With all of the activity swirling around Washington, it’s hard to know what to pay attention to. We’ve got you covered. Here are five key J-1 exchange program trends we’re watching in 2018.
Not recognizing the important role the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program plays in supporting public diplomacy and the U.S. economy, the Trump administration threatened to cut five J-1 programs in 2017 (Au Pair, Camp, Intern, Summer Work Travel, and Trainee). This came in the context of the “Buy American Hire American,” or BAHA, executive order, signed in April 2017. While J-1 programs are not specifically mentioned in BAHA, they’ve been swept into the discussion.
The exchange community’s array of advocacy activity has made an important impact. J-1 exchange programs have not changed and are operating full steam ahead.
However, the BAHA threat remains. The White House is still considering a range of options for BAHA implementation. Thus, broad and forceful advocacy in support of J-1 programs remains as much of a priority in 2018 as it was last year.
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) at the U.S. Department of State has been without key political leadership since 2016. In recent months, however, the administration has picked up the pace of appointments:
- Jennifer Galt started as the new Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at ECA.
- Marie Royce was nominated for Assistant Secretary, the top position in ECA.
- The Senate confirmed Steve Goldstein as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy, a position that oversees all public diplomacy related activities, including exchanges.
With this new leadership in place, ECA has an opportunity to forcefully and vocally support its programs within the administration. And these leaders are already showing their commitment to exchanges.
During his confirmation hearing, Goldstein noted that “everyone I have spoken to throughout this process has impressed upon me the importance of exchanges, and I share that view.” Galt is a career Foreign Service officer and former Ambassador, and spoke glowingly of exchanges during a recent panel on Capitol Hill. And Marie Royce is an exchange alumnae and former Board Trustee at Meridian International Center. It’s crucial that these leaders extend their experiences with exchanges into strong and vocal support of J-1 programs in 2018.
In late 2017, the Office of Management and Budget updated the federal regulatory agenda, a list of pending regulation changes. That calendar includes proposed activity in 2018 on five J-1 regulations:
- Summer Work Travel
- J-1 General Provisions (Subpart A)
- Au Pair
- Camp Counselor
It’s unlikely that the Department will move on this many regulatory actions in one calendar year (it would be unprecedented, in fact). Yet it’s notable that these five items are on the calendar.
J-1 exchange programs could be included in a much broader – and divisively contentious – immigration debate. At the center are issues such as Deferred Action on Childhood Arrival (DACA), a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, family-based immigration, the diversity visa lottery, and more.
The progress of this immigration conversation is important to track, as the way its winds blow could affect the trajectory of J-1 exchanges.
Approximately 30 Republican Members of Congress and 15 Democratic Members are either retiring or running for different office in 2018. Several of these Members have been strong supporters of exchanges over the years. Sen. Bob Corker from Tennessee, and Reps. Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Charlie Dent (PA), and Ed Royce (CA) have strongly supported exchange programs in important ways over the years.
We’ll be monitoring further retirements and the results of the 2018 midterm elections. These shifts in Congressional member makeup will have an impact on our advocacy work.