NBC: Massive Chinese Fraud Suspected in OPT Visa-Worker Program

Two job seekers wait to apply for vacancies at a job fair for college graduates in Beijing, China, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009. The once ravenous international appetite for Chinese-made goods is shrinking, leading to increased unemployment in the country. Though official unemployment figures often understate the reality, the government has …
Greg Baker/AP Photo

Numerous U.S.-based companies that got Optional Practical Training (OPT) work permits for Chinese graduates have quietly closed their doors following an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) crackdown and media investigations, according to a report by NBC Bay Area.

“NBC’s efforts to contact officers at 14 suspicious companies [who got many OPT work permits] were met with a series of dead-end business addresses and disconnected phone numbers, ” said the NBC Bay Area report. The report continued:

Emails, phone calls, and social media messages went unanswered by all but two companies. In those two instances, an officer reached by phone verified their identity but declined to discuss their company. Those 14 companies employed more than 5,500 foreign students through the OPT program in 2017, according to ICE records.

The OPT program allows 300,000 foreign graduates to get work permits lasting one to three years if they pay tuition to U.S. universities. The matching Curricular Practical Training (CPT) program gives 100,000 work permits to students each year. These two huge programs offer work permits to 400,000 foreigners each year, even as 800,000 Americans graduate from four-year colleges with skilled degrees.

The OPT and CPT programs are just two of the many visa programs that keep roughly 1.5 million college-trained visa workers in U.S. jobs needed by American graduates. The other programs include the H-1B, L-1, J-1, and TN visa-worker programs.

Many regional universities, such as the University of Central Missouri, earn money from placing foreign workers into the middle-class jobs sought by their own American graduates. Other colleges are suspected of rubber-stamping OPT requests by foreigners in exchange for tuition fees.

The federal government subsidizes this white-collar labor trafficking and mass displacement of American graduates by exempting companies from paying Social Security or Medicare taxes for OPT workers. That tax break helps the companies and foreign workers at an estimated cost of $2 billion per year.

Federal data shows that small companies hire many OPT foreigners, while many others are hired by prestigious companies, including Amazon, Intel, Google, Deloitte, Microsoft, and Facebook. These companies also hire many H-1B visa workers instead of Americans, and now have a growing share of foreign-born managers, many of whom are eager to hire OPT graduates in place of Americans.

Many of the temporary visas workers stay illegally after their visas have expired. These foreign “overstays” suppress salaries for American graduates and drive up their rents — and they encourage other Chinese and Indians to migrate into the United States illegally. The New York Times reported December 1:

Many undocumented Asians — including a large number from India — have settled … in and around Sunnyvale, about 50 miles southeast of San Francisco, according to the Center for Migration Studies analysis.

Apple, LinkedIn and other tech titans in the area employ many whom the companies have sponsored for legal work visas or permanent residency in the United States. Some of them stay on as independent programming contractors after their visas have expired or after leaving a company that sponsored them for a visa.

But they are only part of the story. Many undocumented Indians here in Sunnyvale have low-skilled service jobs, catering to their well-heeled brethren who frequent the Indian supermarkets, eateries and clothing shops that line El Camino Real, the main commercial corridor.

Many of the overstays and the illegals hope to get legal residency via the “Adjustment of Status” slow-motion amnesty law.

The NBC investigation was aided by data by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency, which has long had a hands-off approach to fraud in the OPT program. NBC reported the identities of the no-worksite companies who may have been selling OPT work permits for money:

Tellon Trading employed 877 OPT participants in 2017 and 647 in 2018, according to SEVP data. Previous counts from SEVP were considerably higher, showing Tellon employed 1,637 foreign students through the OPT program in 2017.

CloudParticle Employed 316 OPT participants in 2017, according to the revised figures provided by SEVP. The previous count listed 335 OPT participants employed by the company in 2017.

Mountain View-based Findream employed 500 OPT participants in 2017 and 312 in 2018. The previous count listed 732 OPT participants in 2017.

The evidence of mass fraud follows earlier federal investigations and a Breitbart News report about the Chinese-run Findream company. In March 2019, Breitbart News reported:

Many OPTs are also hired by little-known companies, such as Integra Technologies, XCG Design Corp., and Findream LLC. These three companies keep a low profile on the Internet, but LinkedIn shows they have a remarkably high proportion of young Chinese employees. Job sites, such as Glassdoor, show the companies are high-pressure employers.

The OPT trafficking generates huge income for prestigious universities and fly-by-night colleges, largely because foreign students will pay high tuition prices to win the OPT work permits. The top five universities in the OPT business are New York University, Northwestern Polytechnic University, the University of Southern California, Columbia University, and Northeastern University, all of whom benefit from various federal tax breaks.

In late March, the FBI raided the Findream company and alleged that a Chinese migrant named Weiyun Huang took money to issue fraudulent claims of employment to Chinese students. Huang’s firm helped roughly 1,900 Chinese migrants get OPT work permits for various white-collar jobs in the United States, the document said. Other federal data shows the company acquired 732 OPT workers in 2017.

Integra Technologies got almost 2,600 OPT workers in 2017, far more than Intel’s haul of 1,700 OPT graduates or Google’s 1,500 graduates, according to the USCIS data. The firm includes many Indians, according to LinkedIn reports, and was run by Indian-born Abhijeet Chakraborty.

In 2016, FBI officials shut down a company named Masswell Development Group, Inc.

Amid the massive fraud, investors and corporations strongly support the OPT program because it reduces labor costs by increasing the labor supply. Reduced payroll costs are a boon for investors, who gain $25 in stock value for every $1 they chop from payroll costs.

Congress did not pass a law to create the OPT program and has done little to investigate or reform the OPT program. President Donald Trump’s deputies are defending the program from a lawsuit filed by Americans who lost jobs and career opportunities to OPT workers.

In November 2019, numerous Democrats denounced a sting operation by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which identified hundreds of Indians graduates who were paying a university to get OPT work permits, even though the Indians knew they were violating the OPT rules by not enrolling in real education courses.

“This is cruel and appalling,” said a tweet from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Twitter team, which got 34,000 responses. “These students simply dreamed of getting the high-quality higher education America can offer. ICE deceived and entrapped them, just to deport them”:

Establishment media outlets have largely ignored the growing controversy over the OPT white-collar labor-trafficking program — even though the Senate may approve a House bill that would greatly expand the incentive for Indians and Chinese to use the program to take jobs from American graduates. The Senate bill to expand use of the OPT program is titled S.386.

The OPT program is threatened by the Supreme Court’s review of the DACA amnesty program.

Immigration Numbers

Each year, roughly four million young Americans join the workforce after graduating from high school or a university. This total includes about 800,000 Americans who graduate with skilled degrees in business or health care, engineering or science, software, or statistics.

But the federal government then imports about 1.1 million legal immigrants. It also adds replacement workers to a resident population of more than 1.5 million white-collar visa workers — including approximately one million H-1B workers and about 500,000 blue-collar H-2B, H-2A, and J-1 visa workers. The government also prints more than one million work permits for new foreigners, and it rarely punishes companies for employing illegal migrants.

This policy of inflating the labor supply boosts economic growth and stock values for investors. The stimulus happens because the extra labor ensures that employers do not have to compete for American workers by offering higher wages and better working conditions.

The federal policy of flooding the market with cheap, foreign white-collar graduates and blue-collar labor shifts wealth from young employees toward older investors. It also widens wealth gaps, reduces high-tech investment, increases state and local tax burdens, reduces marriage rates, and hurts children’s schools and college educations.

The cheap-labor economic strategy also pushes Americans away from high-tech careers, and it sidelines millions of marginalized Americans, including many who are now struggling with drug addictions.

The labor policy also moves business investment and wealth from the Heartland to the coastal cities, explodes rents and housing costs, undermines suburbia, shrivels real estate values in the Midwest, and rewards investors for creating low-tech, labor-intensive workplaces.

But President Donald Trump’s “Hire American” policy is boosting wages by capping immigration within a growing economy.

The Census Bureau said September 10 that men who work full-time and year-round got an average earnings boost of 3.4 percent in 2018, pushing their median salaries up to $55,291. Women gained 3.3 percent in wages, bringing their median salaries to $45,097 for full-time, year-round work.

 

 

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