Federal ‘OPT’ Program Rewards Companies For Hiring 330,000 Foreign College Grads in 2016 instead of citizens
“The federal government quietly helped and rewarded companies and universities which hired roughly 330,000 cheap foreign graduates in 2016 instead of hiring American graduates, many of whom are deep in debt.
The little-known “Optional Practical Training” program has grown from 91,140 new foreign job-seekers in 2009 to 329,158 new job-seekers in 2016, according to data provided by the Department of Homeland Security. That is almost a four-fold increase in seven years — and the program is growing even larger in 2017.
There is no cap on the OPT program, which quietly and semi-automatically gives work permits lasting up to three years when requested by foreign students who graduate from U.S. universities and colleges. Companies are not required to even interview Americans before hiring OPT graduates — and they get tax breaks for hiring foreigners over Americans.
“The government is enticing employers to hire foreigners instead of Americans … it is ridiculous,” said Mark Krikorian, director of the D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies. Even the middle-class Americans who have downplayed the impact of cheap-labor immigration on blue-collar Americans should be alarmed by the government’s discrimination against their own college-graduate children, he added.
In 2014, the OPT program provided work permits to 249,998 foreign graduates, according to the data provided to Breitbart News by the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the program. Two years later, the number of new foreign graduates entering the program had risen by 32 percent up to 329,158.
The program provides a one-year work permit to all graduates. It also provides an extra one-year permit to graduates who work in a so-called high-tech “STEM” job. In 2016, officials working for former President Barack Obama extended the STEM permits from one year to two years. If only 20,000 of the 51,672 STEM workers from 2015 used Obama’s one-year extension, they would have increased the 2016 total from 329,158 up to 350,000.
That 350,000 estimate for 2016 means that the government is offering work permits to one foreign graduate for almost every two of the 800,000 young Americans who graduate from college each year with high-skilled degrees in business or medicine, science or software, math or physics.
The OPT program will likely grow to 500,000 foreign workers in 2020 unless it is killed by a pending lawsuit.
Under the new transparency rules established by DHS secretary John Kelly, DHS officials also provided Breitbart with the initial OPT numbers for 2017. That data showed the OPT program in the first half of 2017 by giving work permits to 255,412 foreign students, including 57,315 high-skill technology graduates. That half-year number for 2017 is larger than the 2014 total.
These high numbers likely understate the scale of the OPT outsourcing program, because the federal government also allows foreign students to get a one-year work permit via the “Curriculum Practical Training” program before they graduate into the OPT program. If 100,000 students used that CPT program in 2016, then the combined CPT and OPT programs delivered almost 450,000 white-collar American jobs to foreign students and graduates in 2016.
The annual inflow of new foreign OPT workers is now roughly three times larger than the annual inflow of 110,000 H-1B white-collar contract workers. However, the H-1B program offers longer visas to foreign workers, so it keeps a larger population of roughly 650,000 foreign white-collar workers in the United States, compared to roughly 35o,000 OPT workers.
The H-1B visas help companies hire foreign white-collar workers to take the place of the experienced American professionals who need decent salaries to help support and educate their children.
Who is impacted?
Many American college graduates are threatened by OPT, partly because the program allows foreign students to take any job, but also because the government grants three-year work permits to students who take “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math” jobs — but those STEM jobs are very expansively described. They include:
dairy science… horticultural science… environmental studies … natural resources conservation … urban forestry … artificial intelligence … computer graphics … solar energy … naval science … cyber/electronic operations and warfare … nutrition sciences … sustainability studies … child psychology … archaeology … medical science … veterinary physiology … business statistics … management science.
The OPT program is also a threat to upward mobility because it is increasingly being used to outsource community college technician jobs — such as nursing — which are the primary upward path for Americans born into lower-income families. The DHS list of STEM jobs also includes more than 50 types of technical jobs, including:
Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Engineering Technology/Technician … solar energy … welding … industrial production … quality control … automotive engineering … [and] biology.”
Many recent graduates were hurt long-term by the slump, according to a 2014 Pew study:
In a recent report, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York went deeper and looked at underemployment among recent grads (defined as people aged 22 to 27 with at least a bachelor’s degree). The Fed researchers used data from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to examine whether employed grads were in jobs that typically required a college degree, what those jobs paid, and whether they were working full- or part-time. They found that in 2012, about 44% of grads were working in jobs that didn’t require a college degree — a rate that, while about what it was in early 1990s, increased after the 2001 and 2007-09 recessions. Only 36% of that group were in what the researchers called “good non-college jobs” — those paying around $45,000 a year — down from around half in the 1990s. The share of underemployed recent grads in low-wage (below $25,000) jobs rose from about 15% in 1990 to more than 20%. About one-in-five (23%) underemployed recent grads were working part-time in 2011, up from 15% in 2000.
Other reports emphasize negative and positive prospects for recent college grads as the nation emerges from a decade-long slump.
Critically, the OPTs compete with new American graduates and nudge down the Americans’ starting salaries — which can have a huge impact on their lifetime earnings, say salary experts:
“Maximizing your first salary is really important because it determines your salary for the rest of your life,” says Matt Wallaert, chief scientist at GetRaised.com … “Your final salary is heavily dependent on your starting salary,” agrees Glenn Hiemstra, the founder of Futurist.com,
Moreover, many U.S. graduates are defaulting on college loan debts owed to the U.S. government because they cannot find well-paying jobs.
Joseph Palos, a high-tech graduate from Cornell University, formally objected to the OPT program in 2015. ”Companies don’t want to hire Americans and they abuse… OPT to hire cheap immobile labor instead of hiring anyone over the age of 35, especially in software or tech areas,” he wrote to a federal agency, according to a report in ComputerWorld.
Which companies hire OPTs?
Most universities and colleges hide useful data about their OPT programs from their American students, the tuition-paying parents and the voting public.
But a Breitbart search of the data revealed that Penn State posted a list of companies which hire OPT and other foreign graduates. The companies include accounting firms Deloitte & Touché LLP plus Ernst & Young, LLP, as well as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and the GE Global Research Center in New York. Other OPT employers included Advanced Micro Devices in Sunnyvale, Calif., Intel in Arizona, Motorola in Florida, Nokia in Texas, and Microsoft in Washington State, plus Cadbury Schweppes in New Jersey, Glaxo Smith Kline in Philadelphia, Hyatt Hotels in Washington D.C., Westinghouse in Pittsburgh, Penske Logistics in Ohio, and the Environmental Systems Research Institute in Redlands, Ca.
The Penn State list also includes many universities, many of which can keep cheap OPTs on the payroll for several years by converting them into H-1B employees. There are no limits on universities’ hiring of H-1Bs.
There’s not much reason to blame the companies for hiring OPTs, said Krikorian. By reducing employers’ taxes and subsidizing OPT employees’ pay with a chance to win green cards, “the government is encouraging these employers to hire foreign workers,” he said.
Who supports the OPT program?
Unsurprisingly, the semi-secret OPT program has intense behind-the-scenes support in Washington.
First, the OPT program — like the similar H-1B and H-2B programs — are strongly supported by business groups because they provide very cheap, compliant and disposable workers:
When a job is given to an OPT worker, neither the worker nor the employers have to pay Social Security or Medicare taxes. That tax break cuts the company’s salary costs for that foreign worker by roughly 23 percent.
When a foreign students seeks a job, Americans lose bargaining power to get decent wages for that jobs. Nationalwide, the extra inflow of immigrant labor annually transfers roughy $500 billion from employees to employers, accordin to data in the 2016 report on immigration by the National Acadeimes of Sciences.
The OPT jobs put the foreign graduates on the first step towards citizenship, which is a hugely valuable deferred bonus student studemt her overseas fmaily and their descedents in perpetuity. In effect, the federal government provides OPT workers a free lottery ticket for the prize of citizenship if they work for the pay and conditions set by the employer. But this is also a huge hidden subsidy for employers who hire foreigners instead of Americans because it allows employers to pay foreigners with hope of citizenship, while Americans must be paid in dollars.
Also, the OPT employers is heavily dependent on the employer to put him or her the next step on the path to citizenship, ensuring a compliant attitude despute low-pay and long hours. The next step is usually a H-1B visa, which requires the employer to ask the govrenment for the visa.
The OPT program adds a small but useful addition to the number of native-born and immigrant consumers who buy products in hte U.S. economy.”
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