Call to Action Letters - J-1 Visa Camp Counselor & SWT Program

The following are full-length letters you can copy and paste into your email to the President and to your congressional representatives. The online legislative alerts have limitations on the character count necessitating those messages be shorter.

White House Letter

President Donald Trump

I am writing to ask the Trump Administration to maintain the J-1 Camp Counselor program and the use of the Summer Work Travel program. 

As a camp professional, I am writing to share a critical challenge facing America’s summer camps as you define the scope of the Buy American Hire American Executive Order.  I have read the recent article in the Wall Street Journal about possible White House recommendations to the U.S. State Department’s J-1 Visa programs, specifically Camp Counselor and Camp Summer Work Travel (SWT).  As I understand it, these recommendations would radically reduce or eliminate the Camp Counselor and SWT camp cultural exchange programs which would have a drastic impact on my camp business and the participation of American youth in my programs. I am asking you to protect the J-1 Camp Counselor program and the use of the Summer Work Travel program by American’s summer camps, as these programs are critical to our businesses.

Important facts about camps and the J-1 Visa Camp Counselor and SWT programs:

  • There are not enough American students and workers to fill jobs in camps.
  • Reduction in these programs will result in the loss of thousands of American jobs
  • Reduction in camp operation and services would have tremendously negative impacts on many local economies, particularly in rural areas. 
  • Youth camps provide critical educational and developmental opportunities for America’s youth. 

There are not enough American students and workers to fill positions in camp. There is a shortage of available qualified seasonal workers. Camps everywhere must compete with local businesses, internships, and summer educational programs in order to find staff willing to work during the short camp season often in remote and rural areas. This year, 65% of camps report facing increased challenges recruiting and retaining high quality staff compared to previous years. Despite year long efforts to recruit staff through print ads, social media, recruiting sites, and every available channel, camps simply cannot fill all their available positions.

Reduction in these J-1 programs could result in the loss of thousands of American jobs. Without these J-1 staff, Camps could be forced to close or downsize, thereby affecting all full and seasonal employees, on average over 90%  of whom are American. This threat is very real, as the downsizing or elimination of these programs would have ripple effects, ultimately threatening the jobs of hundreds of thousands of American colleges and high schools students who work at camps every summer.

Reduction in camp operation and services would have tremendously negative impacts on many local economies, particularly in rural areas.  An economic impact study of the northeast region of the country showed over 6,000 state licensed camps have a direct economic contribution of nearly $3.2 billion on local economies. Further, these camps pay more than $1.1 billion in local, state and federal income taxes.  The addition of spending by downstream businesses and employees multiplies that impact to over $500 million in state and local taxes associated with youth camps.  These numbers represent the northeast region alone.  Multiply that by the number of camps across the country and you can begin to appreciate the economic impact of the camp industry.

Youth camps provide critical educational and development opportunities for America’s youth, helping them to build essential skills that prepare them for college and careers, such as critical thinking and decision-making, teamwork and collaboration, effective communication, creative thinking, and leadership. These skills are essential for America’s youth, and are often in short supply in today’s workforce. Camps fill a crucial role in the development of these skills for millions of kids.  We need to encourage more availability of these programs not less, and the threat to the Camp Counselor and Summer Work Travel programs will pose an existential challenge to many of our nation’s summer camps.

Camp Counselor and camp-specific Summer Work Travel International cultural exchange programs like these make up the core component of our people-to-people diplomacy and are essential to our national security.  International participants live and work daily with American staff and campers sharing culture and language, exploring ideas, and discovering both similarities and differences about each other in a positive setting.  These steps in developing cultural competency are a vital addition to the youth development process of our American youth, as well as to the exchange visitors traveling back to their home countries.  Camps are committed to this.

J-1 Visa camp participants are placed in all 50 states throughout the U.S.  There are more than 23,000 international students who participate in the J-I Visa Camp Counselor program.  Another 5,000 international college students participate in the J-1 Visa Summer Work Travel (SWT) program at summer camps. Two out of three (66%) overnight camps host international students, and 10.9% of their staff are international cultural exchange participants.  For independent for-profit camps, 19.7% of their staff are international cultural exchange participants. Most of these camps are located in rural areas with very low unemployment and a scarcity of available counselor aged staff. Should these J-1 positions be reduced or eliminated, many of these programs would have to close or downsize substantially, leaving parents and campers without the ability to return to their beloved and vital camp programs.

J-1 Visa camp participants are placed in all types of camps reflecting a cross section of America.  International participants are placed in diverse settings in camps run by major youth organizations such as YMCA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Camp Fire, 4H, along with religiously affiliated camps of many denominations, not for private and municipal camps, and private independent camps. These camps serve youth and vulnerable adults from all socio-economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds, including those with medical, emotional and developmental challenges. For many of these groups, the participation of J-1 Camp Counselors and Summer Work travel participants is vital to their missions

These are the facts about the American camp industry and the significance of the J-1 Visa Camp Counselor and SWT programs.  Please think carefully about the consequences any reduction or elimination of these programs will have on the entirety of the American camp industry, and on the missions of the organizations that sponsor camps across the country. We are asking you to help protect these vital programs by excluding these programs from the scope of this Executive Order.

 

Congressional Letter

I am writing to ask you to contact the Trump Administration and request that the J-1 Camp Counselor program and the use of the Summer Work Travel program be maintained as the Administration implements the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order.

As a camp (owner/director) serving X (insert number) of children each year in (insert geographic location,)  I am writing to alert you to a critical challenge facing America’s summer camps.  As you may know, in April President Trump signed the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order.  According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the White House is considering substantial changes to the U.S. State Department’s J-1 Visa programs, specifically Camp Counselor and Camp Summer Work Travel (SWT).  These recommendations would drastically reduce or eliminate the Camp Counselor and SWT camp cultural exchange programs, which would result in drastic impacts on my camp business and the participation of American youth in my programs.  Camp international participants in these programs are a valuable and necessary addition to my camp.

On behalf of the thousands of camps in the United States-- employing hundreds-of-thousands of American workers, and serving millions of American children-- we need your help to advocate for the continuity of these critical J-1 programs, as the Trump Administration considers how they will implement the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order.

Important facts about camps and the J-1 Visa Camp Counselor and SWT programs:

  • There are not enough American students and workers to fill jobs in camps.
  • Reduction in these programs will result in the loss of thousands of American jobs
  • Reduction in camp operation and services would have tremendously negative impacts on many local economies, particularly in rural areas. 
  • Youth camps provide critical educational and developmental opportunities for America’s youth. 

There are not enough American students and workers to fill positions in camp. There is a shortage of available qualified seasonal workers. Camps everywhere must compete with local businesses, internships, and summer educational programs in order to find staff willing to work during the short camp season often in remote and rural areas. This year, 65% of camps report facing increased challenges recruiting and retaining high quality staff compared to previous years. Despite year long efforts to recruit staff through print ads, social media, recruiting sites, and every available channel, camps simply cannot fill all their available positions.

Reduction in these J-1 programs could result in the loss of thousands of American jobs. Without these J-1 staff, Camps could be forced to close or downsize, thereby affecting all full and seasonal employees, on average over 90%  of whom are American. This threat is very real, as the downsizing or elimination of these programs would have ripple effects, ultimately threatening the jobs of hundreds of thousands of American colleges and high schools students who work at camps every summer.

Reduction in camp operation and services would have tremendously negative impacts on many local economies, particularly in rural areas.  An economic impact study of the northeast region of the country showed over 6,000 state licensed camps have a direct economic contribution of nearly $3.2 billion on local economies. Further, these camps pay more than $1.1 billion in local, state and federal income taxes.  The addition of spending by downstream businesses and employees multiplies that impact to over $500 million in state and local taxes associated with youth camps.  These numbers represent the northeast region alone.  Multiply that by the number of camps across the country and you can begin to appreciate the economic impact of the camp industry.

Youth camps provide critical educational and development opportunities for America’s youth, helping them to build essential skills that prepare them for college and careers, such as critical thinking and decision-making, teamwork and collaboration, effective communication, creative thinking, and leadership. These skills are essential for America’s youth, and are often in short supply in today’s workforce. Camps fill a crucial role in the development of these skills for millions of kids.  We need to encourage more availability of these programs not less, and the threat to the Camp Counselor and Summer Work Travel programs will pose an existential challenge to many of our nation’s summer camps.

Camp Counselor and camp-specific Summer Work Travel International cultural exchange programs like these make up the core component of our people-to-people diplomacy and are essential to our national security.  International participants live and work daily with American staff and campers sharing culture and language, exploring ideas, and discovering both similarities and differences about each other in a positive setting.  These steps in developing cultural competency are a vital addition to the youth development process of our American youth, as well as to the exchange visitors traveling back to their home countries.  Camps are committed to this.

J-1 Visa camp participants are placed in all 50 states throughout the U.S.  There are more than 23,000 international students who participate in the J-I Visa Camp Counselor program.  Another 5,000 international college students participate in the J-1 Visa Summer Work Travel (SWT) program at summer camps. Two out of three (66%) overnight camps host international students, and 10.9% of their staff are international cultural exchange participants.  For independent for-profit camps, 19.7% of their staff are international cultural exchange participants. Most of these camps are located in rural areas with very low unemployment and a scarcity of available counselor aged staff. Should these J-1 positions be reduced or eliminated, many of these programs would have to close or downsize substantially, leaving parents and campers without the ability to return to their beloved and vital camp programs.

J-1 Visa camp participants are placed in all types of camps reflecting a cross section of America.  International participants are placed in diverse settings in camps run by major youth organizations such as YMCA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Camp Fire, 4H, along with religiously affiliated camps of many denominations, not for private and municipal camps, and private independent camps. These camps serve youth and vulnerable adults from all socio-economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds, including those with medical, emotional and developmental challenges. For many of these groups, the participation of J-1 Camp Counselors and Summer Work travel participants is vital to their missions

These are the facts about the American camp industry and the significance of the J-1 Visa Camp Counselor and SWT programs.  Please think carefully about the consequences any reduction or elimination of these programs will have on the entirety of the American camp industry, and on the missions of the organizations that sponsor camps across the country. We are asking you to help protect these vital programs by excluding these programs from the scope of this Executive Order.