Alien Alumni, Subsidized by Taxpayers, Took 20,000 Fewer Jobs in 2020

By David North on March 22, 2021

Though a new DHS report does not say so, the nation's trust funds subsidized 20,000 fewer alien graduates in U.S. jobs in 2020 than in 2019, freeing up positions for citizen and green card college graduates.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that the sleepy entity issuing the report, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), failed to mention the creation of the jobs for citizens, failed to mention that employers are given an 8 percent tax break when they hire alien college graduates rather than U.S. ones, and misidentified the alien workers as "students" when some of them had been graduates for as long as three years. One needs to be an immigration policy detective to notice the increase in citizen jobs.

The subsidies in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program go to the employers, and to many of the alien college graduates as well, because they do not have to pay the usual payroll taxes, which support the Social Security, Medicare, and federal unemployment insurance trust funds. Thus, our ailing, aging, and unemployed are subsidizing jobs for healthy young aliens and their generally healthy employers. SEVP never mentions this in its reports, and this has been true throughout the Obama, the Trump, and now the Biden administrations.

The 2020 version of the annual report bears the ultra-obscure title "SEVIS by the Numbers", with the initials standing for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. It is put out in a robotic style with pretty much the same content year after year, but with different numbers. An associated document, with the key OPT numbers and showing the 20,000 drop is headed "2007 to 2020 Annual Growth in OPT, STEM and CPT Authorizations and Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Issuances".

One problem is that growth in the program stopped in 2017, and has since declined.

What this document shows is that the "Total SEVIS IDs w/OPT" (not further defined) dropped from 197,331 in CY 2019 to 176,836 in CY 2020. That number reached its peak in 2017, when it was 204,633.

Getting back to "SEVIS by the Numbers", its focus is on the impact of Covid-19 on the enrollment of alien students. The total enrollment of F-1 (academic) and M-1 (vocational) students (apparently including 175,000 or so OPT alumni) was "1,251,569 in calendar year 2020, a decrease of 17.86 percent from calendar year 2019."

The number of what it regards as students in 2019 is not shown, but 117.86 percent of 1,251,569 is 1,475,099, so the foreign student population, in a single year, dropped by about 225,000, a large decrease.

SEVP is a small entity within Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in turn a major segment of the Department of Homeland Security.