Brief of Amicus Curiae in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment in Washington Alliance of Technology Workers vs. U.S. Department of Security et al. and National Association of Manufacturers

By Julie Axelrod on November 8, 2019

In practice, though it is not usually labeled as a foreign worker program at all, the OPT Program is most likely the second largest foreign worker program in the United States, second only to the H-1B program for high-tech workers. Not only is it a very large scale foreign worker program, it operates without the labor standards seen in other foreign worker programs. In addition, unlike most of the others, the OPT program is unrelated directly to the labor market needs of any individual employer. Any foreign graduate of any American college – ranging from the most to least selective – can receive permission to work in the American economy from one to three years. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) gives One-year Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) to those with non-STEM degrees, and three-year permits to those with degrees in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math). If an OPT worker runs out of his or her time in the program, he or she can return to college, secure another degree (usually a master’s, usually while working) and start the process anew.

Furthermore, because these foreign national alumni are still considered “students,” despite their graduation, both they and their employers are excused from paying payroll taxes. Hiring OPT beneficiaries therefore involves a substantial subsidy that is not granted to citizen alumni of the same schools. At any given time, approximately 300,000 foreign national graduates are employed through the program, reducing the jobs available to citizen graduates commensurately. Not only does this program therefore hurt young American alumni competing for entry level positions, it also deprives our Social Security, Medicare, and Federal Unemployment Insurance Trust Funds of much needed funding.1 The moneys not paid into the Social Security, Medicare, and Federal Unemployment Insurance Trust Funds as a result, came to an estimated 2.4 billion in FY 2017 and has risen significantly since that time. The OPT program is therefore a subsidy to foreign workers and those employers who hire them from many from the nation’s ailing, elderly and unemployed.

Download the accepted amicus brief