Immigration Expert: Government Program Incentivizes Employers to Discriminate Against Citizen College Grads

The Associated Press
Leisa Thompson/The Ann Arbor News via AP

David North, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and noted scholar on immigration and its influence on domestic policies, said at the National Press Club this week that a government program cooked up during the George W. Bush administration and put into place through a federal regulation encourages U.S. businesses to hire foreign instead of citizen college graduates.

North also said at the panel discussion, hosted by CIS, that millions of dollars a year is diverted from helping Americans to benefiting F-1 student visa holders and the American companies that hire them.

The students, North said, get to work for one year or more at an American business, and the business that hires them gets a discount under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) protocol that allows them not to pay certain payroll taxes for their non-immigrant, non-citizen employees.

“You shouldn’t take money from America’s elderly, give it to fat cat corporations so that they can discriminate against Americans,” North said. “I don’t think that’s a very good idea.”

Colleges and universities are also eager to accept foreign students because of the money their enrollment brings in, both as students and alumni.

At any given time, experts estimate that more than one million students from foreign countries are studying in the United States.

North wrote about OTP for CIS in 2015:

The program that converts foreign college graduates back to foreign students by a wave of a bureaucratic wand had these negative impacts on residents of the United States:

• It denied American workers more than 430,000 jobs during the years 2009-2013; and

• It removed $4 billion from the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.

In 2017, CIS explained how OPT works in reality:

OPT is an example of the administrative state run amok. Instead of law coming from Congress, we have law coming from bureaucrats working hand-in-hand with lobbyists. OPT also illustrates the slippery-slope problem of regulation. Work on student visas started innocently as an integral part of a course of study to give foreign students an experience not available in their home country, but eventually was transformed into a full-blown guestworker program whose stated purpose is to provide labor to American business.

In practice today that means, North said, jobs are taken away from hundreds of thousands of American college grads.

North wrote in 2015:

‘Optional Practical Training’ is a misleading name for the program as there is no training involved; this is simply another foreign worker program hiding behind student visas. The OPT notion is that the foreign students will work in the field they studied; this is rarely, if ever, enforced as the designated cops on this beat are the colleges from which the alien students graduated.

Two others on the panel, Dan Cadman, a fellow at CIS and retired INS / ICE official, and Jessica Vaughan, director of Policy Studies at CIS, also said the large population of foreign students poses a challenge to U.S. intelligence because it is difficult to keep tabs on so many people in one of the most open settings in U.S. society — college campuses.

This scenario can create a “perfect place in which people engaged in espionage or people who are of malintent can conceal themselves without any real serious possibility they’re not going to be detected,” Cadman said.

One of the 911 terrorists entered the United States on a student visa.

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