U.S. Grads to Gain as Foreign College Workers Stay Away

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The number of foreigners registering at U.S. universities to get work permits is falling quickly, likely opening up many Fortune 500 jobs for American graduates.

The good news means that “30,000 additional slots have just opened up for Americans, maybe as many as 60,000,” said Kevin Lynn, the director of U.S. Tech Workers, a group that champions the workplace interests of American professionals.

The news for U.S. graduates was revealed by a survey of 700 colleges which reported mid-November that “New international student enrollment in the United States and online outside the United States has decreased by 43 percent in Fall 2020 … [and]  new enrollment of international students physically in the United States declined by 72 percent.” The report was posted by the International Education Exchange, a government-backed group that tracks the inflow of foreign students into U.S. universities.

The decline in new foreign students suggests that many fewer foreign graduates will get work permits via two work permit programs, dubbed the Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) program. A 2021 drop-off will cause a modest drop-off in foreign graduate workers starting in mid-2021 but quickly accelerating major reductions in 2022 and 2023.

“It’s a huge benefit for those who are entering the workforce directly straight out of college,” said Lynn.

“They won’t be competing with 30,000 foreign graduates for jobs [in 2021, for whom] employers get a tax benefit for hiring, and who literally do not have to be paid anything,” he said.

The Department of Homeland Security releases little about the cheap labor, fraud-prone programs, which allow foreign managers in elite U.S. companies to hire fellow nationals without any concerns about federal anti-discrimination law. In 2019, for example, 535,000 foreigners had one-year or two-year work permits from the OPT and CPT programs — despite the huge number of American graduates who cannot get jobs that match their college degrees. The foreign graduates will take the no-pay or low-pay CPT and OPT jobs, Lynn said, because “it’s not just a job — it’s a pathway to U.S. citizenship.”

The 535,0000 foreign workers are a huge population compared to the roughly 800,000 Americans who graduate each year with high-tech degrees in business, healthcare, engineering, science, software, architecture, or math.

Yet the foreign drop-off is bad news for America, claimed Forbes author Stuart Anderson, who favors a greater flow of foreign graduates into the white-collar jobs around the United States. Joe Biden should reverse the drop-off by reversing President Donald Trump’s reform of the H-1B programs and making it easier for foreigners to get skilled jobs in the United States, Anderson wrote November 17.

For example, he wrote, the government should expand the inflow of foreign workers and:

…develop a national strategy for recruiting international students that includes coordinating with the State Department on visa policies, making F visas dual intent [eligible for a green card] and ensuring access to Optional Practical Training (OPT) for international students. “For students considering a degree abroad, 62% mentioned that being able to work in the country following the degree is very important,” according to a survey of international students by Studyportals.

The drop-off in foreign students is “Exceeding bad for the United States,” claimed a tweet from Todd Schulte, president of the FWD.us advocacy group. Wealthy West Coast investors created the group in 2013 to preserve the immigrant inflow of cheap labor and extra customers. “We *must* take efforts to reverse this starting right away in a new administration,” he said.

“Even before covid, new international enrollment had been falling (thanks to visa issues, xenophobia, high tuition, etc.),” said a November 17 tweet from Catherine Rampell, a pro-migration op-ed writer at Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post. “New restrictions on student/high-skilled worker visas Trump admin is rolling out could make things worse. Biden admin will have work ahead of it,” she added.

Bezos’s firms hire many foreign H-1B workers and also hire more OPT graduates than any other company. The Post rarely mentions these programs, although it has repeatedly spotlighted Donald Trump’s use of a small number of H-2B visa workers at his golf courses.

But the gain for American graduates may be short-lived “if all this opens up in January because everyone’s been vaccinated,” said Rosemary Jenks, the director of government relations for NumbersUSA.

The inflow of visa workers is bitterly defended by Fortune 500 companies and their gig-worker subcontractors and by Silicon Valley firms and their investors.

Sixty-five percent of the 2019 OPT workers held degrees in engineering, software, sciences, or math, according to a November 16 report by the government-backed group, Open Doors. The enrollment skew towards science is evidence of “strong interest in taking advantage of the STEP-OPT [work permit] extension, which allows students to stay in the United States for up to three years,” said Mirka Martel, research chief at the International Education Exchange.

Many foreign graduates are hired for starter jobs as gig workers for Fortune 500 subcontractors, excluding Americans from valuable career tracks.

The OPT and CPT workers are willing to work long hours at meager wages because they compete for one of the 85,000 new H-1B visas allocated each year to employers. They want to get into the H-1B program because it allows them to be nominated for green cards by their employers and get unlimited extensions of their temporary visas. Once the OPT workers get into the H-1B program, they must work for several additional years before their employers finally pay them with the green cards that allow them — and their children — to become American citizens.

The OPT-to-green-card pipeline now includes more than one million foreign graduates working in various visa programs, including the H-1B, OPT, J-1, L-1, E-3, and TN worker pipelines.

For foreign workers, “the H-1B program is not about the job,” said Lynn. “It’s about a pathway to citizenship … the universities love it because foreign students will pay a premium to get on that pathway, and American companies love it because they pick up compliant workers for less.”

This little-noticed green card workforce helps to push down salaries for millions of American graduates. From 2016 to 2019, the median or midpoint income of college graduates fell by two percent, according to a survey released in September by the Federal Reserve banking system.

Overall, open-ended legal migration is praised by business and progressives partly because migrants’ arrivals help transfer wealth from wage-earners to stockholders.

Migration moves money from employees to employers, from families to investors, from young to old, from children to their parents, from homebuyers to real estate investors, and from the central states to the coastal states.

Migration also allows investors and CEOs to skimp on labor-saving technology, sideline U.S. minorities, ignore disabled peopleexploit stoop labor in the fields, short-change labor in the cities, impose tight control and pay cuts on American professionals, corral technological innovation by minimizing the employment of American grads, undermine labor rights, and even get many progressive journalists to cheerlead for Wall Street’s productivity-cutting short-term priorities.

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