WASHINGTON -- U.S. citizen college seniors who will soon receive degrees in the agricultural sciences just got a dose of bad news from their government.
The Department of Homeland Security has announced that seniors in these fields who are either citizens or permanent residents will now be competing with foreign students on a distinctly uneven field when they seek jobs after graduation.
Their prospective employers will receive a 7.65% bonus if they hire foreign seniors in these fields, rather than American ones, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, a non-partisan think tank in Washington, D.C. This bias against citizen and legal resident workers results from a twist in the tax and immigration laws.
This bonus to the employer, over 29 months, could be as much as $9,244, CIS estimates.
Some of the fields where this strange, government-fed bias takes place include: animal science, dairy science, agronomy and crop science, soil science, and forest science. More detail on this policy is at http://cis.org/north/expanded-OPT-stem-list.
These bonuses will also be available to employers hiring new graduates in other fields, such as social psychology, medical information, management science, and business statistics; for the complete list, see http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/stem-list-2011.pdf. Employers can get the bonus if they hire recent foreign graduates in any of the nearly 300 occupations on the list.
"We have no objection to a job competition, on a level playing field, between U.S. and foreign college grads," explained CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian, "but it is totally unfair for the government to give a substantial bonus - 7.65% for nearly two and a half years - for employers to discriminate against citizen and permanent resident job applicants."
The mechanism used by DHS to give this bonus to employers is an intricate twist of the immigration law by the department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bureau, whose activities are usually confined to arrests and investigations. ICE has the power, without consulting Congress, to grant exemptions from Social Security and Medicare taxes to foreign students here on F-1 visas.
While this exemption usually applies to foreign students while in college, ICE has extended it, in these listed occupations, to foreign students for up to the first 29 months after they graduate. This would save the employer - assuming 29 months of employment at, say, $50,000 a year - a whopping $9,244 in avoided taxes when compared to hiring a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.