Our most recent outbound exchange trip involved an eclectic group of American professionals, one J-1 trainee, two cities in Poland, and a lot of talk about Central European migration trends and immigration/emigration issues. There were also, of course, many pierogies, a lot of Żubrówka, and much baraszcz to be had. The group was able to explore Warsaw and Krakow, experiencing Polish culture and hearing from experts about history, immigration, emigration, and the changes that membership in the European Union has brought to Poland and other new EU members in the region.
Highlights of the exchange included a visit to the US consulate in Warsaw, where the trip’s one and only J-1 trainee, Tania Alves Calvao, was able to step behind the windows and see the Consulate from a new and different perspective. Trip participants also enjoyed an informal visit to a premier Polish law firm, discussions with American business interests in Poland, and a presentation from the Warsaw University Center for Migration Research. A somber and informative day was spent at Auschwitz and Birkenau.
The pilot program to launch the first outbound exchange of American Immigration Council affiliates occurred January 16 & 17, 2007 in Costa Rica. The group met with Costa Rican attorneys to discuss recent changes to the Costa Rican immigration laws, including employer sanctions on the hiring of undocumented aliens to perform low-skilled labor. It was remarkable how many similar the Costa Rican and broader Central American immigration debate currently raging in the United States. Such similarities were further emphasized during visits the group made to the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights and the Nonimmigrant Visa Section of the US Consulate in San Jose. The expatriate Costa Rica Resident’s Association added an interested perspective on retiree and permanent legal resident issues.
Breaking away from discussions focused on immigration and emigration, the group visited Volcan Paos, an active volcano at the edge of Costa Rica’s central valley. Another cultural excursion introduced participants to the last remaining water-powered traditional ox cart factory in the country. The factory is a relic of Costa Rican tradition and has been operated for many generations by the Alfaro family in Sarchi. No visit to Costa Rica could be complete without a lot excellent Central American food and a bit of rain. We packed a lot into two days and came away wishing we had more time in this incredibly beautiful and hospitable country.