Obama Administration Finalizes Rule Harming American STEM Workers

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Article date: 
15 March 2016
Article category: 
Our American Future
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The Obama administration released its final rule that makes it easier for the technology industry to utilize cheap foreign labor for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs rather than hire American graduates. Under the rule, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will allow foreign STEM degree-holders to remain in the country and work on their student visas for up to three years after they graduate. The finalized rule involves extending the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program – a DHS creation to keep foreign “students” in the country – from 12 months after graduation to 36 months for those in the STEM field.

The new rule comes seven months after a federal judge struck down the 2008 OPT extension for foreign STEM graduates that increased the authorized stay from 12 months to 29 months. FAIR’s legal affiliate the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) brought that case, Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech) v. DHS, on behalf of American STEM workers. (See IRLI's WashTech v. DHS Resources) Last August, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia struck down the 2008 STEM OPT expansion, holding that DHS did not comply with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) when it bypassed the public notice and comment process. (Id.) Disappointingly, the court delayed vacating the rule to give DHS time to implement a new rule that complies with the APA. (Id.)

Despite the fact that there is not a shortage of qualified American STEM workers, the Obama administration doubled down on the STEM jobs giveaway. Last October, DHS issued a notice of the revised rule and accepted public comments until November 18, 2015. Both FAIR and IRLI submitted detailed comments in opposition to the rule, arguing that STEM OPT is unlawful, serves no legitimate interest, and harms American workers. (See FAIR Comment; IRLI Comment) Similarly, many of FAIR’s members filed comments urging DHS to protect American STEM workers and scrap the new STEM OPT rule.

In a clear message that the Obama administration is more interested in providing the tech industry with greater access to foreign workers, DHS ignored the American people and finalized the 36 month STEM OPT extension which goes into effect in May. IRLI’s challenge of OPT in the WashTech case is currently on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. (IRLI's WashTech v. DHS Resources


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