Those of you who follow foreign tech workers issues closely will recall the lawsuit by the Immigration Reform Law Institute regarding Optional Practical Training. The OPT program, part of the F-1 foreign student visa, allows foreign students to work in the U.S. for a certain period of time after graduation, ostensibly to get practical internship experience before returning to help their home country rise out of poverty.
What it has become, though, is a holding pattern, a way for foreign students to work while waiting to secure a visa in the vastly oversubscribed H-1B program. In 2016, the Obama administration extended OPT to a 3-year period for STEM students. (Earlier the GW Bush administration has extended it from 1 year to 29 months.) As Professor Ron Hira has pointed out, the notion that a foreign student graduate needs a three-year internship is absurd.
It matters — a LOT. The adverse impact on U.S. citizens and permanent residents is major. I strongly support this lawsuit, and have (via this blog) urged the Trump administration to roll back OPT to its original 12-month duration, or eliminate it entirely (in concert with other reforms).
On the other hand, as I have pointed out repeatedly since 2015, there is one issue on which President Trump — notorious for his sudden policy shifts — has been 100% consistent: Support for international students in STEM. Though he has railed against the H-1B program, his target has been the “Infosyses,” the large, mainly Indian, rent-a-programmer firms that hire H-1Bs directly from abroad and then rent them to U.S. firms. Trump has consistently supported hiring of foreign students by the “Intels” (not just the big household name tech firms, but banks, startups etc.).
One can of course still hold out some hope that someone who understands the culpability of the Intels will somehow reach Trump’s ear. But the latest development confirms that there is little hope of this occurring. Administration lawyers handling the suit are trying to squirm out by claiming that the plaintiffs lack standing to bring the complaint.
I’ve been warning H-1B critics for years that their buying into the false “Intels Good, Infosyses Bad” dichotomy would come back to haunt them. Here is a striking example.