Politics

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
immigration, science, technology, visa



Looks Like Visa Program For Science & Tech Grads Isn't Really Being Used For The Best & Brightest

from the unfortunate dept

theodp writes in to let us know:
"By enacting a controversial 'emergency' rule in 2008 allowing foreign students who earn degrees in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) in the U.S. to work for American employers for 29 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT) without the need for an H-1B visa, Department of Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff boasted he was 'giving U.S. companies a competitive advantage in the world economy.' Microsoft applauded the move, saying the program would allow U.S. companies to recruit and retain the 'best' science and tech students educated at the top U.S. universities. And last April, the DHS quashed a legal challenge to the program, telling the U.S. Supreme Court that 'the public interest would be disserved' without the program.

Noticeably absent from the DHS brief, however, were any details on the two-year old program's participants. But now, a Computerworld report suggests why the agency may have been less-than-eager to share any details with the Court. Not only is the DHS program dominated by for-profit Stratford University, whose 727 approved OPT STEM extension requests is more than twice the combined total of the entire Ivy League - Brown (26), Columbia (105), Cornell (90), Dartmouth (18), Harvard (27), Princeton (16), Penn (50), and Yale (9) - it turns out the program is also being embraced by IT outsourcing and offshoring companies like Kelly Services, whose entities snagged about 50 approvals, more than twice the combined total of Google (15), Amazon.com (2), Yahoo (2), and Facebook (3). More details on the 20,000 OPT STEM extension requests filed since mid-2008 can be found in Computerworld's interactive database."
I'll admit that I was a supporter of this program when it was first announced. I believe that we should absolutely be opening our borders to those skilled in science and technology, and keep them working in the US so that they're working to improve US competitiveness, rather than competing with US firms elsewhere. Unfortunately, it certainly looks like (as with the H-1B program) that it is not being used in the way it should be used. This is unfortunate, as anti-immigration folks will simply use this as evidence to block important, useful and job-creating immigration, insisting that all such efforts are abuses. That's not true, but when a program like this is not really being used for the best and brightest, then it's been improperly designed.

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  1. icon
    Christopher (profile), 23 Nov 2010 @ 5:49am

    Re: Re: Poison Cup

    This assumes that the person with the degree acquired it *here* and is earning a wage *here*. This is patently false in reality.

    It's not a lack of engineers or scientists, it's a lack of wages commensurate with living here. Apparently, IT is viewed as a commodity, some technological equivalent of janitorial services, because top jobs are impossible to acquire if you have no means of being employed at the lower rungs of your career ladder.

    This is the missing element in every argument, every single one: if you remove all of the junior positions, you create a gap in the career ladder. Outsource your mid-career spots, a larger gap. This, and only this, is causing the artificial scarcity of native talent. Natives do not view a science or CS career as a $35000/ yr entry-level spot. I made that in 1995. However, the billable rates and commensurate starting spots are just around that, and most American graduates just don't see the ROI of their $80k education in a $35k job; even with a longer view, they correctly perceive the attack on our own people from corporate employers and the local industry.

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