Advocates seek changes to industry to protect children from predators
"When we looked at 7,000 applicants, we didn't think it would uncover 700 people that have criminal histories," said Jim Samuels, a senior official at the National Center. More than half of the criminal records they found ---- including sex crimes ---- had not shown up on Web-based searches, he said. Nine percent had records that indicated the applicants should not work with children.
"I don't have any confidence in name-based background checks," Samuels said. "Even people that know they're being fingerprinted and sign a statement that they're clean, they want access to children so much they're willing to lie on the record."
--Jim Samuels, Senior Official, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
CSFES is a California-based 501(c)3 non-profit corporation (EIN
43-2100110) advocating the safety, protection and well being of exchange
students around the world and was instrumental in the strengthening of the U.S. Department of State regulations for the protection of these young people.
CSFES raises public awareness and provides education related to the
safety of exchange students to prospective and current, exchange
students natural parents and school
administrators, with a specific focus on educating exchange
organizations and government agencies to ensure the protection of
exchange students around the world.
Presently we are an all-volunteer organization advocating for the safety of foreign exchange students.
CSFES supports cultural exchange and is committed to the idea that
every foreign student deserves a safe and memorable exchange
experience. We believe without reservation that while these sons and
daughters are studying abroad, they should expect and fully deserve, to
be treated as if they are our own.
As an organization,
CSFES strives for cooperative relationships with exchange programs,
based on the explicit understanding that CSFES will always prioritize
exchange student safety above all other concerns.
Given this understanding, CSFES sees the following issues as specific cause for concern exchange students should:
- Never depart from their home country without a properly screened host family awaiting their arrival.
- Be apprised of a completed High School permission Form prior to leaving their home country.
- Know whether they will be attending a public or private high school prior to departure.
- Not be placed in the homes of convicted criminals.
- Not not be forced to live in the home of their area representative.
- Not be expected to live in homes lacking basic standards of cleanliness.
- Have the telephone number of the U.S. Department of State in case of emergency.
- Be fully apprised of their rights as visitors in this country.
- Be sufficiently educated on all Child Protection Guidelines.
- Not be coerced to write letters/sign agreements that they do not fully understand.
- Never be sent home early without an accompanying review process.
- Not be made to fear being sent back to their home country for voicing their concerns.
If you are an exchange student with concerns about your safety, please contact CSFES 760-583-9593 or BeSafe@csfes.org. All international visitors may also contact local law enforcement agencies in the event of an emergency by dialing 911.
Anyone who suspects
suspicious behavior or maltreatment of foreign exchange students, please
report it to the proper authorities or CSFES at Complaint@csfes.org.
exchange student abuse and provides information to interested parties in
an effort to significantly reduce the number of children who become
victims of child/sexual abuse, neglect and extortion.
As such, we encourage
contact from schools, parents, exchange students. Even if there are no
apparent problems, being aware and informed are the keys to
March 20, 2013 Special Announcement by CSFES:
With the ongoing abuse of J1 Secondary School Students and J1 Work and Travel Participants, CSFES would like to remind you of the following:
Dear Parents, Students and School Administrators:
you knew how "married" the State Department and the exchange industry
really are, you would understand that when John Hishmeh, former Executive Director of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET) stated that he
welcomed action as "an opportunity for the youth exchange
community and the State Department to work together," he was doing so
with a big wink to the State Department's Educational and Cultural
Division staff. And that is the problem; they are already working too
is why complaints about abuse to the State Department haven't gone anywhere
over the years. This oversight department needs a thorough cleaning,
from Stanley Colvin on down. Replace them with people who are truly
interested in protecting these students, not the wealthy exchange
agencies. The best way we can protect these high school students right
now is to reduce the number of students who are brought over here each
year. These agencies repeatedly bring over kids that don't have a
school or home placement to go to once they get here. Once the student
placement agency gets their program fees that range between $12,000 -
$20,000 for each student, and sometimes more; they care very little
about what happens to them. Do we need more regulations? Yes. But
what we equally need is a strong oversight department that doesn't fold
to industry lobbyists. This restructured department should include at
least one strong citizen child/consumer advocate.
In 2011 Stanley S. Colvin of the Department of State was
"quietly replaced" by Mr. Rick Ruth as you will read below.
Danielle Grijalva, Director
Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students
P.O. Box 6496 / Oceanside, CA 92052
www.csfes.org / 760-583-9593
can embody standards; governments can enforce laws--but the final task
is not a task for government. It is a task for each and every one of us.
Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law
flouted--when we tolerate what we know to be wrong--when we close our
eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy, or too
frightened--when we fail to speak up and speak out--we strike a blow
against freedom and decency and justice.
-- Robert Francis Kennedy
“A Cavalier Attitude”: The State Department’s Legacy of SWT Failure
Part Four of Cheap Labor as Cultural Exchange: The $100 Million Summer Work Travel Industry
Jerry Kammer is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies.
lobbying organization for the sponsors of federal exchange programs is
the Washington-based Alliance for International Educational and Cultural
Exchange. Its executive director, Michael McCarry, said in a 2010
speech that his job is to “look for program regulations that are
permissive and allow people to come to the United States in a
responsible way, and for visa policy that supports these goals.”1
decades, the federal government’s management of the Summer Work Travel
program (SWT), first by the U.S. Information Agency and later by the
State Department, has been criticized for permissiveness – in the form
of lax regulation and minimal oversight – that has tolerated decades of
High-ranking employees at some of the sponsoring
agencies that partner with the State Department in administering SWT
point a finger at the man who was the program’s key regulator for many
years until he was removed last June, Stanley S. Colvin.
involvement with exchange programs dates back to the early 1990s, when
he worked at the USIA, where he became assistant general counsel. He
moved to State when the two agencies merged in 1999, eventually rising
to the rank of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Private Sector
Exchange. In mid-2011, Colvin was removed from that position and given
the title of “strategic adviser” to the Bureau of Educational and
critics of Colvin agreed to talk about him, but only on condition of
confidentiality because they did not want to risk antagonizing the State
“He had what I’d call a cavalier attitude,” said
one, who was particularly disappointed at what he called Colvin’s
tolerance of SWT sponsors that became “visa mills.” That phrase
describes organizations that provided little oversight and guidance to
the SWT participants from whom the sponsors collect fees. The State
Department acknowledged the problem in the spring of 2011 when it said
some sponsors were so detached from their young charges that they became
“mere purveyors of J-visas.”3
critic said Colvin had a tendency to be “dismissive” of those who
sought to engage him in dialogue about SWT. He drew this bottom line
under Colvin’s stewardship: “There wasn’t the proper oversight.”
to the criticism, Colvin said his record at the State Department,
including several awards and a steady rise to the prestigious Senior
Executive Service, showed otherwise. He said that in just the last five
years of his 25-year career
as a regulator of exchange programs, “I have drafted, reviewed, edited,
or signed more than 25,000 administrative actions and had one-one-one
contact with literally thousands of individuals. I answer my own phone
and have an open door policy.”
The long record of criticism
of the federal government’s management of SWT and other exchanges in the
J visa category begins well before Colvin joined the USIA in 1990.
After the General Accounting
Office in 1988 and 1989 studied the USIA’s work, it reported that:
management oversight of the J-visa program has not been adequate to
ensure the integrity of the program … . USIA lacks adequate information
on participant activities, does not enforce requirements that program
sponsors provide periodic information on participant activities, has no
systematic process to monitor sponsors’ and participants’ activities,
and does not adequately coordinate the program internally or with other
agencies having visa responsibilities.”4
is most striking is how consistent the criticisms have been for two
decades and how little anyone at State has accomplished to reform the
program, protect its young foreign participants, and safeguard the
international image of the United States, which the program was
established to enhance.
In 2000, a decade after the GAO
report, the State Department’s own Office of the Inspector General
issued a report titled “The Exchange Visitor Program Needs Improved
Management and Oversight.” That report found that State was “unable to
effectively administer and monitor the Exchange Visitor Program
primarily because of inadequate resources. It found that lax monitoring
had created an atmosphere in which program ‘‘regulations can easily be
ignored and/or abused.”5
In 2002, the Baltimore Sun
reported about dozens of Polish SWT students who “had been left
stranded on the streets after the summer jobs they had been promised
suddenly vanished.” The story quoted Les Kuczynski, the executive
director of the Polish American Congress in Chicago who said the problem
was widespread. “This is becoming a national scandal,” Kuczynski said.
“You can’t have this going on unregulated.”6
There has been a string of other harsh assessments – in 2005 by the GAO,7
in 2010 by the Associated Press,8
and in 2011 by the Economic Policy Institute.9
the repeated criticisms and calls for reform, problems steadily
accumulated. In 2010, as the Associated Press pursued allegations of
widespread abuses within the SWT program, a senior adviser to Assistant
Secretary Ann Stock said the department was “deeply concerned” about
such allegations. Nevertheless, a circle-the-wagons mentality prevailed
at State, which turned down the AP’s request for an interview.
other abuses, the news agency reported that “strip clubs and adult
entertainment companies openly solicit J-1 workers” despite State’s own
regulations that prohibit jobs that could bring the program into
disrepute. It quoted one company that boasted it was “affiliated with
designated visa sponsors” that could help it place J-1 students at strip
The AP also quoted Terry Coonan, the executive
director of Florida State University’s Center for the Advancement of
Human Rights. Said Coonan, a former prosecutor, “There’s been a massive
failure on the part of the United States to bring any accountability to
the temporary work visa programs, and it’s especially true for the J-1.”10
months before that story appeared, the State Department initiated a
review of the SWT program. That led to the new regulations that were
issued in 2011 in an attempt to bring order to a program widely regarded
as undisciplined and subject to exploitation by negligent sponsors and
unscrupulous partner agencies in foreign countries.
regulations did little to quell the criticism. Daniel Costa of the
Economic Policy Institute wrote that while they “may slightly improve
the program’s operations in a few limited ways,” oversight would
“continue to be woefully inadequate.”11
An AP critique said the regulations were “vague” and “have few teeth.”12
Preaching Transparency Abroad, Avoiding It at Home
fundamental problem at State’s Exchange Visitor Program has been the
opaqueness of its operations. Recent efforts by outsiders to examine the
SWT program have been frustrated by a refusal to answer questions. Also
problematic is State’s inability or unwillingness to disclose data that
would help measure the performance of sponsors, the amount of fees they
collect, the types of jobs students hold, the wages they receive, their
effects on local labor markets, and the number of SWT participants who
overstay their visas.
Such an attitude about public
disclosure belies the 2009 declaration by Judith McHale, Under Secretary
of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, that exchanges are
“the single most important and valuable thing we do.”13
It has also helped cover up the State Department’s history.
the absence of accountability contradicts the values of transparency
that the State Department preaches around the world. Last July, for
example, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined Brazilian Foreign
Minister Antonio Patriota in announcing a new “Open Government
Partnership,” the State Department hailed it as an effort at “increasing
government openness, strengthening accountability, and enhancing civic
Clinton added: “When a government hides its work from public view… .
that government is failing its citizens. And it is failing to create an
environment in which the best ideas are embraced and the most talented
people have a chance to contribute.”
The administration of
SWT has been infected by just the sort of dysfunction and failure that
Secretary Clinton decries. But while State has failed to meet basic
measures of transparency at home, it has sought to engage the interest
of foreign news organizations and agencies in the expansion of the
program around the world.
In May 2011, for example, when
officials at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs conducted a
web chat with foreign media to announce the rollout of a new J-1
website, one official said it was part of an effort “to be customer
centric and user friendly.”15
This is consistent with State’s administration of SWT, which has
demonstrated a preoccupation with foreign relations and an indifference
to domestic concerns.
Now Stanley Colvin has been replaced by
Rick Ruth. A former Foreign Service officer, Ruth has a reputation as a
problem solver and a consensus builder.
But he appears to
be operating in a culture of excessive rigidity and caution at the
Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. He finally agreed to an
interview for this report only after repeated requests had been ignored
and only on the condition that his comments not be published until they
were reviewed and cleared at State. As a result, a significant Ruth
comment about the effects of SWT was deleted from the record.
as the accompanying transcript of the interview shows, Ruth made many
substantive comments for the record. For instance, he said he is
concerned about the program’s potential impacts on American workers. He
said his challenge is to balance that concern with the value of having
future leaders of foreign countries experience life in the United
States. “How do we balance that?” he said. “That is one of the hard
questions; I am telling you there is now a commitment to do that.”
to the interviewer’s observation that Colvin was widely regarded as a
laissez-faire manager, Ruth said flatly, “I am not a laissez-faire guy.”
In response to follow up questions submitted in writing, his office made these points:
“We are moving forward with a new rulemaking that will capture the 2012 summer season. As part of this new rulemaking, we will:
and expand the list of prohibited employment categories, including jobs
that isolate Summer Work Travel participants from contact with
Americans and work that is inappropriate for a cultural exchange.
- Strengthen the sponsors’ requirements for verifying job placements to ensure there are appropriate jobs for the students.
the cultural aspects of the program to ensure that the objective of the
program – positive exposure to the United States – is accomplished.
- Require that an independent management audit be provided annually to the Department.”
Visa Diplomacy Trumps Concern for American Workers
the 1980s, when the Summer Work Travel program was administered by the
United States Information Agency, its regulations implicitly
acknowledged that the infusion of young foreigners into local job
markets could have an adverse effect on local job-seekers. The
regulations required that as SWT sponsors prepared SWT participants to
come to the U.S., the participants "should be fully briefed on the
employment situation in the United States and advised not to seek
employment in areas where a high unemployment situation exists."1
Daniel Costa of the Economic Policy Institute has called that regulation "toothless and unenforceable."2
Indeed, it was little more than a rule requiring a suggestion. That may
explain why it no longer exists now that SWT is administered by the
30. jul. 2012 Norway's Bergens Tidende
Exchange year was a nightmare
Student exchange agency: Pacific Intercultural Exchange (PIE)
(English translation below).
Norway's Bergens Tidende
30. jul. 2012
Sexpress, tyveri og utnytting
- Det er forferdelig trist. Vi snakker her om unge mennesker som
kommer for å oppleve amerikansk kultur og skaffe seg gode minner for
resten av livet. I stedet må noen av dem bo hos familier som er ute av
stand til å ta vare på seg selv, sier Danielle Grijalva.
Hun leder Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange
Students (CSFES) som støtter utenlandske ungdommer som får problemer i
USA. Flere norske jenter og gutter har kontaktet CSFES de siste årene
for å få hjelp.
BT har fått innsyn i korrespondansen i en rekke saker der norske elever og foreldre har søkt bistand hos organisasjonen.
Beretningene handler om alt fra sexpress og om tenåringer som hevder de blir utnyttet som hushjelper av vertsfamiliene.
jente har klaget over at hun måtte bo under elendige hygieniske forhold
sammen med en tidsvis mentalt syk kvinne som hadde et tosifret antall
katter. En annen skal ha blitt innelåst i kjelleren etter at vertsmoren hadde stjålet elevens penger. En ungdom sier hun måtte bo sammen med en alkoholisert kvinne. En måtte kjøpe sin egen mat og fikk mobiltelefonen konfiskert.
Dette skjer til tross for at myndighetene i USA stiller krav om at vertsfamiliene skal ha omsorgsevne og stabil økonomi.
skoleelever er dessuten blitt plassert hos straffedømte personer,
inkludert seksualforbrytere. En rapport fra State Department viser at
ungdommer på utveksling i 2010 og 2011 leverte inn 118 anklager om
seksuelt misbruk eller trakassering.
15 av 39 undersøkte utvekslingsorganisasjoner i USA har ikke rutiner for å sjekke vandelen til vertsfamiliene, ifølge rapporten.
Vi har siden 2005 krevd at vertsfamiliene skal kontrolleres opp mot
FBIs fingeravtrykksregister for å unngå at utvekslingselevene må bo
sammen med personer med kriminelt rulleblad. I dag er det ofte nok med
tre anbefalelsesbrev fra venner eller naboer for å bli godkjent som
vertsfamilie, sier Grijalva.
Myndighetene i USA har imidlertid avvist forslaget.
- It's terribly sad. We are talking about young people who come to experience American culture and gain fond memories for a lifetime. Instead, some of them stay with families who are unable to take care of themselves, said Danielle Grijalva.
She heads the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CSFES) supporting foreign youths who get into trouble in the United States. Several Norwegian girls and boys have contacted CSFES in recent years for help.
BT has gained access to the correspondence in a number of cases where Norwegian students and parents have sought the assistance of the organization.
The stories about everything from sexual harassment and teens who say they are exploited as domestic workers by host families. A girl has complained that she had to live under deplorable hygienic conditions with a tidsvis mentally ill woman who had a two-digit number of cats. Another must have been locked in the basement after the host mother had stolen the student money. One young person said she had to live with an alcoholic woman. One had to buy their own food and got cell phone confiscated.
This happens despite the fact that the United States government requires that the host families to have care and stable economy.
Without a criminal record
Foreign students are also placed among convicted persons, including sex offenders. A report from the State Department shows that young people on the exchange in 2010 and 2011 filed 118 charges of sexual abuse or harassment.
15 of 39 examined exchange organizations in the United States does not have procedures to check the conduct of the host families, the report said.
- We have since 2005 required that host families should be checked against the FBI's fingerprint registry to prevent the exchange students have to live with people with criminal records. Today it often enough with three letters of recommendation from friends or neighbors to be approved as a host family, said Grijalva.
The U.S. government has rejected the proposal.
23 July 2012
The Voice of Greater Central Asia
News Central Asia (nCa)
Important information for students going to USA under exchange programme
APNewsBreak: US State Department suspends high school exchange student sponsoring organization
By Associated Press, Updated: Thursday, July 19, 4:34 pm
March 20, 2012 From Denmark's Bag Facaden
Note from CSFES: English translation will post on our website upon receipt. In the meantime, temporary translation below of John Hamilton, Detective Jeremy Hinson of the Fairfax County Police Department and Danielle Grijalva of Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students below:
Click to read abuse of exchange students from Denmark
Bag Facaden, by Maria Anderson -- Reporter
John Hamilton: At that point, he still had his shorts on, which were kinda gettin' in the way because I was also using lotion --
Detective Jeremy Hinson: He ended up performing fellatio -- oral sex, as well as anal intercourse --
More to follow; thank you for your patience.
March 16, 2012
High school foreign exchange students repeatedly placed with convicted murder
By Anna Schecter and Kate Snow
March 16, 2012
Foreign Exchange Students Report Abuse by Host Families
By Rick Cohen, NPQ's Nonprofit Newswire | Source: Rock Center with Brian Williams
March 14, 2012
State Department: Background Checks On Foreign Exchange Hosts Not 'Feasible'
The Associated Press
March 13, 2012
Rock Center with Brian Williams
Foreign exchange students sexually abused in program overseen by State Department
March 12, 2012
Rock Center with Brian Williams
Culture Shock: Foreign exchange students claim abuse by U.S. host parents
ebruary 3, 2012
Council for Education Travel USA No Longer Has J-1 Visa Designation
HOLBROOK MOHR and MITCH WEISS Associated Press
Is DOJ cultural exchange program exploiting foreign students for profit, sweatshop labor?
Thursday, November 24, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer