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US: education organisations back legal challenge to H-1B ban

Educators and student recruitment specialists have warned that a rule limiting the use of H-1B visas in the US proposed by the Trump administration would drive prospective international students towards alternative study destinations, as the results of the 2020 presidential election remain unconfirmed.

The proposal would "particularly impact" students in STEM and Business coming from India and China, stakeholders have warned. Photo: pexels

Twitter suggested the rule "will stifle the ability of American companies to hire and retain global talent"

Proposals from the departments of Labor and Homeland Security – due to go into effect on December 7 – would introduce stricter eligibility criteria H-1B visas for highly skilled workers. The rules will harm US college and university educational missions, their research, faculty and student bodies, as well as their healthcare systems and their reputations, associations across the country have suggested.

The American Council on Education, along with 23 other higher education associations, is supporting legal challenges to the Trump administration rules in the District of Columbia and the Northern District of California courts.

“DOL and DHS did not give those affected an opportunity to share the impact these rules will have”

“Colleges and universities rely on tens of thousands of H-1B visa holders to fill crucial positions for their campus communities: faculty, researchers, physicians, scholars, residents, fellows, and professional staff, in the areas of medicine, science, engineering, and many others,” the ACE said.

“Yet, as has become all too common under the current administration, DOL and DHS did not give those affected an opportunity to share the impact these rules will have — as required by the federal Administrative Procedure Act — or to prepare in any way for the dramatic changes being forced on them overnight.”

Manager of International Recruitment, Marketing, & Admission at Center for International Programs at State University of New York at New Paltz, Amanda Stevens, said limiting the use of H-1B visas will “very likely deter international students from studying in the US, adding to the number of pre-existing deterrents such as the Covid-19 pandemic and threats to OPT opportunities”.

WES report recently found that between June and August, the US was becoming “less desirable” for some international students as a result of a turbulent political and social environment combined with the pandemic.

In the survey of 545 prospective international students carried out in August, some 40% said they were less interested in studying in the US as a result of the social and political environment. In June, 35% of 698 prospective students questioned had indicated the same.

“Some 40% said they were less interested in studying in the US as a result of the social and political environment”

Over the same period (June to August) the percentage citing “no impact” declined from 34% to 27%.

Past research by the organisation has found that US work opportunities are an important factor for many international students when selecting study destinations, WES Research manager Bryce K. Loo said.

Research carried out in 2017 found that 73% of current and former international student respondents in the country found the ability to gain US experience before returning home “very important” in selecting a US institution.

In addition, 44% said they were looking for opportunities to stay in the U.S. long-term or permanently, he highlighted.

“In particular, Indian and other South Asian students are likely to be interested in opportunities to work in the US after graduation,” Loo noted.

“We know that the H-1B visa is one of the predominant ways in which international students transfer from short-term post-graduation work opportunities, notably optional practical training, to working longer-term in the US,” he explained.

“Without knowing the exact outcome of this new rule, tightening rules and reducing opportunities for obtaining an H-1B visa and other work opportunities such as OPT would likely have an impact on the decision-making of many students considering the US.

“Some of these students, particularly Indian students, may look to other countries, such as Canada, that provide more post-graduation work and residency opportunities, including the ability to stay permanently.”

According to education choice platform Studyportals, employment prospects are often a “key consideration” for students.

“For our users, particularly those that study in high-tuition programs, the prospects of employment during and after the study in the destination country are a key consideration, often even the primary goal,” said Studyportals’ marketing analytics consultant, Carmen Neghina.

“The H-1B as well as the OPT program in the US has been fundamental to accommodate this demand – limiting the H-1B facility will certainly have a negative impact on interest and enrolment.

“Also, key competitor destinations UK, Canada, continental Europe are providing more flexibility and options for talent to work post-study – so the competitive position of the US is additionally affected.”

Stevens agreed that “the potential to work in the US after completing their studies is one of the driving factors for students studying here”.

“It helps them to gain valuable experience and real-world knowledge while opening the door to long-term career opportunities,” she noted.

“This proposal would particularly impact students in STEM and Business coming from countries such as India and China, which account for the top two countries of origin for international students studying in the US (according to IIE Open Doors 2019),” Stevens emphasised.

“[The rules] will negatively affect not only international students but also the US economy”

“These new rules will no doubt create additional barriers to the work of all who are in the field of international education, and will negatively affect not only international students but also the US economy.

“Without these skilled workers brought to the US through the H-1B program, our economy will see a decrease in a valuable job-creating stimulus. All of which is connected and stems from the vital importance of international education.”

Silicon Valley companies including Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft have also submitted an Amicus Brief opposing the rule, with Twitter suggesting the rule “will stifle the ability of American companies to hire and retain global talent”.

Last year, the Graduate Management Admission Council warned that the US does not have the high-skilled talent it needs to remain competitive in a global economy.

A hearing for the DC case has been scheduled for November 13, while a similar hearing is expected on November 23 in the California case.

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2 Responses to US: education organisations back legal challenge to H-1B ban

  1. Employers have a long history of crying wolf when their supply of cheap foreign labor is threatened. History suggests that none of the gloom and doom expressed in this article will happen. The thing that usually happened is economic expansion.

    Let the market work. Solve any shortage of skilled workers the same way a shortage of any other required resource would be solved. Let price allocate existing skilled workers to the most efficient user. This is the normal solution to a shortage. Higher price draws in more supply of the resource in short supply and just as importantly it deprives less efficient producers of the resource pushing the out of the market in some cases. This benefits the total economy.

    The H-1B is a subsidy to employers allowing the to obtain labor at a price below the market price. There is a long history of crying gloom and doom if employers are compelled to pay the market price as they would if the H-1B was cancelled. That history also tells us that such forecasts are wrong. Following the English plague of 1347 labor was in short supply and workers demanded higher pay. The landed gentry persuaded King Edward III to pass the Ordinance of Labourers in 1349. It fixed wages at pre-plague levels and required workers to accept work if offered. Despite the best efforts of king and parliament the labor shortage proved too great for the ordinance to be effective and wages went up. In Poland and Russia repression proved effective at keeping wages down. England prospered with expensive labor Poland and Russia with cheap labor did not.

    There was the great tomato scare of the early 1960s.The head of the California Agriculture Department told Congress to expect a 50% drop in tomato production if the Bracero guest-worker program got the ax. That drop didn’t happen. Instead, tomato farmers were forced to mechanize. Output rose and prices fell from $30 a ton in 1960 to $22 a ton in 1970. In 1960, California farmers paid 45,000 workers to pick 2.2 million tons of tomatoes. In 1996, just 5,500 workers picked 12 million tons. Tomato acreage grew from 130,000 acres in 1960 to 360,00 acres in 1996. Tomato consumption rose from 44 pounds per person in 1960 to 75 pounds in 1994.

    Then consider this claim that is similar to what is presented here:

    “The crop of the present year, although deemed a short one, taxed the labor capacity of the state to the utmost. If such was the situation this year, what will it be when the numerous young orchards now just coming into bearing will be producing full crops? The labor is not now in the country to handle such an increase in production.”
    That was written in 1883 against the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Fruit farmers in California claimed crops would rot in the fields if more Asians were not brought in for the harvest. The rotting didn’t happen.

    • James, they were talking about students deciding not to come to the US due to these changes, not the economic situation of “cheap” labor (I also don’t believe you could say that foreign workers with postgraduate STEM degrees are exactly “cheap” labor either). Take time to read the article instead of quoting arcane historical analysis from feudal periods to the 50s and back to the 1880s.

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