Saturday, May 15, 2010

U.S. Department of State is proposing to amend regulations for hosting exchange students

Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students

Danielle Grijalva, Director
P.O. Box 6496 / Oceanside, CA 92052
Phone: 760-583-9593

Nationwide Campaign to Stop Fingerprint, Criminal Background Checks

14 May 2010 -- The U.S. Department of State is proposing to amend the existing regulations to impose new program administration requirements within the secondary school student exchange program.

Link to proposed existing regulations

Director, Danielle Grijalva of the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CSFES) said, "The State Department is to be commended for strengthening the federal regulations which were written to protect this vulnerable group, yet many among the exchange industry are vigorously opposing the very measures to protect these children and the reputation of our country."

In an email dated May 20, 2010, President of Youth For Understanding USA, Mike Finnell, announced, "YFU NEEDS YOUR VOICE IN WASHINGTON". Mr. Finnell's email began, "Earlier this week, the US Department of State (DOS) published proposed changes to the J-1 exchange visitor regulations which would greatly affect our international students, host families (like you), and volunteers (like you). While YFU remains vigilant as always to protect and ensure student safety and well-being, we view many of the proposed regulations as excessive, invasive and likely to be prohibitive for those wishing to become involved in YFU and other international exchange organizations."

On May 4, 2010, Judge Michael J. Barrasse of Pennsylvania sentenced ASPECT Foundation area representative, Edna Burgette, to three months in Lackawanna County Prison. According to the May 5, 2010, The Times Tribune, story by Joe McDonald, Burgette was sent to prison, "...for recklessly endangering foreign-exchange students she placed in squalid living conditions while collecting fees for setting up host families."

In July of last year, CNN Special Investigations Unit Drew Griffin and Kathleen Johnston, exposed in its investigation, "Exchange students live American nightmare," where U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr., said, "It's inexcusable that our government didn't do a better job of oversight. And it's inexcusable that this foundation hasn't done the job to provide basic protection for children."

CNN's Reporter Drew Griffin said, "CNN has learned ASPECT knew about the problems in Scranton way back in October; when a student sent photos and an email pleading for help. And the State Department, which spends $34 million a year on exchange programs, well, it knew too."

CNN's Drew Griffin said, "Senator Casey says emails show the State Department knew about the problems here since last October and did nothing for months. And then the State Department allowed Aspect, the agency that placed the students in these homes, to investigate itself."

CNN's Drew Griffin said, "P.J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs says that was a mistake." Assistant Secretary Crowley said, "I think in large respect because we, we put too much emphasis on the program agents to police themselves; we recognize that that has not worked properly."

Students who have participated in foreign exchange student programs have become victims of crimes including abuse and sexual exploitation during their stays in the United States. Grijalva of CSFES stated, "Student placement agencies not interested in the complete health, safety and welfare of its students should not be allowed to place exchange students."

Public comment period is open until June 2, 2010.


Anonymous said...

Grivalja's headline states that there's a national campaign to stop criminal background checks. But, the exchange industry has done criminal background checks for years... and there is no mention in the article (as well as no basis in reality) of a campaign to stop criminal background checks.

Just another case of her manipulative way of writing... no surprises there.

Legislation Watcher said...

The exchange industry has done background checks that are laughable and far below the national standard for child-oriented organizations.It fought and defeated Lori Saldana's bill to require fingerprint checks - why? What could possibly be a good reason to oppose this vital child protection measure that protects American children? The U.S. Dept of State is dragging its feet in its implementation which exposes more foreign exchange students to danger in the coming year. It's al about money not Public Diplomacy or the protection of foreign children.