Parents paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual university tuition bills or students amassing mountains of debt to earn advanced degrees would be well served to pay close attention to Washington, D.C.’s calculated efforts to suppress young Americans’ careers.
Deep within the immigration weeds lays a program that even the most entrenched swamp dwellers have never heard of, the Optional Practical Training (OPT). Last year OPT awarded work authorization to 154,000 aliens present on temporary student visas, more than the well-known and widely condemned H-1B which issued 114,000 visas. Readers must understand that OPT “training” means “working” and that the workers are foreign nationals. They arrived on what should be temporary student visas, but are doing jobs that Americans are qualified to do.
When the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act passed, the law barred students from working – come, study and then return home. But gradually, the Justice Department approved temporary intern-type employment which allowed, without statutory authority or public comment, so-called training to the foreign student for up to 18 months, assuming similar training was unavailable in his native country.
OPT’s early evolution was relatively small potatoes, but a disturbing trend eventually became obvious. An increasingly lenient interpretation had emerged about what job training should be offered to foreign-born students, for how long and under what conditions. The program crept along with various tweaks until the Obama administration took office.
By 2008, Silicon Valley lobbyists and power brokers had grown tired of being rebuffed in their efforts to increase the H-1B visa cap, and they embarked on a different, more insidious approach. A Microsoft executive proposed to the Department of Homeland Security that OPT be extended from its then 12-month limit to 29 months. Within the next few years, a host of other changes took effect, still without notice or comment, that included allowing alien science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students to remain on OPT for as long as 42 months.
John Miano, a Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) fellow and co-author with Michelle Malkin of Sold Out which chronicles the duplicity between Capitol Hill and the high-tech industry, summed up OPT as an idea that started innocently but devolved into a full-blown guest worker program to provide cheap labor to American big business. In his CIS report on OPT, Miano called OPT an example of “the administrative state run amok” where laws come not from Congress but from bureaucrats who cozied up to lobbyists.
Student work visas have increased 62 percent over the last four years, and Miano predicts that their total will soon dwarf the H-1B which plays a leading role in American worker displacement.
Including work permission directly violates the regulations that govern student visas. As defined in the U.S. Code, a student visa is issued to an alien who resides in a foreign country that he has no intention of abandoning. Further, the alien is a bona fide student who seeks to enter the United States temporarily and solely for academic purposes.
Accordingly, an alien who entered on a student visa, but remains in the U.S. years after his graduation and is employed is in clear violation of immigration law. The employed alien student is subject to immediate removal. The courts have waffled on a final OPT ruling, and Congress is nowhere in sight.
Like so many other non-immigrant programs and visas, OPT started small, but spun out of control, and left American workers in its wake.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.