The Trump administration is considering cutting some cultural exchange programs, including those for au pairs, summer workers, and the J-1 visa exchange visitor program, according to The Washington Post and other outlets. Your family and others in your community have probably benefited from some of these programs, whether it’s the cool Dutch swim counselor, the friendly Irish folks at the ice cream parlor or fish shack, or your neighbor’s French au pair.
That’s why, for families who rely on au pairs (young adults from foreign countries who spend a year or more living with American families and assisting with child care while experiencing life in America and taking academic classes) as well as camps and other summer programs that hire foreign students, the prospect of this change in law is troublesome.
In fact, one prominent au pair agency, Cultural Care Au Pair, sent an email out to host families, saying: “While we have received no confirmation from the State Department that there are any imminent changes to the au pair program, we believe that the program may be at risk, and all of us must take action to protect it.” And the director of summer camp staffing agency, International Exchange of North America, Matt Buczek, put it bluntly: “Simply put, without these J-1 Exchange Visitors, I would have had to close cabins and not run certain programs that required a high level of skill. The result of this would be a significant decrease in revenue and a loss of program quality for American children.”
All the consternation arises thanks to Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, issued back in April. Promoting domestic jobs sounds like a good idea in theory, right? But when you think about the great cultural and personal back and forth that these programs and others foster, it becomes a lot less simple.
As of now, the summer work-travel program brings more than 100,000 students to the U.S. each summer, who usually work in tourism or as au pairs.
But students could be affected too, considering the J-1 visa program includes working students. According to The Washington Post, some options are:
“Eliminating these visa classes, as well as imposing new requirements on participants. For instance, employers could be required to show that they couldn’t find Americans for these jobs, as is required for other visa programs, according to the people who are tracking the internal debate.”
A State Department official made a statement:
“Presently, we continue to implement the J-1 visa programs at the same levels we have for the past few years, and we appreciate the support that American businesses have shown for the program and its value to their local communities.”
These programs, of course, are known for allowing people from all over the world to learn more about the U.S.–and study here. A group of 17 senators issues this statement to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson:
“This public diplomacy program has a long track record of success, providing an enriching exchange experience to a diverse pool of college and university students across the globe, including countries key to U.S. national security interests.”