Representative Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) recently introduced the Responsible Practical Training Act, a bill that aims to reform the controversial and FAIR-opposed Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. A part of the larger F-1 student visa program, OPT permits F-1 graduates to extend their stay in the United States by working for 1-2 years following their graduation.
OPT functions like a guestworker program with the added caveat that employers who hire OPT graduates pay zero payroll taxes on their employment. This makes hiring OPT workers significantly cheaper than hiring Americans or even legal permanent residents, and prominent technology companies such as Google, Amazon, and Intel utilize the OPT program for this very purpose.
The Cawthorn bill eliminates OPT extensions, reduces the program length to six months in total, and restricts the ability of OPT graduates – nearly a third of whom are Chinese – from working in national security related fields. The bill also calls for the Secretary of Labor to conduct a wage analysis of the program. This would give Congress, watchdog groups, and everyday Americans a first-hand-look into the wage differences between OPT guestworkers and Americans working in the same roles.
It is worth noting that FAIR has long opposed the existence of the OPT program. Last year’s Immigration Reform Blueprint for the American Worker called on former President Trump to direct the Department of Homeland Security to end this unnecessary program in order to protect American workers, notably recent graduates entering a poor job market. We applaud Rep. Cawthorn’s leadership on this issue, as well as his colleagues who have joined the effort.