Homeland Security Report on Graduate Alien Workers Hides the Truth

Report offers no substantial information on OPT work program for alumni masquerading as foreign students

By David North on April 8, 2022

If you, dear reader, ran a nationwide foreign-worker program that annually took as many as 400,000 to 500,000 jobs from American workers and removed literally billions of dollars from the Social Security, Medicare, and federal unemployment insurance trust funds every year, wouldn’t you feel obligated to describe it to the American people?

A program that gives major subsidies to employers who prefer foreign students and grads over American ones?

A labor market program that has absolutely no standards for wages or working conditions?

Well, a sleepy arm of the Department of Homeland Security does run such a program and DHS has just released its annual report; the agency is the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and its report for the year 2021 has a footnote on p. 7 that links to the following description of the program:

That is the full description of the program’s labor market impact. It’s not even in the report itself.

That the employers of these foreign workers are paid to prefer them to American workers is never mentioned, nor is the fact that the incentive offered to employers is that if they hire OPT workers they do not have to pay the usual payroll taxes, which support the trust funds for our elderly, sick, and unemployed. If the employers, on the other hand, choose to hire recent citizen college grads, instead of foreign ones, it would increase their payroll costs by a little over 8 percent.

We should pause here to spell out the initials. SEVIS is a data system that keeps track of foreign students for DHS, both those in college full-time and those who have graduated; CPT is Curricular Practical Training, for those both working and studying; OPT stands for Optional Practical Training and relates to college grads, not to students. If an alien has an academic background in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM, defined broadly to include as many alien workers as possible) then one can work in a government-subsidized job for three years after graduation; if the alien does not have a STEM degree the offer lasts for 12 months.

Many aliens use up their OPT years, go back to night school to get another master’s degree, and then start the whole subsidized process all over again.

Does SEVP tell us the meaning of these statistics?

Not at all. Is there some overlap among the three categories? Probably. Does SEVP tell us how many person-years of employment citizens lost? Of course not. Since the OPT/STEM authorizations are for three years, as opposed to the non-STEM permit that lasts a year, the STEM/OPT number might be — in terms of years of employment — more like 200,000 than the 117,874 shown.

The report itself cheerfully notes how many foreign students are in which states and how many come from various nations, with China and India in the lead. Generally, the traffic was a little lighter in 2020 than the prior year, with the “total number of SEVIS records for active F-1 and M-1 students [at] 1,236,748 in calendar year 2021, a decrease of 1.2 percent from calendar year 2020.”

Those totals include both actual college students and alien grads of American colleges and universities; that is not made clear. F-1 visa holders attend academic institutions; a much smaller group of M-1s are in vocational schools. Those marked “1" are students; a smaller number of visas, those with “2", go to dependents of the students. The report is padded with tables and graphics, but there is no real substance to it.

In earlier years, in different documents, SEVP used to show us how many of these OPT workers worked for specific employers; the Biden administration has abandoned that process, as my colleague Jon Feere has written. Why? Because that kind of reporting exposed huge failures in the system when “pretend employers” — outfits that you never heard of — were shown to have thousands of OPT employees, all allegedly reporting to some fraudster’s apartment. The grads involved were essentially illegal aliens using a gap in the system to appear to be legally present.

Is this crucial bit of history mentioned in the report? Don’t ask.

In summary, SEVP reporting, routinely useless in the past, has moved on to, if you will, even higher levels of uselessness.