Why cutting the J1 visa would be a disaster
Another day, another Trump drama
Shock: Donald Trump has pissed people off again. Another shock: it targets foreigners… again.
Trump's "Buy American Hire American" executive order was recently passed to prevent international workers from taking jobs from American citizens. Recently the J1 visa, which enables internationals to work across the US, at resorts, camps, au pairing, and even for a part-time jobs when they're at college in the US, was added to discussion to get cut.
While nothing is official yet, there's no doubt those who get the J1 are worried.
Even though it's no surprise that Trump's trying to stop foreigners from working in the US, the potential cut of this particular visa has come as a huge hit to everyone who uses it, not for money, but for the sheer joy of it.
The J1, first and foremost, is a culture exchange
Yes, the workers get paid, but the main focus is the experience.
After being a camp counselor for the last two summers, there is no doubt that this is more than a job to us. If we wanted a huge paycheck, we would've taken up boring jobs at home.
Adam Janaway, a representative of BUNAC, which sends international staff worldwide through the J1, stresses the importance of keeping the visa:
“J1 is so much more than filling a labor shortage, although that is a real thing. It’s a window into another culture for both the participant and the Americans they encounter, and cross cultural experience for both those parties, I believe, is the most important step to making the world we live in better place.”
As well as experiencing their culture, we bring ours to the States, making lifelong friends with our colleagues, and causing a positive impression on the young children we teach. One where they count down the days until we return, and vice versa.
A lot of us influence America's youth, and make bonds while doing so
A great portion of the jobs through J1 visas work with children. The children we work with are constantly curious about other parts of the world. This knowledge would be stripped away if we were no longer able to work.
Caleb Bate, a first year Camp Caribou counselor from New Zealand, taught children on his camp a traditional Haka. On camp life, he says, "We bring different skills and mindsets that can change the way the children are taught for the better."
With the impact of the potential cut hitting Caleb after one summer, it's hard to imagine how Lauren Carner, who's been travelling from England for five years, feels. For the summers of 2013, 2014, and 2015, she worked as a counselor at Camp Kippewa in Maine, and made such an impression that her Camp Directors asked her to be an au pair for their own children, which she's been doing since. The program made her, "fall in love with the country and its people," because she's, "building such a strong relationship with these children and their parents, and they have honestly become like my second family."
Discussing the potential cut, Lauren said: "I am so grateful for the opportunity I have been given. Mr Trump - Please don't deprive others of these wonderful programs that you currently have in place!"
There's demand for us for the jobs Americans can't fill
Not only do we impact citizens, but employers need us. We’re only here for a couple of months of the year, on short term contracts that wouldn’t satisfy employees who would need a full-time job.
Often there aren’t enough American employees to fill all positions. Both the counselor, au pair and resort program require skilled employees who know their field. While Americans can do these skills, there are over 10,000 summer camps and thousands of resorts and hotels, and many children in need of caring, across the US, meaning there'd be need for tens of thousands of workers to dedicate themselves to full-on jobs, for only a couple of months.
Alexi Skitinis, a Welsh soccer coach based in California for the past two summers, has noticed by working with British, Brazilian, and American co-workers, the difference in both skill and knowledge:
“American soccer culture is severely behind us. Granted, USA citizens should be provided work first as it's their country, but when you have the opportunity to bring in licensed professionals, why would you want to deny the chance of others being taught correctly?
“To take this away would be cruel.”
We don't only help the businesses we work for, but the economy, too
We don’t just bring our skills. While Trump may say that foreign workers threaten Americans' jobs, by coming over to the States we bring a lot of money for the economy. Our money goes both to local businesses and to travelling.
A CCUSA representative also shared that a 2017 study of 6,000 Northeastern camps showed we made a direct economic contribution of $3.2 billion.
Without us, a lot of summer programs that benefit Americans might have to close
We work at camps, at theme parks, at ski resorts, in hotels and bars, and even if we took employment out of it, we still spend our time spending at local facilities. Without us, they won't get enough money to continue.
Jason Silberman, owner and director of Camp Matoaka in Maine, says: "Without the J1 program, many camps would be forced to close or downsize, which would affect the ability of so many children to attend camp. The camp experience would not be the same if we didn’t have staff from outside the United States. Camp should reflect the world around us.
"If Camp Matoaka practiced only hiring an all-American staff, we would be robbing our girls of an enriching global perspective."
This isn’t simply about international staff taking jobs from Americans. It couldn’t just be about unemployment if Trump looked into the facts on the money we bring and how businesses would suffer without us.
David King, who works for CCUSA, a summer camp placement company, said if the visa were to be cut, “it would have a devastating effect on tens of thousands of people. Camps would struggle to hire staff and wouldn't be able to accept as many campers. Local businesses may have to downsize or close. Tourist attractions wouldn’t be as busy and the American economy would suffer.
“Most importantly, it would deny the importance of a program where people from all over the world can work and cooperate in a positive environment.”
If the visa gets cut, it wouldn't only be a stab at international people who love this country, but to the Americans who not only enjoy our company, but rely on us too. Cutting the J1 would be travesty to America, as well as us.
Think about it, Donald.
Both BUNAC and CCUSA, as well as other placement companies on social media, urge everyone to help save the J1 visa.
If you're American, you can help by e-mailing the President and your Congressman here.
If you're international, you can help by sending your testimonial to firstname.lastname@example.org and tweeting #SaveJ1.