The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is expanding a program that awards businesses bonuses when they hire alien college graduates over native-born graduates, according to an analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies.
The optional practical training program (OPT) awards alien college graduates a work permit to stay in the United States for 12 months. If these graduates have majored in science, technology, engineering, or math, also known as STEM fields, the graduates get an additional 17 months of work. This means alien college graduates who graduated in STEM fields would be able to stay in the United States for a total of 29 months.
The new changes DHS is proposing as part of President Obama’s executive action on immigration last November extends the program further to allow these students to stay in the United States for an additional 24 months instead of 17. This extension would allow these students to stay in the United States for a total of 36 months.
“The Obama administration proposal makes the OPT program, for recent alien college grads, even more of a catastrophe than it is already,” said David North of the Center for Immigration Studies. “The current rules give a STEM alien college grad up to 29 months of legal employment, while the proposed program would go to 36 months.”
Because DHS defines a recent college graduate as a student, employees and workers can escape paying payroll taxes. This means that businesses can receive a bonus of $12,000 to hire an alien college graduate over a native-born one.
“This just means that still more resident workers will be denied jobs in favor of the OPT grads, because employers do not have to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes on students,” North said. “This definitional twist will now be worth as much as $12,000 for the employer who chooses the OPT grad rather than somebody else.”
“No one seems to notice that this will rob the elderly by taking money out of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds,” he said.
North also said that the agency’s press release, titled, “DHS proposes changes related to on-the-job training program for STEM students,” which announced the expansion of the program, was misleading.
“A much more accurate headline would have been: ‘DHS Proposes Bonuses for Employers Who Hire Aliens Rather than Citizens,’” he said.
Requests for comment from DHS were not returned by press time.