OPT: Guestworkers Masquerading as Students

Parsing Immigration Policy, Episode 27

By Mark Krikorian and Jon Feere on October 27, 2021

Podcast

Summary

Hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals, primarily from India and China, are working in the United States via the controversial Optical Practical Training program (OPT). This program allows individuals who entered on student visas to obtain work authorization for up to three years after graduation. OPT was not enacted by Congress – the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) developed the program at the request of Silicon Valley tech moguls who sought a means to overcome annual caps in the H-1B foreign worker program.

In this week’s episode of Parsing Immigration Policy, Jon Feere, the Center’s Director of Investigations and former ICE Chief of Staff, discusses the national security and labor issues stemming from the size and lack of sufficient oversight of the OPT program. He describes the fraud and lack of transparency in the program, including the large number of fake companies listed as OPT employers.

Feere also discusses "Operation OPTical Illusion", an effort last year by ICE targeting thousands of foreign nationals who have effectively disappeared after listing such fake employers on their record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a national security database created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The first round of arrests took place in Massachusetts, Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Florida, and the Washington, D.C. area. Those arrested included foreign nationals from India, Libya, Senegal, and Bangladesh. Though DHS and ICE leadership announced that was Phase One of the operation, there is no evidence that this critical investigation has continued under the Biden administration.

In place of a closing commentary, Mark Krikorian, the Center’s executive director and host of Parsing Immigration Policy, shares comments made during the Center’s recent panel on "Amnesty Reform and the Border", by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) on what his state is experiencing as a result of the administration's asylum policies.

Host

Mark Krikorian is the Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

Guests

Jon Feere, Director of Investigations, Center for Immigration Studies

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Intro Montage

Voices in the opening montage:

  • Sen. Barack Obama at a 2005 press conference.
  • Sen. John McCain in a 2010 election ad.
  • President Lyndon Johnson, upon signing the 1965 Immigration Act.
  • Booker T. Washington, reading in 1908 from his 1895 Atlanta Exposition speech.
  • Laraine Newman as a "Conehead" on SNL in 1977.
  • Hillary Clinton in a 2003 radio interview.
  • Cesar Chavez in a 1974 interview.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking to reporters in 2019.
  • Prof. George Borjas in a 2016 C-SPAN appearance.
  • Sen. Jeff Sessions in 2008 comments on the Senate floor.
  • Charlton Heston in "Planet of the Apes".