Foreign Students From Exploitation
New York Times
February 1, 2012

Signaling a sharp change of course in the country’s largest international cultural exchange program, the State Department has banned a leading sponsor company from bringing foreign students to the United States for summer jobs and will add new restrictions to protect students from labor abuse, officials said Wednesday.

The removal of the sponsor, the Council for Educational Travel, USA, was intended to send a powerful message to dozens of private companies participating in the State Department’s summer work program that they will have to monitor foreign students far more closely and ensure that participants are not exploited as cheap workers by employers.

The council, which is known as Cetusa, has been one of the biggest sponsors in the summer program and was responsible for placing about 400 foreign students last summer in a Pennsylvania plant packing Hershey’s chocolates. In August, hundreds of those program participants staged a boisterous walkout from the plant to protest low pay and dangerous job conditions.

The students’ demonstrations set off an investigation of Cetusa by the State Department and accelerated a review of the entire summer program, ordered by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2010. Critics on many sides said the program had become a vast source of temporary foreign workers at a time of high joblessness for Americans and had lost some of its purpose as a source of positive cultural exposure to the United States for foreign university students.

Rick Ruth, acting deputy assistant secretary of state, said the department would issue new regulations in coming months to expand the list of occupations prohibited for foreign summer workers. The list will include most jobs in construction and roofing, he said, and others shown statistically to be the most hazardous.

“We want to make sure that sponsors are not putting the labor aspect in the primary position, when it should be the cultural aspect,” Mr. Ruth said in an interview Wednesday.

The department will tighten rules requiring sponsors to protect the health and safety of students and to prevent too many of them from working in the same place — a situation that could rob them of opportunities to interact with Americans. State Department officials said they were also considering a ban on most factory and industrial jobs for the students.

Over the past decade, about one million foreign university students came to the United States through the popular Summer Work Travel program.

Mr. Ruth said the department had decided to ban Cetusa, a measure that took effect on Monday, after the five-month investigation revealed a “scope and severity and pattern of noncompliance.” The lapses he cited echoed the complaints of the foreign students at the plant in Palmyra, Pa., who found themselves forced to work grueling night shifts lifting heavy boxes of Hershey’s candies for take-home pay so low they sometimes went hungry.

State Department officials found “an almost complete lack of cultural activities” for the students sent by Cetusa to the plant, and a “laxness” about their health and safety. The strains of the packing jobs and injuries that resulted were overlooked by the company, officials said.

Students’ complaints were routinely ignored and in some cases were met with “unacceptable threats and intimidation” that their visas could be canceled, officials said. The investigation also raised questions about whether the students had been overcharged by Cetusa for housing, the officials said.

Rick Anaya, the president of Cetusa, which is based in California, did not respond to requests for comment by telephone and e-mail.

Although a nonprofit, Cetusa, which sponsored more than 5,000 students last year, stands to lose at least $5 million in annual fees for the summer program. The company also created businesses providing health insurance to the students. State Department officials are reviewing Cetusa’s participation in three other academic exchanges. Under formal rules, the company could reapply after two years, but a return in that time appeared unlikely.

Several foreign students who worked at the packing plant, now back in their home countries, said they were excited to learn of the impact of their outcry...


harris said...

I just knew this case from this article. My brother is going to do an intership with CETUSA this summer. Is it really banned? Will his visa be approved? Thanks for the reply.

money said...

nice blog creation, i have learn more knowledgeable information from your thank you very much for sharing useful information with us.well done ,keep it up..