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Struggling teens don’t need more hindrances

November 15, 2011
Gary Andersen, Lee Smith , Fairmont Sentinel

Somehow, we doubt the 24 percent of Americans aged 16-19 who want jobs but can't find them care much about cultural understanding. It doesn't pay the bills.

But encouraging both Americans and those of other lands in understanding each other's cultures is important enough to the U.S. State Department that it has expanded a program that probably increases unemployment here.

It is the J-1 visa program, which allows young adults from other countries to work in the United States for as much as four months at a time. About 103,000 J-1 visas were approved this year, up dramatically from the 20,000 issued in 1996.

But the State Department has decided to freeze the number of J-1 visas it issues - because of alleged abuses of young foreigners who come here under the program.

There have been abuses. Some young foreigners here under J-1 visas are paid terribly low wages - $1 an hour or less, in some cases. Some don't even earn enough to buy food, an investigation by The Associated Press found.

Of course, such corruption cannot and should not be tolerated. But why didn't the State Department worry about the program's potential to deprive young Americans of jobs? About 24 percent in the 16-19 age group cannot find the jobs they need and want. They can be pardoned for wondering whether the State Department understands their culture.



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