Re: Improving and Expanding Training Opportunities for F-1 Nonimmigrant Students with STEM Degrees

By David North on November 16, 2015

This submission is made on behalf of the Center for Immigration Studies, a non-profit, non-partisan research and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

It should be noted, immediately, that contrary to the heading used by the government, this is not a program for students, nor does it have anything to do with training.

The Optional Practical Training Program (OPT) is for alien college alumni, not students. It is an alien workers program designed to give employers a substantial financial break for hiring foreign workers rather than resident ones with the same skills, and with the same basic salaries.

On the last point, OPT is also an administration-approved, billion-dollars-a-year raid on the Medicare and Social Security trust funds because employers (and the OPT alumni) are both excused from payroll taxes that would be paid were the employers to hire either citizen or green card workers.

This is a tax break that was not created by Congress; the administration, simply by defining recent alien alumni as foreign "students", allows employers to avoid payroll taxes by hiring them.

We calculate that an employer, by using the OPT program, can save $10,000 or more by hiring a recent alien college graduate rather than a recent resident college grad. This creates, at a substantial cost to our senior citizens, an incentive for employers to hire aliens rather than citizens.

The administration proposes to extend from 29 months to 36 months the OPT post-degree subsidized work program. This is an embellishment of a fundamentally bad idea.

There is no shortage of American college grads looking for work in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, or elsewhere. So why tilt the playing field against our own people?

The answer is that this proposal, like many others put forward by the administration, is designed to open our borders further, and to encourage employers to hire alien workers at the expense of citizens. The 1 percent loves this idea because it saves money for corporations.

Rather than being expanded, as proposed, the OPT program should be phased out. Aliens with current OPT papers should be allowed to work until their status expires, but starting immediately, no new OPT visas should be issued.