Public Policy Updates - J-1 Visa and Child Protection Improvements Act

October 24, 2017
US Capitol building

J-1 Visa Update

There has been a great deal of activity in Washington to help to protect the J-1 Visa Camp Counselor and camp Summer Work Travel (SWT) programs that are important for so many camps. This summer, ACA learned that the J-1 Visa Camp Counselor and camp SWT programs are under threat, pursuant to the President’s Buy American and Hire American Executive Order.

  • ACA immediately mounted an aggressive campaign to advocate for these programs, which are essential to so many US camps. We asked ACA members to contact their congressional delegations and the White House, using letter templates we constructed through our Voter Voice portal. We engaged in many conversations on Capitol Hill with Congressional leaders to educate them about the importance of J-1 to camps, and to ask them to engage with the White House to protect the Camp Counselor and camp use of the SWT programs.
  • Our ACA advocacy campaign has been very effective, carrying the camp message with significant reach and impact over past two months. Our voice has been heard loudly throughout Washington.  We have also retained two prominent government relations firms to help in our targeted outreach to Congress and within the Trump Administration, to amplify our voice, and to continue to drive home our message about the importance of J-1 to camps. 
  • The good news is that after numerous conversations with key staff members within the Administration, we are now being told that summer camps are not a direct target of any revisions in the J-1 Visa programs. However, ACA is receiving conflicting information about whether or not camps utilizing these J-1 Visa programs will be affected by other policy changes in the near or long term. 
  • We have learned in our White House meetings that the cultural exchange component of the J-1 Visa programs is a critical consideration of the Administration as they examine the J-1 programs, so we must remember to maintain our focus on the importance of providing high quality cultural exchange experiences for all participants in the J-1 Camp Counselor and SWT programs at camps. Camps have a great track record of providing meaningful cultural exchange and educational experiences for both J-1 participants and our camps and American staff, and we must continue to dedicate ourselves to this important work.
  • Given that this Administration is continuing to examine the J-1 programs, we are remaining diligent in sharing timely information with key gatekeepers within the Administration and Congress regarding the quality cultural exchange experiences delivered by our camps. We continue to stress that any changes to J-1 programs must not impact our camps in a negative way, even unintentionally or tangentially. 
  • ACA is continuing to work with camp sponsors and placement agencies, sharing information and reviewing strategy. We encourage you to stay in contact with your camp sponsoring agencies as you begin to plan for the 2018 camp season.
  • Over the next number of weeks, we will continue to carry the camp message and meet with officials in the White House, State Department, and other Executive agencies with jurisdiction. ACA will also continue to visit with key members of Congress to help them understand our concerns and to make plans for Congressional intervention should changes be proposed that are detrimental to camps. 
  • ACA will continue to keep its members and affiliates updated on political and policy developments. Should the need arise, we may need to ask ACA members to again contact their Congressional delegations and the White House as we learn more about the Administration's intentions for the J-1 Visa programs. We will let you know if this is needed.


Child Protection Improvements Act (CPIA):

After many years of advocacy about the need for the Child Protection Improvements Act (CPIA) and the importance of national access to FBI background checks for camps, CPIA has cleared many important steps throughout 2017. The House of Representatives passed its version of CPIA on May 22.  The Senate Judiciary Committee passed its version of CPIA on September 7 with strong bipartisan support. On October 16, the full United States Senate passed the Senate CPIA bill by unanimous consent.

While the current House and Senate CPIA bills are very similar, a final version of one bill will need to clear both the Senate and House of Representatives before it heads to the president and becomes law. A bipartisan collection of members of Congress from both legislative bodies are currently discussing the best path forward for CPIA. ACA is very hopeful that CPIA will become an important new law soon.