Legal status of thousands of immigrants put in jeopardy due to despicable lawsuit filed by CWA affiliate

Due to a lawsuit filed by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WATW), an affiliate of the Communications Workers Alliance (CWA), the Department of Homeland Security has invalidated the 17 month extension of the Optional Practical Training program (OPT).

Submitted by Soapy on August 14, 2015

The extension will be reviewed, and the Department of Homeland Security has 6 months to determine its validity. The program is relied on by thousands of foreign students with degrees in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) who are seeking work after graduation.

Originally conceived following WWII, the OPT program is intended to allow students staying in the United States on student visas to have a grace period after graduation during which they can hope to find an employer who will sponsor a work visa for them. Before 2008, the period lasted just 12 months, but a ruling passed in 2008 extended this period to 29 months for STEM graduates.

The 2008 extension was a very welcome development for foreign students who fight tooth and nail in the months after graduation to find an employer willing to sponsor the extremely competitive visa called the H-1B visa. During this period graduates fill the ranks of major US companies such as Freddie Mac, KPMG, and Google, performing often mind numbing jobs in the hope that their employer will sponsor their H-1B status. While some of these jobs pay well, some employers take advantage of this precarious workforce, and pay for these jobs sometimes barely exceeds minimum wage despite the credentials of the graduates. If the employer decides to sponsor their work visa, the graduate is entered into a lottery where they have less than a 50% chance of actually getting the H-1B visa.

Needless to say this is a heartbreaking process, and one that renders the graduates powerless, as they depend entirely on their employer's good graces in order to receive even a chance at obtaining the visa.

Thanks to the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, this process will be made even harder. The WATW believes that the foreign students are taking the jobs of American programmers, and since the WATW believes they are doing it for less money they believe it is in the best interests of their members to deny the rights of foreign students to work in the United States. But the reality is that these foreign students who cannot obtain a visa will often just use illegal methods in order to stay in their jobs in the United States. Doing the same jobs as before, but now in a situation that is even more precarious than before.

Why is a CWA affiliate spending time and money on making the lives of foreign students even harder than they already are? Why don't they focus on organizing workers, like a union should? Isn't the problem that foreign graduates live such precarious lives? Shouldn't the WATW and the CWA be pushing for immigrant rights if they want to solve this situation?



8 years 11 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Flint on August 17, 2015

WashTech seems to exclusively focus on opposing the H-1B Visa program and anything else involving guest workers. They didn't seem to have any plan to organize workers at the point of production and focused on lobbying and court cases like to get Volt temporary workers for Microsoft to be reclassified as direct Microsoft employees. Their focus was wrong and they were doing alot to alienate immigrant IT workers (which is like 1/3rd of the industry in the U.S.) I got fed up with them.

It was also one of the only times I ran into a FAIR/minuteman supporter in the wild:

The Fascist Agenda of Immigration Reactionaries (FAIR)