The Collective Public Policy Voice of the Exchange Community

January 30, 2017
Contact: Oriana Piña

Washington, DC – On January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order banning people from seven Middle-East countries from entering the United States. The 90-day suspension of U.S. visa issuance for these Muslim-majority countries impacts educational and cultural exchange programs, thereby hindering efforts to support our national security through people-to-people diplomacy. The Order authorizes the secretaries of State and Homeland Security to make exceptions when they deem it in the national interest.

“By inadvertently including cultural and educational exchange programs, this visa ban will restrict the ability of our universities, businesses, and government to engage with important parts of the world,” said Ilir Zherka, Executive Director. “Additionally, the countries targeted for visa suspensions are precisely those in which we should identify emerging leaders and welcome them to the U.S. to be exposed to our culture and our democratic values.”

U.S. ambassadors around the globe consistently report that exchange programs are among the most useful catalysts for strengthening our national security long-term. Evaluations repeatedly show that international exchange participants complete their programs with a better impression of the United States, which largely benefits our national security. A Department of State program evaluation, for example, shows that 94% of high school exchange students from Muslim-majority countries said their stay in the U.S. gave them more favorable views of the American people and culture.

President Ronald Reagan understood the value of exchanges when he created the International Youth Exchange Initiative during the Cold War. President George W. Bush also used exchange programs to promote greater understanding between the U.S. and Muslim-majority countries after the tragic events of 9/11.

“We look forward to working with the Trump administration to find ways to continue to protect our country and the American people, while promoting exchange programs that enhance our national security,” said Zherka.