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Safe America, Safe Camps: Immigration Update
The camp experience is a great American tradition. Those of us who appreciate and understand this truth are determined to preserve this right of passage for today and tomorrow. As a camper mom recently said, “It may help us all to remember, when our minds are so focused on all that is wrong with the world, that camp is a living example of what is right.”
Due to recent world events, risk management and camp safety have been moved to a new and more complex level. Areas of great concern are; the economy, visas, staff recruitment, transportation, minimum wage, social security, and homeland security issues.
The American Camping Association, camp professionals, camps, and the international staff exchange agencies continue to be committed to safe camp experiences for all children, youth, and staff. As such, we will continue to work in concert with the legislative entities to ensure the integrity and intent of the international staff exchange program is maintained. In doing so, we will create and maintain an atmosphere of open dialogue with all those interested in cultural exchange and the camp experience.
Current Status of the Camp Community
The camp experience is defined by daily schedules and reporting requirements that offer real time accountability between camp owners/directors and international counselors. The international staff exchange agencies also have pre-screening and placement procedures that are multi-faceted and comprehensive. International staff are placed in pre-selected camp communities with assigned roles with clear continuity of care and monitoring between the international staff exchange agencies and the identified camps. Finally, international camp staff live within the boundaries of the camp community with a defined support system of camp supervisors, mentors, coaches, and families. All that we do as camp professionals to ensure these safety elements are practices that only strengthen the camp community and homeland security.
Section 641 of IIRAIRA directs the Immigration and Naturalization Service to establish a nationwide system to electronically collect information relating to all foreign students and exchange program participants. In December of 1999, the INS proposed a ruling, no. 1991-99, authorizing the collection of fees. The proposed rule was designed to extract a $95 fee from non-immigrant foreign students in the United States to help pay for its Coordinated Interagency Partnership Regulating International Services (CIPRIS) initiative. (Note: this ruling is now referred to as SEVIS) CIPRIS directly impacted F-1, J-1, and M-1 non-immigrants. It was felt this rule clearly went beyond the intent of its principle sponsor, former Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who intended the rule to only effect four-year college students. The American Camping Association worked with Senator Judd Gregg during the 106th congress to get the fee reduced for J-1 visas. The fee was reduced to $35.
Current Legislative Environment
With the tragic events that occurred on September 11th, and subsequent biological threats, congress responded by considering numerous policies and laws to meet the national security threats. These efforts included a plethora of immigration and visa recommendations. ACA has been monitoring the efforts of Senator Feinstein, Senator Boyd, Senator Kennedy, Senator Brownback, and Senator Kyl, to mention a few. However, other than the passage of 107-56, The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act), the INS and Congress have not yet made major changes to the visa program.
To date, the only direct change to the visa program goes into effect February 19, 2002, when INS’ revised immigration benefits and services fees will become effective. Applications mailed as of this date must take into account the new fee. Federal guidelines require INS to review fees every two years in order to ensure it is recovering the cost of providing immigration services. Check ACA’s Web site under Public Policy (www.ACAcamps.org/publicpolicy) for the latest information on fees and their applicability to camps.
Originally published in the 2002 Winter issue of The CampLine.