(May 31, 2013) A provision in the U.S. Immigration Reform Bill could negatively affect Ocean City businesses that hire international students.
The provision would make the program so expensive for employers that they could not hire the students and would make it virtually impossible for sponsoring groups to recruit students for jobs in this country.
Sponsor groups have been bringing thousands of international students to work in the resort and elsewhere in the United States for years. The students work in a myriad of businesses and can often be seen in Boardwalk shops and eateries. Many also work in hotels, often as housekeeping staff.
They have been vital to many businesses whose owners say the international students often take low—paying jobs that Americans don’t want.
Last year, 3,800 international students worked in the Ocean City area, according to an e-mail sent Tuesday to members of the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce from Executive Director Melanie Pursel.
Her e-mail asked chamber members to contact Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin to ask them to oppose the provisions in the Senate immigration bill and to support exempting Summer Work Travel participants and other Department of State exchange visitors from the section pertaining to human trafficking.
A similar e-mail was being written Wednesday by Susan Jones, executive director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, for members of that organization.
Jones, Pursel and Carrie Linch, head of the resort’s Seasonal Workforce Committee, met Tuesday in Salisbury with aides of Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin to discuss the issue.
“We’re just starting to hear about it. We chatted with them and they heard our message and our story,” Jones said.
The aides were interested to learn of a 2011 survey of business owners in the Ocean City area about the need for international students and what effect restrictions on the program could have on them. They will be sent survey information, and conversations about the most recent proposed restrictions will continue.
“There will be some follow-up,” Jones said.
Students participating in the Summer Work Travel program typically work for three months and travel for one month before returning to their home countries. Provisions in the Immigration Reform Act could put an end to the program.
“Sponsors could not collect any money,” said Janice Haigh, vice president of Camp Counselors USA Work Experience in Sausalito, Calif. “It outlaws sponsors and anybody they label as a labor contractor.”
The provision states that “no employer, foreign labor contractor or agent or employee of a foreign labor contractor shall access any fee, including visa fees, processing fees, transportation fees, legal expenses, placement fees and other costs, to a worker for any foreign labor contracting activity.”
Haigh said employers would have to pay for all fees, including flights that could cost $1,000, connected with the process.
“If we recruit for a specific employer, we’ll charge the employer,” Haigh said. “We have to charge someone.”
In addition, the sponsors would have to pay the Secretary of State $500 per student.
So, in effect, the sponsors cannot charge the students for their help in finding jobs and transportation to the United States and they would be required to pay $500 per student.
That, Haigh said, is not going to happen. Sponsors would simply be out of business.
CCUSA would be one of many sponsors out of business. Each year, CCUSA brings about 5,000 international students to the United States, including this area.
“We do have participants in Ocean City,” Haigh said. “And all places where employers desperately need them for summer.”
For this summer, many international students have already arrived in Ocean City and elsewhere in the United States. Haigh said she did not know what would happen next summer.
“With this Congress, who knows if and when it will pass?” she said.