You may be aware that the Immigration Bill currently before Congress contains numerous threats to the tenability of J-1 programs such as camp counselor, au pair, and summer work travel.
I have enjoyed 33 years in the field of cultural exchange, administering camp counselor and summer work travel programs with the American Institute For Foreign Study Inc. (AIFS) and the Camp America program. I have seen over two hundred thousand international participants touch the lives of countless Americans, relationships that lasted lifetimes, and careers that grew from the experience to enrich so many more lives throughout the planet.
The greater Camp America community is a labyrinthine network of dedicated individuals who have made a difference in the world in unique ways due to the exchange visitor program and the opportunities it provides. I reflect on the many thousands of special needs campers who live for a few weeks of camp each year and their parents who are afforded a brief respite due to the efforts of international staff. Of course there are the disadvantaged campers who have never left their city block that are exposed to international role models and global perspectives that they would never have dreamed of sharing. Campers are exposed to rare skills that only few in the world possess. The programs allow people reach firmly out of their comfort zones, stretching to help others grow and enriching themselves in the process. The lifelong personal bonds and relationships are as priceless as they are beyond enumeration.
There are so many quality programs and world class operations in this field that manufacture profoundly positive experiences with all the appropriate safeguards and support. The possibility that a few unfortunate incidents can unduly endanger them due to the stroke of legislative pen is a devastating thought. Simple sense and goodness must prevail.