Imagine the OPT Program as Amnesty for the Well-Educated

Business schools seek to attract students by redefining MBAs as STEM

By David North on June 23, 2020

Can a non-governmental entity create a two-year-long, specialized work-permit amnesty for a substantial number of its alien friends acting on its own?

An amnesty that only applies to rich and well-educated young aliens of its own choosing?

One that benefits a population whose median starting salary is $125,000 a year?

An amnesty, as most are not, subsidized with federal funds averaging perhaps $40,000?

With that subsidy being funded, indirectly, by America's ailing, aging, and unemployed?

Can this be done without any new legislation, new federal rulings, or judicial decisions?

An amnesty that is, for some aliens, retroactive?

All in a program in which the creator of the benefits will not pay a single dime?

And in a federally subsidized program that carefully excludes all citizens and green card holders?

The answer, believe it or not, to all of those nine questions is "yes." And not only can these things happen, they are happening right now.

What we are describing is a highly creative manipulation of the Optional Practical Training program, the under-reported subsidy program that gives alien college graduates, through an administrative sleight-of-hand, access to our labor markets for up to three years after securing a U.S. degree. The sleight-of hand, created by the Bush II administration, is the definition of these alumni as "students" so that they and their employers both are excused from the normal payroll taxes that support our hard-pressed Social Security, Medicare, and Federal unemployment insurance trust funds.

What the all-too-clever leaders of the business school at UCLA have done is to decide that all three of its Masters of Business Administration (MBA) programs are in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, or math. Until this re-definition, UCLA MBA grads had only one year of OPT eligibility; now they have two additional years of subsidized legal employment in the States, a period in which many of them will be applying for the near permanent H-1B status.

UCLA MBAs have average starting salaries of $125,000 a year according to its website. It is the Anderson School of Management, one of the more highly rated schools of its kind.

The decision to define these programs as being in the STEM fields seems to have been made by the university alone, with no governmental review (though this is not spelled out in what is otherwise clear reporting by the higher education website Poets & Quants).

The article continues: "Anderson joins more than two dozen top B-schools have [sic] established or expanded STEM programs to lure more international students with the promise of lengthier post-graduation work stays in the United States."

So UCLA is not the first educational institution to follow this policy. In this case, and I am not sure how this works administratively, the STEM designation is retroactive, and includes the class of 2019, as well as this year's grads and future ones.

I have not seen (and perhaps overlooked) other schools making the STEM designation retroactive. It will be interesting to see if the sleepy Student and Exchange Visitor Program, a segment of ICE that deals with these issues, does anything with the retroactive element.

Don't hold your breath.

As one thinks about these things it is useful to recall that OPT is an administrative creation of the Bush II years, just as DACA was installed by the Obama White House. Both grant temporary legal status to otherwise illegal aliens, and neither is based on legislation.

It would be helpful if the Trump White House had a similar view of these two similar programs.