OPT Expansion on List of Examples of Obama “Leadership” in Tech

Today the White House released a report titled, “100 Examples of President Obama’s Leadership in Science, Technology, and Innovation.” An alert reader of this blog noticed Number 25 on the list:

25. Unlocked the talents of more high-skilled immigrant workers, scientists, and engineers. The Administration has strengthened and extended on-the-job training for international STEM graduates from U.S. universities. Approximately 34,000 individuals are participating in the STEM Optional Practical Training program at present, and with these improvements the total may expand to nearly 50,000 in the first year and grow to approximately 92,000 by the tenth year of implementation.

These 34,000/50,000/92,000 foreign students will compete with American STEM professionals for jobs, reducing wages and blocking older Americans from access to many STEM jobs. Though some are “the best and the brightest,” i.e. exceptionally talented people whose immigration should be facilitated, most of them are ordinary people doing ordinary work. The president’s action here is completely at odds with his claim to want to encourage Americans to go into STEM (see items 22-24 on his list).

As many of you know, a lawsuit was brought against the OPT expansion. The White House vigorously defended the policy in court, and at this point has apparently won. But it is one thing to quietly expand the program and quite another to proudly present it as one of Obama’s great accomplishments in tech.

And, it is one thing to reluctantly cave to political pressure from the industry and universities regarding OPT, but quite another to actually believe in this action. It would seem that by actually taking public pride in the action, the Obama people really do believe that it is the right thing to do. Assuming that to be the case, the question arises, Why?

Certainly the White House ought to know better. It knew the arguments against OPT from the lawsuit, and an influential Democratic Party-aligned organization, EPI, published an excellent analysis.

One reason that the Obama people have ignored the problems with OPT is — sorry to bring this up yet again — the “Intels Good, Infosyses Bad” issue that I keep bringing up. Since the Intels are the ones to hire OPTs, it is easy to believe that OPT is a good program and should be expanded. Yet another example of the toxic nature of the “Intels Good, Infosyses Bad” attitude, which unfortunately even the immigration reform groups do little or nothing to counter.

Another possible reason is the “Let’s steal China’s engineers” notion that has been common in DC for some years. Given Obama’s aggressive stance on China in a number of ways, this seems very possible.

Quite disappointing to see Obama actually taking public pride on the OPT expansion.




18 thoughts on “OPT Expansion on List of Examples of Obama “Leadership” in Tech

  1. I suppose that it would be inappropriate and impolitic to send a letter to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. saying “Dear Mr. President, YOU SUCK!”

    (I voted for the guy, but I had no choice. It was either that or risk having an airhead beauty pagent queen be one heartbeat away from the Presidency… right behind a 72 year old skin cancer survivor.)


  2. Groupthink is a reflection of group identity. A great deal of behavior in Washington DC can be explained by the gravitational pull of power and influence.


  3. I find it amusing that international graduates (the “best and the brightest” in the world) from US universities are deemed to need an additional 3 years of training and mentorship when US citizens graduating from the same institutions are expected to perform without the additional training and career support immediately following graduation.

    The additional justification for the international hiring is that current workers are unqualified in the new technologies. Would they not also be up to speed with an additional 3 years of training?

    US students and their families need to know how disadvantaged the recent grads in all fields are when compared to foreign nationals working on OPT.


  4. I tried to locate an “OPT database” website similar to online H-1B database websites. I could not find one. Anyone out there know of such a website? I would like to know the companies that seek these OPT workers and how many of these workers they would like to hire.


  5. if you logic behind “intel also bad” is that foreign students increase the supply side and add new competition, you have no real example of “damage”. How can a US citizen, who was rejected by a company, know anything about the composition of the pool of applicants?\
    Without real example of damage, there is no standing to sue in court.

    Unlike the cases involving infosys, there is real example that US citizens lose jobs because of foreigners and that will attract media and press attention.


      • Young new foreign grads compete for new grad jobs with other young Americans , older people apply for more experienced job positions which have totally different requirements. I do not believe your age theory


        • You will believe it when you are older. 😦

          I like the way Microsoft put it (publicly): They have very few jobs for older workers. The NRC data show this well. This wasn’t the case before we had H-1B.


    • Since neither the student on OPT nor the employer is required to pay FICA taxes, anyone needing to do so is at a disadvantage. Students on OPT will also work at a lesser salary – two OPTs for the price of one USC or LPR.

      It would be really easy to find out how many of the US cum laude grads are still job hunting while the international students are employed. Universities should be required to publish their statistics.


      • The OPT is truly a dream-killer for American IT students. The large IT firms that were recruiting at a recent job fair hired a significant number of F1 students for this summer’s internship. If we assume that these students will then have an inside track to obtaining entry-level positions at graduation, then the OPT should clearly be stopped in the interest of American engineering and IT students.

        However, I can’t help but cheer them on. Many of the Chinese students, who previously were hiding in cliques the entire school year are now interacting with Americans. They wear their silly caps and bags around town with great pride. It appears that the promise of at least temporary employment in the US is a huge motivator for students to integrate. The summer internships also allow them to build a resume and return to their countries with something much more powerful than another degree.

        What if Congress severed the relation between OPT jobs and the Green-card track?
        It’s well known that IT consulting firms seems to have a preference for H1B workers. Wouldn’t slashing the number of H1B visas make OPT jobs relatively harmless? Companies that depend on the H1B workers will be forced to realize that they can’t really hire the OPT’s long term and will return to hiring US citizens.


        • Sad to say, the Chinese will still stay in their cliques, whether by choice or through a feeling that the mainstream doesn’t welcome them.
          Most companies are not interested in having long-term workers.


          • Look at the lab workgroups of internationally born faculty members. In spite of there being many US educated degree holders looking for positions – including post docs, I find many faculty members returning to their countries of birth to recruit. Fewer than 10% (if any) of the workgroup members of Asian faculty members are of Western Hemisphere, European or African heritage. It is notable in these workgroups that I find Middle Eastern masters students, but they do not continue on to the PHD program while in these labs. Look then at the workgroups of native born Americans; you will find a far more diverse group. I find it notable that among the South Asians that there is a definite divide between the Indian and Pakistani students. There is also a troubling cliquishness among the foreign born faculty to exclude American born junior faculty members from shared lab facilities in one of my state’s universities.


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