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April 18, 2014

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SPLC calls on US govt. to reform exchange programs

Updated Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 | 11:39 a.m.

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Southern Poverty Law Center is urging the U.S. State Department to reform cultural exchange programs, saying those have left some foreign participants vulnerable to exploitation.

SPLC says in a report Tuesday that cultural exchange programs are providing U.S. businesses with cheap and exploitable labor.

Susan Pittman, spokeswoman with the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, says numerous improvements have been made, including stronger regulations in 2012.

SPLC says it responded to complaints throughout the South, but much of its work focused on Myrtle Beach, S.C., Lake Charles, La., Biloxi, Miss., and Gulf Shores, Ala.

SPLC also cites a 2010 Associated Press investigation that uncovered similar labor and housing problems in the J-1 Summer Work Travel program, which annually brings about 100,000 foreign college students to the U.S.