Casey to OMB: Give State Department More Oversight in Protecting Foreign Exchange Students

WASHINGTON, DC- U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) sent a letter to Peter Orszag, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), urging him to grant a request by the State Department to allow it to have more oversight of foreign exchange student program sponsors.  Senator Casey sent the letter following recent reports of mistreatment of foreign exchange students in Pennsylvania.

“The conditions to which these students were subjected are simply unacceptable,” wrote Senator Casey. 

Senator Casey went on to write, “I believe the recent disclosures that have come to light demonstrate the need for the State Department to be equipped with the necessary tools to identify troubling practices by exchange program sponsors before they endanger the lives of children.”

Senator Casey also wrote, “In the cases I referenced, the sponsoring organization, the Aspect Foundation, violated eleven regulatory provisions as stipulated in 22 CFR 62.50(a)(4).  These flagrant violations should have been detected and halted much earlier.”

The Department of State recently sent OMB a request to create regulations that would provide the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs under the State Department the ability to employ its own management audit system to directly monitor exchange program sponsors.  Before the new rule can go into effect, OMB, the federal agency with the authority to change federal regulations, must first approve it.

Last month, Senator Casey sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to investigate the Department of State’s oversight of U.S. youth exchange programs following reports of abuse and mistreatment of the foreign exchange students in Pennsylvania. 

Nine foreign exchange students between the ages of 15 and 18 were placed in the care of Lackawanna County’s Department of Human Services.  According to officials, some children were in need of medical attention due to malnutrition and dehydration while others were living in unsanitary conditions and in homes that were recently condemned.  Only after their teachers voiced concerns did their neglect come to light.  Currently, foreign exchange students are eligible to attend approximately 430 high schools, colleges and universities throughout Pennsylvania.

Full text of the letter is below.

Dear Director Orszag,

I write to you today out of concern for the future of one of our nation’s most dynamic public diplomacy tools – youth exchange programs.  Every year, more than 300,000 foreign exchange students visit the United States seeking a better understanding of American culture and values – and almost all come away with a better understanding of our great country and its people. 

However, for twelve exchange students spending an academic year in and around my hometown of Scranton, PA, their experiences were not what had been advertised to them.  Following a pattern of neglect and abuse, these twelve students between the ages of 15 and 18 were removed from the homes of host families that failed to live up to their obligations.  Some of the children were in need of medical attention due to malnutrition and dehydration, while others were living in unsanitary conditions, including a home that was condemned and another filled with feces.

The conditions to which these students were subjected are simply unacceptable.  Recognizing the ongoing investigation into these cases of neglect, I nonetheless have concluded that the Department of State must conduct greater oversight of federal and private exchange programs.  In the cases I referenced, the sponsoring organization, the Aspect Foundation, violated eleven regulatory provisions as stipulated in 22 CFR 62.50(a)(4).  These flagrant violations should have been detected and halted much earlier.

It is my understanding that the Department of State recently sent the Office of Management and Budget a Proposed Rule on Subpart A of the Exchange Visitor Program regulations that would provide the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs the ability to employ its own management audit system to directly monitor exchange program sponsors.  I believe the recent disclosures that have come to light demonstrate the need for the State Department to be equipped with the necessary tools to identify troubling practices by exchange program sponsors before they endanger the lives of children.

Accordingly, I urge you to strongly consider this proposed rule as it will assist the Department of State in its oversight of the Exchange Visitor Program and sponsoring organizations. Please advise me when the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has cleared this important proposed rule for publication in the Federal Register.  I look forward to working with OMB to ensure the welfare of foreign exchange participants entrusted in our care.
                                                                        Sincerely,

                                                                        Robert P. Casey, Jr.
                                                                        United States Senator
 

 


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