OPT program relied by over 80,000 Indian students ‘safe for now’.
An influential union representing tech workers has appealed a federal judge’s decision to uphold the optional practical training (OPT) program allowing international students to work in the US for up to three years after graduation.
The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers Union has filed an appeal with the DC Circuit Court of Appeals against district court judge Reggie B. Walton’s Jan. 28 order, according to the Association of International Educators (NAFSA).
Watson’s ruling that “DHS did not exceed its statutory authority in issuing the OPT Program Rule” covers both the standard 12-month OPT and the STEM OPT extension programs.
Even as the total number of Indian students studying in American universities fell in 2019-20 for the first time in seven years to 193,124, they still made nearly 18% of the total international students, As many as 81,173 of them were engaged in the OPT program.
The standard OPT scheme allows a post graduate to work in the US for 12 months while the STEM OPT program allows international students who earn a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics to remain in America for up to three years.
Finding in favor of the DHS, Judge Walton stated that the DHS enjoys ‘broad authority to enforce US immigration law.’
“The DHS’ interpretation that student visa holders can participate in employment for practical training purposes is long-standing, dating back to at least 1947, and deserving of deference,” he ruled.
Walton also referred to the fact that Congress has repeatedly amended US immigration laws during that time without blurring the DHS’ interpretations, demonstrating that Congress seemingly agrees with the DHS’ interpretations.
Meanwhile, workpermit.com, a visa services firm cited John Miano, an attorney for WashTech as saying, “The labor union is confident it will prevail on appeal.”
“At the end of the day, the DC circuit isn’t going to say that a person who hasn’t attended school in years is a bona fide student solely pursuing a course of study in an academic institution,” he was quoted as saying.
Miano claimed that the OPT program is an end run around congressional caps limiting the number of H-1B visas for high skilled foreign workers.
The lawsuit filed by WashTech argues that the OPT US immigration program harms American workers by creating unfair competition with foreign labor,
The OPT program is widely backed by the US tech sector and businesses. The US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Information Technology Industry Council all joined in to defend the program.
“Judge Walton’s ruling provides safety for the program for now,” Senior director for public policy and legislative strategy at NAFSA, Rachel Banks, was quoted as saying.
A timeline and history of H-4 EAD (January 27, 2021)