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Wisconsin Dells tourism leaders claim labor shortage without immigration reform

WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis (WSAU-Wheeler News)  Wisconsin Dells resort owners say they’d be hurting for summer help if the federal immigration bill isn’t changed. Cultural exchange group leader Michael McCarry tells the Madison Capital Times the bill would virtually wipe out the Summer Work Travel Program – which brings in foreign college students for summer jobs.

The proposed regulations are part of a crackdown on human trafficking.

Shaun Tofson of the Wilderness Resort at Wisconsin Dells says it’s “appalling” to classify the Summer Work Program as human trafficking. Tofson said if it wasn’t for students, parts of her company would have to close. That’s because there are not enough workers in the local area – and others wouldn’t drive very long each day for jobs that pay $9-per-hour.

Stacie Tollaksen of the sponsorship firm Intrax says about two-thousand students work in Wisconsin for 3-to-4 months each year. Under the bill, sponsors would have to pay the $1,500 in fees they now pay themselves – and those sponsors would also pay an extra $500-per-worker to boost up security at the Mexican border.

The Summer Work Travel Program has been criticized in some states as being a source of cheap labor. Tollaksen says the State Department has taken steps to make sure the youngsters also get to enjoy cultural and community programs.