Lawsuit Claims Ivy League Fraud in Program for Visa Workers

FILE- In this Jan. 11, 2013 file photo, Infosys Technologies employees move through the headquarters during a break in Bangalore, India. The shares of top Indian IT companies are falling in response to news of proposed U.S. legislation that would require salaries for H-1B visa holders to be doubled to …
Aijaz Rahi/AP Photo

A lawsuit is claiming deliberate corruption by Ivy League administrators in a government program that quietly sends hundreds of thousands of foreign graduates into the good jobs needed by American graduates.

The administrators at Columbia University’s teaching college “requested that Ms. [Yocasta] Brens and her staff process immigration documents on behalf of a group of potential students from South Africa without the necessary documentation … as required by federal regulations,” says the May 18 lawsuit by Brens. She filed her lawsuit after she was allegedly fired by Columbia.

The lawsuit could pressure homeland security officials to snip the Ivy League’s Columbia University from one of the federal government’s cash cows, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) program, said John Feere, a former top official. “What that means is that they will not be able to enroll new [foreign] students for at least a year,” Feere said.

The lawsuit claims “very serious fraud that has significant national security implications,” said Feere, who worked in President Donald Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, which oversees the program. “The regulations are very tough, very clear, and if [ICE] is to maintain the integrity of the entire foreign student program, it cannot quickly dismiss these allegations,” he added.

But if ICE managers bury the evidence of Ivy League fraud, Feere said, “they’ll send a very strong message to the Inspector General, to Congress, and to future administrations, that the foreign student program is in need of a very significant overhaul [including] much higher certification standards that many schools would likely not meet.”

“That would have significant implications for the future of the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program,” he warned.

The OPT program is the 600-pound gorilla of the foreign student business.

The OPT pipeline for foreign white-collar workers was invented by deputies working for President George W. Bush, without ever being approved by Congress. It provides work permits to the foreign graduates enrolled in the SEVP program at U.S. universities.

So it pumps hundreds of thousands of wage-cutting, tax-favored foreign graduates into U.S. white-collar jobs each year. Ethnic networks — especially in Silicon Valley — use the OPT pipeline to pull their home-country peers into the well-paying technology careers that are needed by indebted American graduates.

There has been much evidence of fraud in the OPT program. But Mayorkas shows little evidence that he wants to deter future fraud. The program has persisted amid a much-delayed lawsuit.

The program has a twin — the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) program — that also provides work permits to foreign undergraduates.

In 2018, after the program was expanded by President Barack Obama, the OPT and CPT programs put roughly 350,000 foreigners into American jobs. The number nudged down to 273,000 in 2020 under President Donald Trump. The number is expected to rise sharply in 2022 under Mayorkas.

The OPT and CPT pipelines operate alongside the H-1B, J-1, L-1, H4EAD, and TN programs, the illegal-working B-1/B-2 visitors, and the growing population of graduates who overstay their visas. All told, this huge foreign workforce provides investors with at least 1.5 million compliant, disposable, and cheap foreign workers — and so cuts the professionals’ salaries throughout the United States.

This “green card workforce” gets very little coverage in the establishment media. Mayorkas’ agency is even hiding data about the hiring of OPT and CPT graduates by companies such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. In 2022, Mayorkas also expanded the OPT and other visa programs to displace more American graduates.

The giveaway program is strongly backed by investor groups, such as the Zuckerberg-funded FWD.us lobbying group for West Coast investors, and its allies, such as the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. The groups gain from the supply of compliant and cheap foreign labor, or the tuition fees paid by the foreign workers.

Aside from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), few GOP politicians recognize the job giveaway program.

The promise of U.S. work permits allows U.S. colleges and universities to annually win roughly $40 billion in tuition fees from foreign students.

Foreign students pay those fees for the chance to earn a degree from U.S. colleges. But many also pay because their U.S. degrees allow them to get an OPT work permit for one to three years in the United States. Those work permits can often be converted into job opportunities, career networking, and then the huge prize of green cards, typically via the H-1B program.

The foreign students are tracked via the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) because some may pose a terror threat, similar to the Islamic students who enrolled in flying schools before they hijacked aircraft on 9/11. The oversight of the foreign students for ICE and DHS  is supposed to be enforced by each school’s “Designated School Official” (DSO).

The plaintiff in the lawsuit worked as the DSO for the teacher’s college at Columbia University. Her lawsuit claims:

20. On more than one occasion in or about the fall and winter of 2019, Teachers College’s Executive Director of the Office of International Affairs, Portia Williams, requested that Ms. Brens and her staff process immigration documents on behalf of a group of potential students from South Africa without the necessary documentation, including evidence of funding and full-time engagement in a prescribed program, as required by federal regulations.

21. Ms. Williams made these requests notwithstanding the fact that, on several occasions, Ms. Bren had explained the details of the South African program and what would be needed to apply for J-1 status. 22. During a meeting in or about December 2019, Teachers College’s Provost, Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Stephanie J. Rowley, accused Ms. Brens of being too “inflexible” in the application of federal regulations.

[…]

29. During the February 2, 2021 Meeting, Ms. Brens stated that she and her staff were frequently asked to “bend” the rules in order to keep the enrollment of international students at a high level. Specifically, she stated that had been directed to i) certify that certain international students were enrolled full-time when they were, in fact, not full-time students; ii) extend students’ immigration documents when they did not qualify based on federal requirements; and iii) ignore the lack of English language proficiency, which is also a federal requirement.

30. A month and a half later, on March 17, 2021, Ms. Williams and Director of Human Resources Svetla Eneva informed Ms. Brens that her employment was being terminated.

“As a standard practice, Teachers College does not comment on litigation,” the university told the New York Post.

Millions of U.S. graduates have lost careers and wealth to imported visa workers.

Currently, the U.S. workforce now includes roughly 1.5 million contract visa workers.

The cheap and compliant foreign workers help Fortune 500 executives raise their profits and stock values, say its advocates. For example, a 2020 report claimed Trump’s temporary cutoff of new H-1B and L-1 workers cost the Fortune 500 $100 billion in stock values.

The inflow of foreign graduates has pushed many outspoken U.S. technology professionals out of well-paying careers, ensuring they cannot help accelerate the nation’s technology development. A 2021 study by the Census Bureau reported:

The vast majority (62%) of [American] college-educated workers who majored in a STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] field were employed in non-STEM fields such as non-STEM management, law, education, social work, accounting or counseling. In addition, 10% of STEM college graduates worked in STEM-related occupations such as health care.

The pro-migration policies have helped to flatline salaries for nearly all college graduates since 2000, even while inflation and housing costs rise. “Most college graduates have actually seen their real incomes stagnate or even decline” since 2000, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote on April 29.

The compliant foreign workers also let executives ignore and demote myriad outspoken American professionals. The population replacement reduces the focus on long-term research, quality, security, accuracy, and safety at companies such as IntelBoeing, and Theranos.

The visa programs also divert jobs, investment, and wealth away from the Midwest. “Immigrant populations tend to cluster in the coastal cities — [because] that is where the money is,” Rob Law, policy director at the Center for Immigration Studies, said in early May. Midwestern jobs “go away, everything is reallocated [to the coasts] and the entire middle of the country is squeezed out,” Law said.

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