Economy & Jobs

An Executive Order for College Grads

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by Lil Tuttle

What if 180,000 good paying jobs could be created for new college grads with the stroke of a presidential pen? According to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), it could happen and, CIS argues, it should happen.  Right now, those jobs are being taken by foreign F-1 visa students who came to the U.S. to go to college, then stayed after graduation to take jobs in place of American grads.

Currently, thanks to prior administrations, there is a generally unknown program in which the federal government subsidizes (through tax breaks) the hiring of 180,000 foreign college grads, taking jobs that could be held by Americans. It has the misleading title of Optional Practical Training (OPT) as there is no training involved, and though dedicated to foreign college graduates, it is disguised as part of the F-1 program for foreign students.

According to the Institute for International Education (IIE), there were 147,498 aliens holding OPT jobs in the American economy in the 2015-2016 academic year.

Given the recent annual increases in the program (22 percent-plus from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016) and given the fact the IIE survey does not cover (appropriately) the worst of the visa mills, which also have the power to issue OPT certificates, the actual number of OPT jobs at the moment is probably in the neighborhood of 180,000.

Key features of the OPT certificate:

  • they are issued by colleges and universities that graduate the alien students;
  • they are good for as much as three full years in the U.S. labor market;
  • employers are given a $10,000-$15,000 bonus for hiring an alien rather than an American with the same salary; and
  • despite being college grads, OPT employees are labeled “students” by the federal government so that the usual payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare) do not apply to either their employers or to the workers.

 

In the OPT program, businesses and foreign OPT “students” are winners; American grads and national social services are losers.

$32 Billion in Lost American Wages

CIS “estimated that the jobs paid $60,000, suggesting a total of $11 billion in annual wages lost to American workers, over $32 billion over three years,” reports Paul Bedard at the Washington Examiner.

By a stroke of the presidential pen, the OPT program can be abolished:

Since this strange program is based solely on administrative rulings, the president (or Secretary Kelly at DHS) can simply abolish it with an executive order.

Now that’s a presidential Executive Order that many under-employed American grads would cheer.