by Sharon Niederman
ANGEL FIRE — Approximately twenty Peruvian exchange students are still stranded in Angel Fire due to coronavirus.
Holding expired J1 three month work visas, the foreign students are unable to leave the country and return home. The students are part of an annual migration that arrives to work in U.S. resorts all over the country.
“At peak season, we need about 350 employees, a need that cannot be filled by the local market,” said Greg Ralph, director of marketing at Angel Fire Resort.
Between the ages of 18-21, hailing from cities all over Peru, the students flock to the ski resort during the winter. Some are hospitality majors, others major in culinary arts. “They become our ski instructors and many work in food and beverage,” Ralph said.
Customarily, the students arrive around Dec. 10 and are able to work through mid-March.
Some of these Peruvian – and Costa Rican – nationals become regulars, returning for several years, while others go on to become US citizens and then to become supervisors and managers,” he said.
When their visas expire, they are left without housing, the ability to work, or to take care of themselves.
“We are treating them as though they were our own,” Ralph said.
The students have been moved from their hostel living quarters into private rooms at the resort; and, the café is serving them take out breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Ralph said Peru is trying to charter planes to pick up the students. They would then fly from Albuquerque to Dallas to Lima. On the night of March 30, 18 of the stranded students were shuttled to Houston, TX, where they boarded the first of the chartered planes home.
As for those still in limbo, Ralph had this to say: “They’re hanging in there. They’re scared, but they’re not showing any signs of it.”