In what can only be perceived as a victory for big business, universities, and foreign students, a lawsuit aimed at halting the devastating Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, created by President Bush without the authorization of Congress appears to be over.
A federal district court judge for the District of Columbia, Reggie B. Walton, announced he expects to issue an order against the labor group that brought the lawsuit and grant motions for summary judgment in favor of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and trade associations who fought on behalf of foreign students.
The plaintiffs in the case, the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech), asked the court to declare OPT to be unlawful. The defendant was the Department of Homeland Security.
OPT allows international students to work for 12 months and 24 additional months in science, technology, engineering, and math fields, closing those opportunities for recent American graduates. The ability to work on OPT after graduation is expected by many foreign students, since the program fell under scrutiny, in combination with the Chinese Coronavirus, “new enrollment of international students physically in the United States declined by 72%,” according to a recent survey of colleges and universities.
In 2019, the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Information Technology Industry Council intervened in the courts explaining themselves as trying “to protect the rights of international students,” according to an attorney who represented the associations.
For context, foreign students will use the F-1 visa to gain access to the U.S. labor market. Foreign students will then look for an employer willing to offer a job through OPT, followed by the STEM extension and eventually sponsorship for an H-1B visa. The H-1B visa, in turn, creates an opportunity for green card sponsorship and, even, U.S. citizenship. Because of restrictions on this process, such as new regulations checking that students actually plan to return to their home country after graduation, the original intention of the program, foreign student admissions have dropped during the Trump administration.
The defendants in the case, including the massively influential Big-Tech lobby argues for a different understanding of the program, with their lawyers making the following platitudinal statement: “By providing term employment to highly skilled recent graduates, OPT ensures that this talent pool grows the American economy, providing benefits to all workers in the United States. If these employment opportunities were foreclosed, this talent would instead move overseas, damaging American economic competitiveness.”
In addition to the three defendents mentioned above, many corporations signed onto amicus briefs in support of the OPT program. You can view the brief filed by Facebook’s FWD.us signed by 52 businesses and 11 associations here, and you can view the brief filed by the ‘higher education community’ here.
While the judge’s order is not a written decision, which is expected within 60 days according to Forbes, the judge stated on the matter:
For the reasons to be set forth in the Memorandum Opinion to be issued by the Court within the next sixty days, absent extraordinary circumstances, the Court will deny the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, grant the defendants' and the intervenor-defendants' motions for summary judgment, and deny the plaintiff's motion to strike. Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED. It is further ORDERED that the Defendants' Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.
It is further ORDERED that the Intervenors' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. It is further ORDERED that the Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the Brief Amici Curiae of Institutions of Higher Education and Objections to Evidence Submitted in the Brief is DENIED. It is further ORDERED that the status conference currently scheduled for December 1, 2020, is VACATED. It is further ORDERED that this Order is not a final Order subject to appeal.
For the complete article, please visit Forbes.
Updated: Tue, Dec 15th 2020 @ 12:05pm EST