Photo by Darren Hauck / Getty
Immigrants all over the country took part in peaceful protests yesterday, demonstrating in major cities and boycotting work, school and commerce. “A Day Without Immigrants,” was a loosely organized social media driven event that brought thousands of immigrants together to protest President Trump’s immigration policies that many feel marginalize immigrants, unfairly targeting them and discounting their important contribution.
Activists of yesterday’s protest were making a statement that the country is sustained by immigrants. While the total number of yesterday’s protesters is unknown, the message of outrage and indignation resonated loudly and the impact was felt on businesses throughout the country. Many businesses supported their staff, closing for the day, posting signs on their locked doors while many others were simply forced to close due to staff shortages.
One Mexican-born chef in an Atlanta restaurant said that he wanted to take the day off in support of the effort, but did not want to leave his employer short staffed. His manager, sympathetic to his almost exclusively Mexican immigrant kitchen staff, shared that he would have supported him because his immigrant workers are the “most hard working and dependable” people on his staff.
In our own Austin backyard, hundreds marched from City Hall to the State Capitol chanting “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here.”
The continued influx of foreigners, now making over 42 million of America’s population, would seem to indicate that the U.S. continues to be a beacon of hope all over the world. The solidarity and support of yesterday’s protests would also seem to imply that America stands behind all its citizens and Washington shouldn’t turn a deaf ear on a loud cry to protect civil and human rights.
The Presidential election in the United States has raised questions and concern about the future of international exchange programs. We want to assure you that there will be no immediate or dramatic decisions that will affect the existing program.
President-elect Donald Trump will need to first appoint key staff members including a Secretary of State, White House advisors and a leader of The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It will take some time before Trump’s team comes together and any implications to the program begin to emerge.
International Exchange has been supported by both parties and many previous administrations. As a united industry we have worked hard to educate and enlist support of our program, preparing for this possible outcome by making congressional and government allies and establishing strong federal, state and local engagement. Our belief in the positive and far-reaching benefits of cultural exchange is echoed by many other organizations, interest groups, politicians and government agencies. At the Department of State, supporters of the program will likely remain in their current roles as program advocates and administrators.
We commit to all of you that we will continue to work hard on your behalf and for the program in which we firmly believe. All of us are passionate about cultural exchange as a way to promote greater understanding between global citizens. Ours is a program that tears down walls of separation, prejudice, ignorance and division; we do not believe in or support walls of separation. All of us must unite in this higher purpose of the program and do our part to ensure the principles of education and enlightenment are our legacy outcomes. Our best chance at preserving and growing this program will be by our success achieving these important goals.
We promise to keep you informed of any developments, but do not anticipate any program changes for quite some time.
Alliance Abroad Group
Intrigued about cultural exchange or dreaming about living and working in a foreign country? There is no better endorsement than the real life stories of those who have had similar interests. A year ago Thato Khasuli was a local volunteer at the World Youth Student Travel Conference (WYSTC), in Cape Town, South Africa. Today, Thato is a concierge at a luxury resort in a breathtaking mountain area in New Hampshire, USA. His journey half way around the world was recounted and submitted for the most coveted award in the youth and student travel industry and won. Why? Because Thato’s story reminds all of us in the business of cultural exchange and youth travel why we love what we do. And it encourages every young person who has ever dreamed of venturing beyond their own backyard or borders to take the same leap of faith, following in Thato’s amazing footsteps.
Travel and exposure to a different culture has opened Thato’s eyes and mind to a world of possibilities. Through his “Extraordinary Experience,” he has been both teacher and student, learning about the hospitality industry and a different way of life and teaching his friends, peers and business associates about his own country and customs. He has grown personally and professionally and has discovered that his greatest lessons have generally come from his most daunting challenges. Thato’s lasting legacy will be a reminder to all of us to be undaunted in the pursuit of our dreams and resolute in our commitment to achieve them.
Alliance Abroad is pleased and proud to be the winner of the WYSE Most Extraordinary Experience Award. We may have gotten the award and recognition for providing the experience, but Thato is the real winner. The honor for us is witnessing the fruits of our work and knowing that this experience has been a game changer for Thato and his family. That’s all the reward we need.
It’s been our life’s work to bring extraordinary experiences to thousands of global youths. It’s what motivates us and is still the passion behind our work.
We invite and encourage you to watch the video of Thato’s story and to stay tuned as we continue to follow his journey.
The World Youth Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) is the leading trade event for the global youth, student and educational travel industry. Since its inception in 1992, the conference has been held in a different international location and this year it will take place in Belgrade, Serbia September 20-23. Six hundred industry professionals from over 100 countries are expected to come together to network, exchange ideas and collaborate to fuel and further the youth and student travel industry.
David Chapman, Director General of WYSE Travel Confederation, the event sponsor, is optimistic about the strength and resilience of the youth travel market. “Despite the unsettled nature of travel as a whole, with terrorism and political unrest halting tourism in some areas, youth travel remains resilient. Not only do young people continue to travel during difficult times, but the agencies and organizations helping them also continue to offer new products and services that meet the needs of young travelers.
The conference covers all aspects and interests of the industry and is an incredible opportunity to strengthen partnerships and create new ones. The latest information on policies affecting the travel and tourism industry, innovations that improve the experience, industry trends and the emersion of new programs are some of the many topics discussed through workshops, networking and seminars.
WYSTC provides insights and education to the many influences and factors facing the industry and keeps us abreast and in tune with challenges and concerns of war, terrorism, safety and our important role as visa sponsors in facilitating safe and meaningful experiences.
Alliance Abroad is honored to be a finalist in the Most Extraordinary Experience category. Follow Thato Khasuli, our 2015 WYSTC intern recipient, on our blog and his amazing journey from South Africa to America. Thato reminds us that what we do has a higher purpose and can change the world…one person, company, community and country at a time.