Statement from Congressman Bill Keating:
The J-1 visa program is a cultural exchange program that grants foreign students temporary work permits that allow them to support themselves while here in the US. One category of the J-1 visa is the Summer Work Travel Program, which makes up a critical component of Massachusetts 9th District’s summer workforce during the peak tourism months.
Recently, there have been reports that the Trump Administration will reduce or eliminate the J-1 program. About 7,000 students come to Massachusetts for this unique opportunity for cultural and work exchange, with the vast majority on the Cape and Islands. By comparison, our district employs roughly 4,200 H-2B workers during this peak season. Discontinuing the Summer Work Travel Program – or even decreasing it – would have devastating consequences for our employers and seasonal businesses on the Cape and Islands.
“The Summer Work Travel Program is a positive, impactful experience for everyone involved,” said Congressman Keating. “The students experience American culture and values, so much so that over three-fourths of the participants report more positive views of America at the end of their stay. Local businesses are able to open and run as efficiently and effectively as possible even when there are not enough Americans to fill their staffing needs. And patrons receive quality service and an opportunity to learn more about foreign countries and cultures. It is a recipe for success for a summer community like our district. Reducing or eliminating the J-1 visa program will have severe consequences for small businesses across the country. There is simply no reason for the Trump Administration to do this. They are putting their own apparent xenophobia before the livelihoods of American citizens.”
Congressman Keating has been a lead voice in Congress in the fight to ensure that employers have access to the H-2B visa program, which is vital to the success of small businesses that have short peak seasons each year. The H-2B and J-1 visa programs are essential for employers in areas like the Cape and Islands where the local economy is primarily seasonal and American workers are unavailable to meet the demand for summer employment.
“This Administration has shown itself time and again as hostile to small business,” continued Congressman Keating. “Earlier this year, it dragged its feet in raising the H-2B cap which could have provided much needed relief for seasonal businesses here on the Cape. Now, they seek to eliminate a program that both supports the hiring needs of these businesses while also enriching the experiences of young foreign students during their time in the United States. For seasonal businesses on Cape Cod and the Islands, having access to both the H-2B and J-1 visa programs is essential for fulfilling their staffing needs. Every year, I fight in Congress to ensure that small business owners in my district are able to open their doors and be successful during their peak tourism season. Yet, this Administration has shown that they do not stand with our small business owners, and instead prefer to put ideology ahead of practical solutions for addressing the seasonal labor shortages in communities nationwide.”
Earlier this year, Congressman Keating led a bipartisan letter with Congressman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) in support of the J-1 summer work travel program.