In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump administration was considering significant cuts to or elimination of five J-1 exchange programs, including Summer Work Travel. Since then, the broader international exchange community has come together to defend and support the threatened programs. This effort has driven more than 100,000 letters to the administration and to elected officials, hundreds of media stories, and an internationally-trending #SaveJ1 hashtag. The outpouring of support for the J-1 programs has not gone unnoticed by members of Congress and others. While we continue our advocacy efforts, we are optimistic about the future of J-1 exchanges.
As you know, J-1 exchanges enjoy broad bipartisan support in both houses of Congress and in state and local governments across the country. In the last two months, your calls and emails to your members of Congress have led to two significant legislative actions.
Senator Coons (D-DE) and Senator Murkowski (R-AK) cosponsored an amendment to the Senate Foreign Operations Bill that requires the administration to consult with Congress prior to making any significant changes to the J-1 programs. The legislation also asks for an analysis of the impact on public diplomacy and the economy. The amendment is included in the Senate Appropriations bill, which should be finalized before the end of the year.
In the House of Representatives, Rep. LoBiondo (R-NJ) and Rep. Keating (D-MA) cosponsored House Resolution 529 in support of J-1 Exchange Visitor programs. The resolution currently has 40 cosponsors, with additional members continuing to sign on.
Both of these actions send a strong message to the administration that J-1 programs are vital to the U.S. economy and public diplomacy efforts, and should not be reduced or eliminated.
Since the original Wall Street Journal article, more than 400 domestic and international news articles have been published, the vast majority with a positive view toward exchanges. All of the articles, which you can filter by date and state, are posted online at Americans for Cultural Exchange.
In mid-November, J-1 sponsors came together for the Alliance Annual Meeting, which included presentations and panels from U.S. Department of State leadership. This meeting is a platform for the international exchange community to engage in programmatic and policy discussions with representatives from key government agencies. The overall tone of the meeting was positive, and U.S. Department of State representatives emphasized that we are continuing with business as usual for all programs.
For host employers, the best thing you can do is continue to offer participants a great experience. The excellence of our programs and employers are our best defense. For those interested in becoming more involved in advocacy efforts, we encourage you to join Americans for Cultural Exchange. The website includes talking points, a primer for visiting elected officials, and other useful advocacy resources. If you are interested in learning more, please contact CIEE.