Full Alaska delegation jumps into J-1 visa issue

Here's an update on our recent report that the State Department might stop granting foreign students J-1 visas to work in U.S. seafood processing plants.

As you'll recall, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, was telling Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this would be a bad move, that Alaska's seafood industry heavily depends on these student workers.

Now, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, both Republicans, have joined Begich on an objection to the Obama administration.

Looking back a few months, Deckboss wonders about the role this Begich letter might have played in precipitating this looming labor crisis for the 2012 salmon season.

Begich suggested the J-1 program might need "modification," noting foreign students had come to work in Kodiak, Kenai and elsewhere without appropriate housing or transportation, and that their employment had cost local resident workers overtime pay.

Some locals even had to resort to a food bank due to the loss of income, Begich wrote.

"Especially when it comes to placing students in smaller communities, we need to assure there is accountability and we are not over-burdening the local area with additional workers competing for jobs," the letter said.