TAPPING TALENT: A U.S. court has ruled that U.S. tech workers can challenge President Obama’s order extending the legal status of foreign employees here.
By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a ruling that could short-circuit one of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, a federal court has allowed U.S. tech workers to challenge extensions of foreign laborers’ status here.
The case of Washington Alliance of Technology Workers v. the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has “major implications” for the president’s ability to expand the number of work visas and the terms or durations of those visas, said Dale Wilcox, executive director of the Immigration Reform Law Institute.
The lawsuit was brought by attorney John Miano and IRLI on behalf of several displaced American workers.
“The Obama administration and its congressional allies have repeatedly stated that they believed the president’s executive memos were immune from judicial review in federal court,” Wilcox said.
The decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia “demonstrates that this is not true,” Wilcox stated.
Through a host of foreign-worker visa programs, the federal government “swells the number of foreign nationals in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) labor market where Washington Alliance members must compete. Indeed, (they were) designed with this purpose in mind,” the lawsuit alleges.
One of the foreign tech-worker gateways — Optional Practical Training — “is likely now to be America’s largest guest-worker program. Yet, it has never been authorized by Congress,” Miano told Watchdog.
Gene Nelson, a longtime activist for U.S. tech workers’ rights, estimates that downward wage pressures by OPT extensions already cost American STEM employees $175.5 billion in lost earnings.
Nelson said the tech-visa programs “have morphed into de-facto government-sanctioned foreign hiring preferences.”
U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle’s decision came one day after Obama announced plans to expand and extend the OPT program.
Foreign students or recent graduates can use student F-1 visas to take jobs through OPT. Employers don’t have to pay them a prevailing wage, and they are exempt from Medicare and Social Security taxes, making OPT workers “inherently cheaper” than U.S. workers, the lawsuit argues.
Huvelle ruled that the IT plaintiffs with degrees in computer programming “were in direct and current competition with OPT students on a STEM extension. This competition resulted in concrete and particularized injury.”
See earlier Watchdog report: Obama doubles down on tech-immigrant abuse.
Kenric Ward is a national reporter for Watchdog.org and chief of its Virginia Bureau. Contact him at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward