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Donald Trump is coming for your au pair.
No, he doesn’t want to grab her by the…well, you know. He wants to review the visa program that allows young people to come to the US and work as seasonal employees, summer camp counselors, and child care providers.
The J-1 visa program was created in 1961 as part of a larger effort to improve cultural understanding. The program allows non-immigrant foreign nationals to come to the US for a defined period of time and work or attend school, then go back home as walking advertisements about how awesome America is. Or something like that.
The Trump administration is rumored to be examining the visa program under the guise of their whole “Immigrants are stealin’ ‘Murican jobs!” policy theme. As I sit here staring at the numbers in the previous paragraph, I’m feeling like perhaps the Trump administration is over-estimating the impact of the less than 150,000 young foreign workers in these sectors, but what do I know? I’m not an economist.
Oh wait. Neither is Trump.
There has been criticism in the past over the J-1 program being a pipeline to bring in cheap foreign labor, particularly for seasonal work in tourist destinations. And anyone who’s ever considered the au pair program knows it’s a far lower cost option for full time child care than hiring a nanny would be.
Opponents of the J-1 program argue that employers would rather hire low-wage foreign workers than pay full wages and payroll taxes for US workers. They may well be right but the remedy to policy loopholes involving low wages isn’t to cut off the supply of workers: the remedy is to RAISE WAGES FOR EVERYONE.
Why is this hard?
Why are there so many politicians who will say they want more prosperity for workers but won’t directly force employers to raise wages? The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour for 16 years. Real wages have been growing at below the rate of inflation for a damn decade, even as publicly held companies rake in profits. But is the government willing to step in and tell employers to treat their folks that form the foundation of their business better? No. They are not. Instead, the latest answer seems to be going after summer camp counselors. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, PEOPLE?!?!?
Oh, and while we’re at it, increasing real wages would make it easier for people to pay for quality childcare. The high cost of childcare for two earner families (which families need to be because — again — low wages) is one of the reasons au pair programs are popular. And also summer camps because people need childcare during school breaks. NONE OF THIS IS ROCKET SCIENCE!
(Deep cleansing breath) OK, I’m calm now.
Congress is already hip to the notion that Trump and pals are looking attack the J-1 program. The Senate appropriations committee has been getting letters about rumored changes to the program and is adding language to the State Department’s spending bill saying that changes must be transparent. In other words, Congress isn’t going to let Trump unilaterally deport your au pair.
As always, the answer of what you can do is to keep calling your representatives. The right to petition our government is more valuable than ever.