A blog on progressive news and politics on both the California and Nevada sides of Lake Tahoe which aims at helping to elect Democrats and Turn Tahoe Blue. The blog is written from Germany by a former German exchange student at George Whittell High School in Zephyr Cove, Nevada.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Fingerprinting A Requirement To Host Exchange Students?

Today I read a letter by Corey Lucero-Perkins of Elk Grove, California in the Sacramento Bee. She writes about the joys of hosting exchange students and urges others to do the same. Good on her!

Now, those of you who have read posts by me before are probably aware that I was an exchange student at Lake Tahoe ten years ago. Were it not for that fact I wouldn't be the person I am today. I probably wouldn't have grown from a very shy and stubborn teenager into a relatively self-confident and still a little stubborn adult. I wouldn't have experienced another country, another culture, another school system, another family, who, by the way, was very loving and caring and who have accepted me as their fifth son.

After I read Ms. Lucero-Perkins' letter in the Sacramento Bee I went to the homepage of CIEE, the exchange organization she was working with. They had a little action alert on their homepage. I clicked on it and could not, for the life of me, believe what I read:

Please contact your state senator to Vote NO on legislation that would require finger printing in order to host an exchange student

Legislation was recently introduced in the State of California that would require all student exchange organizations to submit to the Department of Justice host family applicants finger print images and other information necessary to obtain a criminal background check on each person 18 years of age or older who resides with the family where the exchange student would reside.

The exchange student industry currently supports federal regulations established in May 2006 that requires a criminal background check on each host family and its members over the age of 18 yrs old. The Federal Regulation adopts the standards of leading organizations in youth-work field including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and YMCA to name a few, that uses national criminal background check services to review the records of all jurisdictions – federal, state and local. This system reports not only arrests but more detailed information on convictions and dispositions. It also includes offenses for which fingerprints are not taken.

In a time where bridging cultural misconceptions is of major importance, this legislation will only create an inconvenience for potential host families and discourage them from participating. Host families provide exchange students and their families the opportunity to look beyond the stereotypes. They provide access to our country, to our culture at the very level where it matters, at the heart of the American Family. There is no better way to get to know us as a culture than to live in our homes and our communities. Please let’s not discourage those families that want to open their homes and their hearts to exchange students. Please contact your senator today by sending the message below.

WTF? I was stunned, simply stunned. In these times of turmoil in the world when hatred is preached in many countries, in these times of war nothing more is important than talking to each other, than getting to know another country, another culture. There is a reason the exchange organization with which I came to America is called Youth for Understanding.

If you're from California, please write your State Senator and tell them to vote no on this bill.

And, please think about whether you are able to take in an exchange student. If it weren't for my host family you wouldn't be reading this.

2 Comments:

Blogger exNYinTX said...

Fingerprinting might be a little extreme, but it could help to keep people who shouldn't be hosting students out of the program.

One of the host families we had placed 2 students with, charged each exchange student 1/3 the total price of a family trip and then the mother, father and their 2 kids paid the other third. Once this was found out, the exchange students were placed with another family and reimbursed.

Fingerprinting probably wouldn't have alerted us to any shady behavior about the host parents in that case, but it might have acted as a deterrent to the parents.

There are dozens of similar cases every year where host parents take advantage of their exchange students. And the ones that don't get blacklisted from the program outright based on their fingerprint/background check will at least be on file if there is any questionable conduct.

Study Abroad

On a personal note, Mannheim is without a doubt one of the nicest cities in Germany. I spent a few years there from '99-'01 in the apartment complex at Collinistrasse 5 and loved it. Hope to be back for a visit soon.

7:00 AM

 
Blogger Sven said...

Thank you for your comment. I realize that there are always problems with some host families. I've heard of such problems myself. So, I'm definitely for criminal background checks. However, I believe that fingerprinting is overreaching.

I'm glad you enjoyed living in Mannheim. I do write another blog about walking the streets of Mannheim. You might be interested in that:

Mannheims Straßen

If you come back to Mannheim be sure to email me!

7:14 AM

 

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