A Florida State Representative is calling upon Congress to draft legislation that would expand the process for screening hosts and host families for foreign exchange students. Per a report from the Miami Herald, the representative wants the government to start running FBI fingerprint checks on all potential hosts.
Per coverage, Democratic Party member Daisy Baez is encouraging Congress to examine the foreign exchange host screening process because of an incident that occurred in Florida. A few years ago, a Cutler Bay man, Dale Leary, and his wife applied to host a Spanish exchange student at their home. The student, Marta San Jose, was 16 when she arrived in Cutler Bay.
Shortly after San Jose turned 18, reports explain, Leary divorced his wife and married her. Later, Leary and San Jose were arrested for allegedly luring San Jose’s 14-year-old sister to their home and sexually abusing her. Both were charged with multiple crimes including lewd and lascivious conduct with a child under the age of 16 and possession of child pornography. Police began investigating Leary further, as he had hosted female foreign exchange students in his home before San Jose. While out on bail in July, Leary committed suicide.
Baez stated that Leary should never have been allowed to host a foreign exchange student in the first place based on his history. In 1985, when he was 18, Leary was arrested for breaking into a woman’s home, tying her up, and sexually assaulting her. In 1986, he pleaded guilty to multiple crimes including lewd and lascivious behavior, armed robbery, armed burglary, and kidnapping. He spent 60 days in jail and 13 years on probation. His convictions did not stop him from becoming a host for multiple female foreign exchange students, Baez observed.
Baez believes that adding FBI fingerprint checks to the screening process for foreign exchange hosts and host families would help to prevent incidents like this from happening in the future. As coverage notes, the United States State Department uses a multi-step process to screen host families including criminal background checks, interviews, and reference checks. The checks don’t include FBI fingerprint searches, which Baez stated could widen the scope.
Leary is not the only American foreign exchange host to be accused of abusing a foreign exchange student. In June, reports note, the Miami-Dade School Board hired a lobbyist to take several foreign student host-related concerns to Congress. One of the priorities on the School Board’s list was enhancing background checks for foreign exchange hosts.