‘The Bush and Obama-era rules are just an effort by tech companies … to get out of paying American tech workers what they are worth…’
(Brian Freimuth, Liberty Headlines) The Immigration Reform Law Institute said a district court had cleared it to move forward with a case pitting native-born tech workers against a federal program that lets foreign students live in the U.S. well past their time attending American schools.
For nearly three decades, federal bureaucracies have disregarded the student visa laws established by Congress, creating their own policies and regulations to extend the time that foreign students may remain in the country.
Big business has benefited from the tax advantages of employing these foreign “students,” who are not required to pay into systems like Social Security and Medicare—rather than American workers.
However, a labor union known as the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (Washtech) is suing the Department of Homeland Security in hopes of shutting down the program that deprives American tech workers of skilled-labor jobs in the field.
“A recent study showed that American technology workers are far and away the best in the world,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI, which is representing Washtech in the suit. “That stands to reason, since they built the technology that has revolutionized our lives while adding untold wealth to this and many other countries.”
Despite the legal stipulation set by Congress that foreign students must leave after their education has ended, the Optional Practical Training program was established in 1992, allowing those living on student visas to take American jobs and lower wages.
“The Bush and Obama-era rules are just an effort by tech companies—which heavily influenced DHS here, and still do—to get out of paying American tech workers what they are worth,” Wilcox said.
In 2008, under President Barack Obama, DHS attempted to expand this program further without notifying Congress or the public.
But a federal court in 2015 struck down the expansion of the OPT program because DHS had failed to notify the public as required by the Administrative Procedure Act.
Even so, the following year Obama reissued the expansion of the OPT via executive order, allowing resident aliens to live and work in the United States even longer than before.
John M. Miano, an attorney from the IRLI, said not only did Obama and DHS lack the legal authority to expand the OPT program, but the OPT program was in violation of the law to begin with.
“DHS cannot just legislate any rules it wants, or that industry wants,” Miano said. “It has to have congressional authorization. And there is no way a student visa category that mandates that its recipients leave the country when they graduate, and forbids them to work, authorizes DHS to let them stay, and also work, when they are no longer students—all at the expense of America’s tech workers.”
DHS filed a motion to dismiss Washtech’s lawsuit, saying the plaintiffs in the case lacked standing, but the district court for the District of Columbia recently cleared it to go forward.
“We look forward to arguing the merits of this vital case, and setting a precedent that will help protect Americans’ livelihoods across the board,” Wilcox said.
Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.