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. The representative wants the government to start FBI fingerprint background checks on all potential hosts.
Democratic representative Daisy Baez is seeking more in depth background screenings due to a recent incident in Florida. The incident began when a Florida man named Dale Leary and his wife applied to host a Spanish foreign exchange student. The student, Marta San Jose, was 16 when she arrived at the Leary residence in Cutler Bay. Shortly after San Jose turned 18, Dale Leary divorced his wife and married San Jose.
Later on, Leary and San Jose were arrested because they lured San Jose’s 14-year-old sister to the home and sexually abused 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. Dale Leary soon committed suicide while out on bail. According to Daisy Baez, Dale Leary should have never been able to host foreign exchange students due to his past criminal behavior.
In 1985, 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.
Proposal for More Extensive Background Checks
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. Currently, 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, 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.