Regulation of International Students
Section 641 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 mandated that the Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS") develop an information collection program relating to non-immigrant foreign students and other exchange program participants. In December of 1999, the INS proposed a ruling authorizing the collection of fees on certain non-immigrant visas to fund this tracking program. Initially conceived as a way to gather information on foreign students who would be spending four or more years in the United States, this Section has had a number of unintended and unfortunate consequences.
ACA is requesting that Section 641 of Public Law 104-208 be amended to exclude non-immigrant exchange program participants that enter the United States using J-1 visas for visits of twelve months or less duration under programs authorized by the Department of State (formerly the United States Information Agency).
ACA has continued to work with a broad coalition of organizations to ensure that camps are not negatively effected by the INS’ proposed Coordinated Interagency Partnership Regulating International Students (CIPRIS). ACA and coalition members have held a wide variety of meetings with members of Congress and the administration, committee staff, and others with influence over public policy. ACA has also asked its members to contact their Senators and Representatives to encourage them to support the ACA position. (See www.ACAcamps.org/publicpolicy ).
The coalition is pursuing a two-track legislative strategy. First, we have drafted an amendment that, if passed, will result in a significant reduction of fees imposed upon program participants. This reduction of fees will greatly reduce the financial hardships placed on international counselors as well as on camps that may have to absorb the cost. We anticipate the fee will be reduced from its proposed $95 to a more reasonable $45 for short-term participants in CIPRIS.
The second legislative approach is an amendment offered by Senator Judd Gregg (R) of New Hampshire, and included in the Commerce, State, Justice Appropriation for Fiscal 2001. Senator Gregg’s amendment repeals the entire CIPRIS program. There is significant resistance to this amendment in the House, and again ACA has asked its members to contact their House members in support of the language. The absence of repeal language in the House bill means the issue will have to be resolved in a House-Senate conference committee. We are hopeful this amendment will survive.
In fact, the requirement to track participants that enter the United States under J-1 visas for visits of twelve months or less duration is unnecessary since these programs are administered by the Department of State (formerly USIA) that has specific regulations requiring that the Sponsors track each and every participant.
- The fee program is poorly conceived. It imposes the same fee upon someone in the country for four years as for four months. Collection and accountability are not well thought out.
- The fee will discourage short-term employees from working and seeking employment in the U.S., creating a staff shortage in camps.
- If the non-immigrant is unable to pay the fee, the burden will fall on camps, 75 percent of which are run by not-for-profit organizations. ACA members employ approximately 16,000 non-immigrants each year for periods ranging from two to four months.
- INS will not receive any benefit under the CIPRIS program. By the time the information is collected the counselor will have left the country.
- ACA believes it was not the intent of authorizing legislation’s sponsor, former Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, to effect camps in this way. His discussion of the legislation specifically addressed the need to track long-term students, those in college for an anticipated four years.
ACA has drafted letters supporting this legislation as well as thanking Senator Gregg for his efforts. If you have not sent a letter to your member of Congress, please obtain a letter from ACA’s Web site and mail it in promptly.
Originally published in the 2000 Fall issue of The CampLine.