The U.S. State Department has taken steps to ban a nonprofit group for two years from a cultural-exchange program. The announcement comes after the organization sent 400 foreign students to work at a Hershey Co. candy packaging plant last year.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, California-based CETUSA brought students, mostly from Ukraine and Turkey, to the U.S. on J-1 visas, which are used for cultural and educational exchange opportunities. In addition to their summer work, the students were to practice English and learn more about America. It turned out they had little time for either.
In August of last year, the students protested on Chocolate Avenue in Hershey, Pa., claiming they were forced to work long hours for low pay at the packaging plant, which left them with little time or resources to travel the country and interact with Americans. The State Department quickly began an investigation of the working conditions in Hershey. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also backed a top-down review of the J-1 program, which determined that CETUSA should be barred from participating further for the next two years.
The nonprofit is also involved in other J-1 exchange programs, and their eligibility for those are currently under review.
The J-1 program is meant to expose foreign students to the American lifestyle, and the State Department is likely to announce new regulations in the coming months to make sure this goal is realized. They want students to be working at jobs that allow them to interact with other Americans, not in hazardous or hard-labor occupations.
You can read the full story in The Philadelphia Inquirer.