House GOP Members Fight to Protect OPT Program
By Government Relations Members | FAIR Take | June 2020
A number of Republican House members sent a letter to the Trump administration defending the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program as American graduates enter the worst job market since the Great Depression. The George W. Bush administration created a flawed version of the program at the behest of Microsoft and the Obama administration expanded it. It allows graduating foreign students on F-1 visas the ability to temporarily work in the United States. Companies that hire OPT graduates do not have to pay payroll taxes on them, making it a lucrative option for companies looking to save money and avoid hiring a full-time American worker. For some reason, the Trump administration has refused to end it.
A copy of the letter is available here. The representatives argue that the OPT fosters American competitiveness, and that OPT “is essential to the many international students who desire not just to study in the U.S. but also have a post completion training experience.” They note that international students and their families provide over $41 billion to the national economy.
Fortunately, ending the OPT program would not prevent a single international student from studying in the United States. It would simply prevent a certain subset of F-1 students from working tax-free in the U.S. after graduation. Why should Amazon, Intel, and Google hire thousands of temporary foreign students tax-free, robbing the country of tax dollars to support Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid? Ending the OPT program is a common sense solution that will free up space for American graduates while preserving the already-generous parameters of our F-1 student visa. Graduating foreign students that wish to remain in the United States have a myriad of other visa options they can choose to pursue.
The 21 House Republicans who signed the letter are Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), Rep. Peter King (R-TX), Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA), Rep. John Katko (R-NY), Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA), Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ), Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).