150 colleges join suit backing OPT for foreign students

Washington: An amicus brief was filed June 21 by more than 150 colleges and universities across the U.S., urging the DC Court of Appeals to preserve the Optional Practical Training (OPT) Program, which allows international students to temporarily work in the U.S. after they have graduated, to gain practical training related to their fields of study, India West has reported.

The OPT program grants international students with F-1 visa status the ability to gain up to 12 months of real-world work experience in their field of study, either during the academic coursework, or after receiving their degrees. Between 2004 and 2016, nearly 1.5 million international students and graduates of U.S. colleges and universities participated in the program.

The brief cited research by NAFSA: Association of International Educators, which reported that international students contributed $38.7 billion to the U.S. economy during in 2019-2020, supporting 415,000 jobs. The brief also noted research by Business Roundtable which concluded that ending the OPT program would lead to 255,000 fewer jobs held by U.S-born workers.

In Washington Alliance of Technology Workers v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the court is considering whether to strike down both OPT and an expansion of the program called STEM OPT.

The appellants filed the initial lawsuit more than a decade ago, arguing in part that Homeland Security does not have the authority to grant work authorization to F-1 students for OPT.

A federal district court judge ruled in favor of Homeland Security last November, finding that the department has the legal authority to allow international students and graduates to work in the U.S. under OPT.

The DC Court of Appeals is now considering an appeal of this decision by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers. If the appeal were to succeed, both OPT and STEM OPT could end.

“[OPT] is a longstanding government program that permits international students to continue, and deepen, their education by applying the skills and knowledge they learn in the classroom to a professional setting,” argued the colleges in the brief.

During a Congressional hearing July 13, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-California, argued that the OPT program takes jobs away from U.S. graduates.

But Madeline Zavodny, an economics professor at the University of North Florida and a former economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, examined nearly a decade’s worth of data on OPT and found no adverse effects on U.S. workers.

Image courtesy of (Graphic courtesy Open Doors)

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