JACKSON, Miss. — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has ordered an “extensive and thorough review” of a foreign exchange program that has been used by U.S. businesses as a source of cheap labor and exploited by criminals to import women to work in the sex industry.

In the latest debacle for the J-1 Summer Work Travel visa, a federal indictment unsealed last week accuses the mafia of using the cultural exchange program to bring Eastern European women to work in New York strip clubs.

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee also has been gathering information on the J-1 visa, which was created in 1963 to allow college students from other countries to spend their summer breaks living, working and traveling in the United States.

As the program has grown to bring more than 100,000 young people here annually, it has become as much about money as cultural understanding.

The State Department has made several changes since an Associated Press investigation last year uncovered widespread abuses, including living and working conditions that some participants compared to indentured servitude. In one of the worst cases, a woman said she was beaten, raped and forced to work as a stripper in Detroit after being promised a job as a waitress in Virginia.

More common than sex trade abuses is shabby housing, scarce work hours and paltry pay. In August, dozens of workers protested conditions at a candy factory that packs Hershey chocolates in Hershey, Pa., complaining of hard physical labor and pay deductions for rent that often left them with little money.

A State Department spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Clinton “has called for an extensive and thorough review of the program.”

“We continue to be committed to working to strengthen the Summer Work Travel Program to safeguard the health and welfare of the participants,” the official said. “We have already instituted one set of reforms and are working toward additional ones that take additional measures to protect participants and prioritize the original cultural intent of the program.”

The New York case was made public just days after the State Department opened a period of public comment on proposed changes that would require companies that sponsor the participants to gather more information about employment and living arrangements.

It’s not clear if the proposed changes would have prevented the situation in New York, in which authorities say fraudulent offers for jobs as waitresses were used to help Eastern European women get visas to come to the United States. Instead of working in restaurants, they allegedly danced in strip clubs. Authorities say members of the Gambino and Bonnano crime families were involved, along with the Russian mob.

The reforms being considered by the State Department would limit and refine the types of jobs students can have, expand the list of prohibited employment categories, and strengthen “the cultural aspects of the program to ensure that the objective of the program — positive exposure to the United States — is accomplished.”