Nearly three dozen Republican campus groups recently signed off on a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to suspend certain programs that allow foreign nationals to work in the United States.
The letter came amid millions of Americans losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We pay thousands of dollars for degrees in STEM, business and other disciplines. Yet when we graduate, we see that large corporations increasingly utilize foreign guest workers present in the U.S. on the H1-B Visa,” the letter states. “… The number of available jobs continues to shrink by the day.”
The San Diego State University College Republicans spearheaded the letter alongside the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an organization that advocates for reduced immigration. More than 30 other student Republican groups, such as College Republicans and Young Republicans from universities across the nation, also signed the letter.
We are proud to spearhead this letter alongside @FAIRImmigration. The President won the hearts of the American working class in 2016 and now it is time to deliver for the thousands of graduating seniors entering the worst jobs market in history. #ExpandTheBan #AmericaFirst https://t.co/QiAU6OCzSt pic.twitter.com/HkOBVoSQ1q
— SDSU College Republicans (@SDSUCR) May 22, 2020
The H-1B and Optional Practical Training Program are the two programs the College Republicans want suspended, with the OPT program being completely removed. The H-1B visa program allows foreign workers to hold positions in STEM companies within the United States. The practical training program allows foreign graduates of U.S. colleges to work in the U.S. in their fields for one to three years.
But College Republicans argue that these programs take away roughly 200,000 jobs from new college graduates and other Americans.
“The displacement of American blue and white-collar workers along with substantial wage depression has continued for decades. American workers and young professionals should always be put first — even though it may not be in line with more orthodox economic theory,” said Oliver Krvaric, president of the College Republicans at San Diego State University, in an email to The College Fix.
But there is opposition to the proposal.
A former staff member of the Obama administration who worked on immigration policy said, if implemented, the changes would be a “nightmare scenario” for people in such programs.
“The nightmare scenario that a lot of international students are worried about is some kind of bolt-from-the-blue suspension of the program where everybody who’s applied is out of luck and everybody who’s on the program has to leave the country,” Doug Rand told Inside Higher Ed. “That seems extremely unlikely. I don’t want to say it’s impossible, but it’s hard to even imagine a legal authority they could point to to do that.”
When it comes to these concerns, Krvaric told The College Fix that “what’s important to understand is that it is possible to have guest worker programs and foreign exchange students without also tacking on pathways to citizenship in these programs.”
“Everyone who comes to live, work, and study in the United States does not need to be railroaded onto a pathway for citizenship,” he said. “The original intentions of these programs and accommodations have been completely subverted.”
On May 19, Trump issued an executive order known as “Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery.” However, it did not give any distinct plan to suspend H-1B or OPT.
Asked for comment by The College Fix, the White House declined to respond. But The Wall Street Journal reported in late May that the Trump administration is expected to limit work programs for foreign graduates.
“Mr. Trump’s immigration advisers haven’t settled on precisely how to curtail the program, with proposals ranging from a yearlong suspension with limited exceptions, such as for graduates looking to work in the medical field, or a narrower ban targeting certain industries,” the Journal reports.
In the meantime, a new study suggests that visa restrictions would make the U.S. economic downturn worse. That’s because “the less confidence immigrants have in their status, the less likely they are to seed innovation and create businesses,” SD News reports.
But on the flipside, a 2017 article in Mother Jones reported that the “growing guest worker program [is] trapping Indian students in virtual servitude” and “American universities are acting as willing partners.”