The group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement claims 57 students from Brazil and Chile were lured to Iowa under false pretenses by public and private recruiters and it amounts to human trafficking. Western Tech vice president, Troy Jasman, says the students came to the college last summer on what’s called a J-1 visa program through the U.S. State Department. He says it allows them to study culinary arts and have real life work experience.
Jasman says the State Department requires an internship of 32 hours a week — but it does not require a paid internship. Jasman says the college worked with local businesses to get the students paid internships. Iowa CCI says eleven of the exchange students claim they were promised free tuition, housing, food, job training, and job placement in their field of study.
Jasman says the exchange students were told in detail what they would be provided. “They knew that the college would provide, with the help of partnering businesses, they would provide scholarships for tuition, fees and housing,” according to Jasman. “And then the students were not promised — they knew that that was part of their own cost was for food — as well as making sure that they had the health insurance coverage.”
Jasman says he did hear from the U.S. State Department that a few students were unhappy with the job portion of their experience. “If a student worked at a particular business, they might have thought that there wasn’t enough diversity in their internship experience. Maybe they were doing just one type of function, where they really should have had more functions,” Jasman says. “Many of our students who were at one of businesses loved the job — but unfortunately the State Department said that they believed that there should have been more work experience for the students — so we had to discontinue working there.” Jasman says some of the students were upset when they had to quit working at those businesses.
Jasman says the college is trying to make sure that the students are receiving the education and experience they came here to get. He says there were no formal complaints filed at the college by the students and was surprised by the release sent out to local media. No local groups had apparently received any complaints from the students.
Linda Holub of the Siouxland Coalition Against Human Trafficking says she can not comment on the students because she was not aware of any issues involving them before Monday.
(By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)