Though the press seems to keep it a secret, and the government permits it to continue, there are 300,000 or so alien workers in the United States who are given an 8 percent-plus bonus each year simply because they are neither U.S. citizens nor green card holders!
That sounds unbelievable, but it is true.
- Does the U.S. government, in fact, reward some workers handsomely because they are not Americans?
- Do their employers get an equal subsidy for hiring people who are not Americans?
- Does this subsidy of more than 8 percent get taken out of the hide of America's ailing and elderly?
- Is this subsidy costing the Social Security, Medicare, and Federal-State Unemployment Insurance trust funds something like $3 billion a year?
The answer to all four questions is a resounding "Yes!" Does big business love this program? Absolutely!
Welcome to the so-called Optional Practical Training program. OPT is only for alien graduates of U.S. universities, and is not available to similarly qualified citizen graduates. Under an obscure Department of Homeland Security ruling — no Congress has ever approved it — a recent alien college graduate is allowed to work legally in the United States for a year under a student visa and he and his employer are excused from the usual payroll taxes that support the three funds.
If the alien has a degree in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM), that one year can stretch into three full years, all with the same subsidy for worker and employer.
And at the end of that period the alien worker can go back to part-time graduate school, get another STEM degree, and start the three-year, government-subsidized cycle all over again.
At the average wage of new college grads, that is a $4,000-a-year break for the worker, and another $4,000 bonus to the employer. If the worker has an advanced degree in the STEM fields that might easily reach $8,000 a year for the worker, and another $8,000 a year for the employer. Every year.
Most foreign worker programs, such as the largest of them all, H-1B, for high-tech workers, cause the usual, and appropriate, contributions to the trust funds. But not OPT.
I was reminded on this bias against American workers when I read yet another article about the plight of foreign college graduates trying to work in America; it was written by a reporter for the Dallas Morning News.
It is a long, detailed piece with several mentions of OPT, but not a whisper about the pro-alien subsidies involved. This is in the dishonorable media tradition we have remarked on before, in which leading newspapers and prominent foundations publish information on OPT while utterly failing to mention the subsidies that are routinely given to aliens.
OPT subsidies, by the way, are not for rewarding exceptional alien college graduates – they go to all of them without question; to the brilliant aliens and to the lackluster ones alike.
But, of course, never to Americans.