U.S. State Department program that allows foreign college students to come to
America and work for the summer is in danger of going away suddenly, leaving
seafood processing operations in Kodiak and elsewhere around Alaska in a lurch.
J-1 Visa, as it's called, allows college students to spend four months in
America on work study programs. In Alaska, the students overwhelmingly work at
processors during the summer salmon season.
Senator Mark Begich has appealed to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -
who herself worked at an Alaska fish plant in her youth - asking her to exempt the
state from the J-1 shutdown.
-- (J1 Visa 1 26
sec "We've made a strong
letter ... and they make some money.")
value of the J-1 Visa program was called into question last year after hundreds
of J-1 workers staged a big protest when they walked out of a Hershey candy
packing plant in Pennsylvania, complaining about mandatory overtime. As a result,
the Department of State now wants to bar J-1's from all manufacturing and
packing plants, which, unfortunately for Alaska include seafood processing
Fishermen of Alaska Executive Director Mark Vinsel said the fish won't wait
around for the issues to be resolved:
-- (J1 Visa 2 30
sec "Commercial fishermen are
pretty ... Alaska jobs are at stake.")
says the State Department is using a bureaucratic maneuver called an "interim
final rule" which takes place almost immediately, with only a 30-day
review, but without public comment. Since processors and their agents are
currently recruiting for this summer's salmon season, Begich says the issue
needs to be resolved soon:
-- (J1 Visa 3 27
sec "Timing is everything. ...
push the envelope pretty hard.")
to 5,000 foreign students - many from Eastern Europe - work in Alaska fish
plants each summer. Processors would have to scramble to replace them on such