New bill aims to help meet military families' childcare needs with visa exemptions for au pairs

Brynlee, 1, sitting on top of family au pair, Jennifer Rauch, waves an American flag while waiting to greet her father at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Feb. 7, 2020.
Photo credit U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Peña/Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs
By Connecting Vets

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., introduced a bill aimed at helping military families with childcare by providing certain visa exemptions for au pairs providing care to military kids during the pandemic.

The legislation would specifically expand J-1 visa exemptions for the au pairs. 

Before the pandemic gripped the world, the Pentagon released a report that showed the Defense Department couldn't meet the demand for military family childcare -- able to accommodate about 78% of demand overall. Duckworth characterized it as a "childcare accessibility crisis" for military families. 

Duckworth accused President Donald Trump of "exacerbating the problem" with a proclamation in June that barred entry into the United States for au pair cultural exchange visitors through 2020. About 10% of au pairs currently serve military families, according to a news release from the senator's office.

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“For most military families, accessible childcare isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity,” Duckworth said in a statement on Wednesday. “I’m introducing this legislation today to help increase childcare accessibility because childcare decisions should not harm our nation’s military readiness.”

Duckworth's bill would prevent the U.S. government from suspending J-1 visas for au pairs working to provide childcare for military families during the pandemic, allow the Department of Homeland Security to deny admission for au pairs on a case-by-case basis to address any national security concerns and would require Homeland Security to provide written justifications for those denials.

The National Military Family Association (NMFA), Blue Star Families, Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), the Armed Services YMCA and the Military Officers Association (MOAA) all signed on in support of the bill, Duckworth said. 

“Since the J-1 visa ban went into effect, the National Military Family Association (NMFA) has heard from military families all over the country worried about how their families can serve without the flexible, in-home child care they need,” the organization said in a statement. “NMFA is grateful to Senator Duckworth for her support for our military families and we hope for a quick resolution so that our military can stay focused on their mission knowing their children are in good hands.”

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Reach Abbie Bennett: abbie@connectingvets.com or @AbbieRBennett.
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