Gordon on Temporary Labor Migration in NY Times, and J Visas
One issue in immigration law (and international economic regulation more generally) that I’m particularly interested in is temporary labor migration. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll have time to write anything substantive on it for the blog in the rest of my time here, but I wanted to flag this very interesting and useful opinion piece by Jennifer Gordon of Fordham Law School in the New York Times, on the use of J-1 visa holders, and the controversy related to it, at a Hersey’s plant in Pennsylvania. (I think the headline, which I assume Gordon didn’t write, is unfortunate and misleading, since as far as I can tell the work done by the J-1 holders was more or less typical factory work, and not plausibly “sweatshop” labor, but that’s a different issue and shouldn’t distract us from the quality of the piece itself.) What I found particular useful about Gordon’s piece is her highlighting how the J visa has changed into a poorly regulated way to bring in temporary labor, a method easily subject to abuse. I think that there are “easy” steps that could be taken to make temporary labor movement less open to exploitation, but the chances of this happening soon do not seem high.
More generally, J visas are something that should be of interest to academics, as they are often used by both visiting faculty and researchers and by graduate students, but can sometimes have consequences that are not fully realized by the holders. Many (though not all) J visas used for academic purposes include a clause that requires the holder to return to her or his “home” country for two years after the completion of the visit, a condition that is often very difficult to get around. This does not, in principle, seem like an unreasonable requirement to me, and sometimes it may even be desirable. But, my experience is that even many very sophisticated people who hold such visas do not fully understand or appreciate the requirement, and it is often the source of significant frustration and bad feelings. Probably the only role for law professors on this particular issue is to be informed and to give good advice to those they talk to who are seeking visas for study or research, and to keep the issue in mind when advising foreign students who may, in some cases, have a foreign residency requirement to meet.