Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) has just introduced a bill that would seriously shrink the H-1B program and, at the same time, suspend the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which currently bribes American employers with a tax break when they hire recent college graduates here on foreign student visas rather than those who are citizens or legal permanent residents.
If it passes (unlikely this late in the session), it would probably open up hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs for U.S. citizens and green card holders. Whether it passes or not, it is a useful addition to the ongoing conversation about the impact of temporary foreign workers on American labor markets.
Brooks' bill would create a hefty $110,000 minimum wage for the H-1B workers, which would reduce employers' interest in all but the most talented of them and thus cause the hiring of large numbers of Americans. Most H-1B workers are paid considerably less than this sum.
It would also eliminate the diversity visa lottery element in the permanent immigration system, thus ending the annual entry of 50,000 migrants who have no more than a high school diploma (or equivalent credential) and the good fortune to win the green-card lottery. (There is also a lottery within the H-1B program, but that is a different matter.)
The press release speaks of "suspending" the OPT program, but my reading of a summary of a similar bill introduced a couple of years ago by Brooks makes me think it would terminate the program unless it were adopted by Congress and signed into law by the president.
One of the dirty little details about OPT is that it was never approved by Congress. It was launched as a regulation-based activity by the Bush II administration, expanded by the Obama administration, and left untouched by the Trump White House. It excuses employers when they hire recently graduated foreign students from paying 8 percent or so of the salaries in payroll taxes; these payments support our hard-pressed Medicare, Social Security, and federal unemployment trust funds.
Apparently Brooks does not want moneys diverted from our elderly and ailing, to be given to employers discriminating against citizen and green card college grads. No employer gets a tax break for hiring a citizen college grad.