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US Supreme Court passes on hearing OPT case

The US Supreme Court’s decision not to hear a case that threatened the end of the Optional Practical Training for international students is being celebrated across the sector.

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NAFSA will "continue to press congress on the need to modify immigration law so the world’s best and brightest may remain" in the US

There were concerns that the court could choose to hear the WashTech case led by a union of STEM workers in the US that said the program “hurts” American citizens.

The case had already been struck down by courts in the US, a ruling that was upheld by an appeal court before Republican party politicians pushed the Supreme Court to hear the case.

Justices on the court met on September 26 at their long conference when they decided which cases to hear in the next term.

Stakeholders were worried that the court would choose to hear the WA Alliance of Tech Workers v. DHS case calling for an end to the program allowing international students to remain in the country to attend practical training programs for an additional 36 months.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to not take up the WashTech case against OPT is an important victory for US higher education and has far-ranging implications for US competitiveness in the global economy,” Fanta Aw, executive director and CEO of NAFSA, said in a statement.

The Presidents’ Alliance also welcomed the announcement as “great news”.

NAFSA filed an amicus brief with 118 public and private universities and colleges in November 2019 arguing that international students should be able to “advance their education through applied learning”.

That opportunity is “essential to attracting them to our colleges and universities”, Aw continued.

“Amid an increasingly competitive global education market, we cannot afford to lose this time-tested tool for drawing the world’s best and brightest to our classrooms, campuses, and communities.

“While the high court’s decision to leave OPT intact resolves a major area of uncertainty for international students, it remains true that they do not have a direct path to permanent legal status in the US after they graduate.”, which describes itself as a bipartisan political organisation, said as the “case comes to its rightful end”, policymakers need to keep championing OPT.

“The OPT program is more than a lifeline for international graduates; it is a lifeline for the US itself. By allowing US-educated scientists, researchers and engineers to gain hands-on experience in their fields of study, OPT fuels our economy, strengthens our global competitiveness and bolsters our national security,” it said.

“OPT fuels our economy, strengthens our global competitiveness and bolsters our national security”

The Information Technology Industry Council also said the decision reaffirms the DHS STEM OPT program.

“US innovation and competitiveness thrive on a highly skilled workforce,” said Jason Oxman, ITI president and CEO.

“We urge the US congress and Biden administration to build on today’s momentum and work with industry to advance a modern, competitive immigration system,” he added.

Recent rulings made by the Supreme court ended affirmative action, overturned Roe v Wade on abortion rights and struck down the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness program for US students.

NAFSA will “continue to press congress on the need to modify immigration law so the world’s best and brightest may remain” in the US.

International students contributed nearly $33.8 billion to the US economy last year, the organisation noted, supporting and creating over 335,000 jobs.

Aw added that NAFSA will “remain watchful” of other cases in the next term. The Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo case challenges Supreme Court “precedent recognising federal agencies’ authority to interpret law and create programs such as OPT”, she said.

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