Fate of Carowinds visa workers is unclear after underage drinking charges

2015 FILE PHOTO – 27 employees were fired from Carowinds after they were accused of underage drinking.
2015 FILE PHOTO – 27 employees were fired from Carowinds after they were accused of underage drinking. dworthington@heraldonline.com

The fate of the Carowinds visa workers who were accused of underage drinking Tuesday morning remains unknown.

Officers responded to a call at 1:20 a.m. Tuesday at the parking lot of a Motel 6 near the amusement park. A group of Carowinds employees in the United States on work visas were charged with underage drinking and running from police.

Trent Faris, a spokesman for the York County, S.C., sheriff’s office, said 23 of the 24 individuals at the scene ran when officers arrived. Of those, 10 were charged with underage drinking.

The employees were in Charlotte on J1 visas through the Exchange Visitor Program run by the U.S. Department of State, according to Nathan Arnold, a public affairs officer from the state department.

WSOC-TV reported that 27 employees were fired in connection to Tuesday incident. Carowinds did not return phone and email requests for comment.

Even if visa participants are fired, they don’t necessarily have to leave the United States immediately, Arnold said. He noted that people who come to the United States on work visas are supported by sponsors. In this case, the employees’ sponsors – Camp Counselors United States of America and Council on International Educational Exchange – will determine the next steps.

Just because individuals are fired does not mean their visa programs are terminated and they will have to return home, Arnold said. He said CCUSA and CIEE have the option of allowing the employees to find new jobs.

Arnold said if they allowed this option, the employees would be able to work anywhere in the country if they could find a job.

CCUSA confirmed they have been in contact with the individuals they sponsor and Carowinds about the accusations. CIEE could not be reached for comment.

Carowinds has around 4,000 employees. Of those, WSOC said about 132 are on exchange visas.

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Cole: 704-358-5357; @kianamcole