The Trump administration is moving to rein in a program that benefits foreign students at the expense of American workers and taxpayers.
Foreign students are generally exempt from Social Security and Medicare withholding requirements. Accordingly, in fiscal 2017, OPT diverted $1.98 billion that would have been paid into Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment Insurance trust funds. That provided job subsidies for 240,000 alien college students and graduates. The 240,000 figure represents nearly a 10-fold increase in 10 years.
Naturally, U.S. universities and bottom-feeding employers love OPT. Schools get more foreign tuition revenue and businesses get subsidized labor with an 8.25 percent federal tax break (effectively a $10,000-$15,000 discount on each hire).
So what do American workers get out of this program, launched without congressional authorization in 1953, and subsequently expanded by George W. Bush and by Barack Obama?
Nothing. (Other than an ongoing influx of inexperienced foreign students who compete with recent American graduates for entry-level jobs.)
Though OPT employment is technically capped at two years, participants are eligible for H-1B visas to extend their time in the U.S. That, in turn, opens to the door to permanent residency via a green card.
The Trump administration wants to curb the abuses and level the playing field for American workers.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is drafting rules to curtail on-the-job training opportunities for alien students. The State Department wants to require alien students to return home for two years before changing their immigration status or transferring to another type of visa in the United States, a requirement that already applies to many foreign students who attended school on a J-1 visa.
These moves come as the administration’s tighter immigration policies reduced F-1 student visas 17 percent in the past year.
In their 2016 book, “Sold Out,” Michelle Malkin and John Miano challenged the conventional wisdom that America needs an ever-increasing infusion of foreigners to fill jobs in the tech sector and related fields. They found 1.34 qualified U.S. workers for every one position where a company intended to hire a foreign worker.
Meanwhile, Rutgers University professor Hal Salzman told a Senate Judiciary Committee panel that U.S. universities “graduate twice the number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates as can find a job each year in the STEM workforce.”
Reasonable OPT reforms are reflexively opposed by Ivory Tower globalists whose contempt for native-born Americans knows no borders. Last month, Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber glibly declared, “America’s leadership depends on immigration to grow the economy, create jobs and make the country more globally competitive.”
Gaming the immigration system to benefit aliens, while costing Americans billions, is no way to protect American jobs. Finally, we have a president who seems ready to make America great again for U.S. workers, rather than foreign students.