Executive Director of the Alliance for International Exchange, Ilir Zherka, released a statement today in response to the International Labor Recruitment’s piece entitled “Shining A Light on Summer Work.”
“Shining A Light on Summer Work” unfortunately is a poorly sourced opinion piece that is replete with conjecture and woefully lacking in empirical evidence for its argument. A rigorous 2017 study of SWT, however, paints a different and much more accurate picture: 91 percent of alumni reported being satisfied with the program; 74 percent said they had a higher overall regard for the U.S. after participating; and 98 percent said they would recommend the program to a friend.
Protection of participants is critical to SWT sponsor organizations and to the State Department, which oversees the program. All host employers and job placements are thoroughly vetted; all participants must be paid the exact same wage as American co-workers; and all participants can change job placements at any time – a participant’s visa is never tied to their host employer. U.S. sponsor organizations are in monthly contact with every participant, and meet with many in person during site visits. There are many more regulatory protections beyond these.
But here again, ILR’s piece is misleading. It references that 67 people called into an anti-trafficking hotline over a three-year period. Exchange sponsors strive for a zero incident culture, and that number comes close as it represents .006 percent of the nearly 1 million people who were in the U.S. as an exchange visitor during that same time. That statistic actually confirms how well the State Department regulations are protecting participants.
SWT is a valuable cultural exchange that supports the U.S. public diplomacy efforts and economy. It provides college students around the world opportunities to experience America and improve their English. Hundreds of thousands of students have taken part over 60 years, and our data show they have great experiences. These students would not keep coming back, nor would they recommend the program to friends, if that were not the case.
SWT is a win-win: it supports America’s national security, foreign policy, and economy, while providing international students with life-changing exchange experiences. That is why it enjoys broad bipartisan support in Washington, DC, as well as tremendous community support in the United States and around the world.