Twenty-one GOP legislators asked President Donald Trump to preserve a program that rewards Fortune 500 companies that hire foreign graduates instead of American graduates from their own heartland GOP districts.
Led by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), the 21 GOP legislators urged Trump in their June 2 letter to fast-track foreign workers into the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program — as well as into the J-1B and H-1B visa worker programs:
we ask your agencies [to] adopt appropriately streamlined processes to ensure international students can enroll in the fall and preserve the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program.
We believe several options are available to your agencies including the ability to waive certain interview requirements, prioritize the rescheduling of appointments that were canceled during COVID-19, and create a timely application and renewal process for professors, researchers, scientists, and those that are needed on U.S. campuses when instruction is expected to resume.
The letter was sent because Trump promised on April 22 that he would consider ways to get Americans into some of the roughly 1.3 million white-collar jobs held by visa workers throughout the United States. The proposals have been drafted, according to reports, but they are being held up by some of Trump’s deputies who promote Fortune 500 priorities.
“Every American is appalled at the fact that we have congressmen and women who are pushing for foreign students to be employed before our own American children,” said Hilarie Gamm, co-founder of the American Workers Coalition, a grassroots group of American professionals. She added:
With the worst job markets since the Great Depression facing graduating college students, our hope is that President Trump and his administration will remember the ‘American First’ message and promise of 2016, and put Americans first in line for jobs.
The pressure is also being applied by NumbersUSA, U.S. Tech Workers, and the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
36M Americans are now unemployed as another 3M filed for unemployment benefits this week. The Class of 2020 is graduating into the WORST job market in a generation.
— U.S. Tech Workers (@USTechWorkers) May 15, 2020
The OPT program — and two sister programs — allows and encourages U.S. companies to hire foreign graduates from U.S. universities by exempting the OPT hires from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes.
The work programs now include roughly 500,000 foreign graduates each year. It was created and expanded by Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama without approval from Congress. Federal data shows that it shifts jobs and wealth from heartland states to the wealthy, Democrat-dominated states on the two coasts, and also to Texas.
The 21 Republican legislators also urged Trump to preserve two additional programs that provide a pipeline of foreign workers to Fortune 500 companies, Silicon Valley, and hospital chains.
These pipelines bypass the families, K-12 schools, and towns in heartland America who raise new generations of Americans because they are intended to help the CEOs consolidate control over valuable technologies and business sectors.
The letter said:
We further request your agencies coordinate the admission of medical residents and fellows on J-1 and H-1B visas scheduled to begin their training program on July 1, many of whom will make vital contributions at university hospitals. Without these residents and fellows, patient care will be disrupted.
The H-1B program keeps at least 600,000 foreign graduates in a wide variety of U.S. jobs needed by American professionals and recent graduates. The J-1 program has been used by hospital chains to import more than 50,000 doctors from poor, unhealthy countries instead of hiring and training young Americans.
The June 2 latter follows a May 26 letter in which 38 House and nine Senate Republicans asked Trump to keep the H-2B and H-2 visa programs. The H-2A program provides more than 200,000 farms workers to agriculture companies, and the H-2B programs provide roughly 100,000 foreign workers for a wide range of blue-collar jobs in landscaping, forestry, and hotels.
The Stivers letter was signed by just ten percent of the almost 200 GOP legislators in the House. The signatories are mostly from the corporatist wing of the GOP and include several members whose districts include universities that depend on the OPT program to attract foreign customers.
Along with Stivers, the signers include
Reps. Bill Flores (R-TX), Peter King (R-NY), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), John Katko (R-NY), and Rob Woodall (R-GA), Fred Upton (R-MI), Peter Olson (R-TX), Ann Wagner R-MO) , Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Joe Wilson R-SC), Clay Higgins (R-LA), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), John Shimkus (R-Ill), David Schweikert (R-AZ), Tom Reed (R-NY), Don Bacon (R-NEB), Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).
Please read @NeilMunroDC 's latest before you assume (as I once did) that H-1B "guestworkers" are all super-skilled foreign tech whizzes doing work Americans can't do. I'm sure some are, but most …. https://t.co/MRvndFDXsQ
— Mickey Kaus (@kausmickey) May 25, 2020