Watch: ICE Lure and Sting Indian Illegal Labor ‘OPT’ Traffickers

Watch: ICE Lure and Sting Indian Illegal Labor 'OPT' Traffickers

The government has released videos of Indian migrants offering to buy and sell fraudulent Optional Practical Training (OPT) work permit documents offered by undercover agents at the fake University of Farmington.

Several hundred Indian migrants have been sent home for violating visa rules, and several more are facing jail time for recruiting other Indians to the cash-for-work-permits sting.

Each year, roughly 400,000 so-called  “students” at U.S. universities get the valuable work permits — usually after providing a big check to the universities which require only a few hours of attendance per month. That work-permits-for-tuition-fees scheme is legal — providing the colleges and “students” keep pretending tuition fees are for education, not for work permits.

But the Farmington migrants violated the pretense by telling Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents they would participate in the “pay to play’ scheme to get work permits, not education hours.

ICE officials released the sting videos after many pro-migration progressives — including Hollywood personality Alyssa Milano — suggested Indian migrant workers were really victims of entrapment by the ICE agents who played the role of crooked university administrators. “This is cruel and appalling,” said a tweet from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Twitter team that got 34,000 responses. “These students simply dreamed of getting the high-quality higher education America can offer. ICE deceived and entrapped them, just to deport them,” she claimed.

But the ICE videos add to the growing evidence of widespread fraud in the huge Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) programs. The two programs allow American universities to sell work-permits to roughly 400,000 foreigners each year.

The OPT workers are not immigrants. They are migrant “guest workers,” similar to the temporary H-2A workers hired by farm companies. As OPTs, the foreigners are allowed to work in the United States for a limited time, with a limited set of legal and workplace rights.

Taxpayer-aided university executives gain up to $40 billion a year in foreign sales for helping to divert 400,000 jobs, myriad opportunities, and a fortune in salaries from their indebted American graduates to the CPT and OPT contract workers.

The Department of Homeland Security defends the program in lawsuits and in the media. For example, it makes the work-permit data difficult to find. By January 2020, it had still not yet released 2018 data about the companies and universities who used the OPT program.

Many Ameican companies — including Fortune 500 companies — hire the CPTs and OPTs.  In 2017, for example, 3,655 foreign graduates got jobs at Amazon, 1,707 got jobs at Intel Corp., 1,501 got jobs at Google, and 1,022 got jobs at Microsoft. Also, companies do not have to pay Social Security or Medicare taxes for the OPT “students,” so they get a $3 billion subsidy each year from Congress for hiring foreigners instead of American graduates.

The OPT program is also used by foreign managers at U.S. companies to hire fellow nationals and to discriminate against American graduates, multiple Indian-born and American managers have told Breitbart News.

The OPT program is labor “policy by ruse,” concluded Ron Hira, a professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C. “It is “a flawed guest worker program masquerading as education. The organizations profiting from OPT – universities selling degrees, and companies exploiting cheap labor [supposedly] provide program accountability [but that is an] absurd conflict of interest,” he tweeted.

Fraud in the OPT and CPT programs also worsens routine fraud in the bigger and better-known H-1B visa-worker program.

The three programs are linked because many white-collar migrants use CPT and OPT programs to transfer into the bigger H-1B visa-worker programs. They transfer because the H-1B program allows employers to pay their foreign workers with green cards. The H-1B program is huge: Each year, employers use it to keep roughly 750,000 foreign graduates in U.S. jobs by paying them with a combination of wages and the promise of green cards.

This underground white-collar economy is politically powerful. For example, many of the H-1B workers and lobbyists are working with Utah GOP Sen Mike Lee to expand the transfer of green cards to Indian migrants under the claim there is a “skills shortage.” The establishment media has ignored the ambitious plan, but Lee’s S.386 bill has been held up by GOP Senators who recognize the unpopularity of any plan to put white-collar migrants into jobs sought by U.S. graduates.

The labor-trafficking pipeline starts when a foreigner gets an F-1 visa that allows him or her to enroll in American universities.

The next step is for the foreigner to get an I-20 document from the university so they can get a CPT or an OPT-work permit from the ICE agency.

Foreigners can get a one-year CPT work permit while they are studying for their U.S. degrees, which are usually masters’ degrees. In fact, some colleges try to recruit tuition-paying “students” by offering “day one” CPTs so their foreign customers can immediately get jobs. Quartz.com reported in May 2019:

By day, Swamy works full-time as a software developer in New York City. Late at night and over the weekends he’s a full-time university student, taking courses online. The main reason he does both is, as he puts it, “so that I can keep working in the US.”

For the past two and half years, Swamy has been pursuing graduate degrees at the University of the Cumberlands, a private Baptist university in rural Kentucky. Quartz has decided to withhold Swamy’s last name. He has already completed the credit requirements for a master’s degree in information systems security, and is now working toward a PhD. During his time in the US, he has gotten three master’s degrees in information technology from three universities.

If a school formulates its program so that off-campus employment is an “integral part of the established curriculum”, CPT can start at the beginning of the student’s first semester. This makes an F-1 as good as a work visa for students enrolled in certain programs. The online programs at the two Kentucky universities are specially designed in this way, enabling foreign students to work from day one.

After they graduate, the foreigners can also use their I-20s to get an OPT work-permit one year or three years.

The three-year OPT work-permits are given to graduates whose degrees are deemed STEM degrees by the Department of Homeland Security.

The DHS’s 2016 list of STEM work includes a very wide range of jobs, from “Directed Energy Systems” to “Low-Observables and Stealth Technology” to “Veterinary Physiology” to “Urban Forestry.”

The list also allows foreign graduates to work as technicians: “Architectural Engineering Technology/Technician,” “Biomedical Technology/Technician,” “Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Engineering Technology/Technician,” and “Solar Energy Technology/Technician.”

The migrants mostly use their CPT and OPT permits to get low-wage jobs from U.S. employers who are willing to nominate them for the next stage of the pipeline — the H-1B work visa. The H-1B visa-work program is much more valuable than OPT or CPT work permit because it allows the Indians to legally work for several years and to get nominated for a hugely valuable green card.

The nomination is valuable because it allows the supposedly temporary H-1B worker to keep working in the United States, sometimes for ten or more years, until they get their green card. The work-extension rule is valuable for employers, so they sponsor roughly 250,000 workers and family members for green-cards each year — even though the federal government only provides 120,000 green cards each year.

The green cards are very valuable to migrants because they allow them to become citizens, to enter the U.S. job market, to bring over spouses and elderly parents, and to escape India’s archaic caste system and poverty.

So the migrants’ demand for H-1Bs by foreign workers is always much greater than the annual supply of 85,000 new H-1B visas. The Dallas Morning News reported January 5:

The pressure to find a job was high for [Indian] Amrit Jalan. For 10 months, the University of Texas at Dallas student spent mornings and nights sending out resumes on Indeed. It was just like brushing his teeth, he said. And his ability to stay in the U.S. depended on it.

After sending out 3,000 resumes in 10 months, Jalan landed a [OPT job] position as an operations analyst at Nike in Portland, four months after he graduated with a master’s degree in systems engineering and management. But he still needs his H-1B visa to make a life here. Having a corporate sponsor may not get him that coveted document.

“That anxiety is always going to be there until my H-1B kicks in,” Jaan told the Dallas Morning News.

If the migrant is lucky, his or her employer will successfully nominate them for an H-1B while they work on their first OPT work permit.  In 2017, 34,000 F-1 visa holders — including many OPTs — out of more than 170,000 OPT migrants got into the H-1B program.

If they fail to make the jump, many of the migrants try the next year again and often re-enroll in U.S. colleges to get a second or third CPT work permit. This process keeps many OPT migrants stuck in a second masters’ degree class as they try to get into the H-1B program.

In 2017, for example, 3,655 foreign graduates got jobs at Amazon via the OPT program. In 2018, Amazon nominated just roughly 25 OPT workers for green cards — but also asked for 1,091 H-1Bs visas, likey including some prior OPT hires.

Life is tough for many of these white collar migrants.

Some OPTs are directly recruited for high paying jobs by elite U.S. firms, such as Microsoft, Qualcomm, and Google. Many of these good jobs are offered by the huge number of Indian managers who have filled out the middle-ranks of many U.S.-run companies that were once fully staffed by now-discarded American engineers and software experts. These favored OPTs can expert an easy promotion into the H-1B program and eventual citizenship.

But many other OPT and CPT migrants are hired by little-known companies and work long hours for sweatshop wages in Silicon Valley, in New Jersey, Texas, and other locations.

They live in dorms or cramped apartments, have little money for tuition, and little time for study, and they are under great pressure to disregard the official pretense that their OPT work-permit is merely an extension of their study in the United States.

Moreover, the Indians come from a culture where Hindu caste discriminationcheating, fakery, and lying are routine, and where office favoritism is routine. They also see that their pre-modern culture is being replicated in workplaces across the United States as a growing number of Indian managers and Indian-owned firms take advantage of naive American professionals, short-staffed enforcement agencies, and cost-cutting executives.

But many Indian migrants — especially those who won green cards and citizenship — also oppose Indian workplace culture, partly because it threatens American-style professionalism. But few speak out because they do not want to be blackballed by U.S. and Indian recruiters.

The sweatshop Indians are also under constant stress because they are very vulnerable to Indian managers who can fire them at will — and who often have the power to get them kicked out of the United States by withdrawing their H-1B visas.

In short, many Indian migrants are stuck in workplaces which lack all the post-1945 workplace practices that were made possible by low migration and which are taken for granted by older white-collar Americans: Decent pay, less-than-50 hour weeks, weekends, vacations, professional status, minimal nepotism, and no discrimination.

Their brutal stoop labor environment helps to explain why the Farmington Indians were trying to get I-20 documents at a university that promised minimal impact on their jobs.

United States Attorney Matthew Schneider explained the Indians’ knowing participation in the Farmington work-permit fraud:

This case involved an illegal practice known as ‘pay to stay’ because foreign nationals paid cash for the sole purpose of obtaining immigration status as a student — but with no intention of or interest in going to any class or making any progress toward an academic degree.  If the “students” truly wanted to obtain an education, they would have attended legitimate graduate programs at other universities. This is because the University of Farmington had no teachers, classes, or educational services – and this was no secret. Instead, the foreign nationals, who were all living and working throughout the United States, were scam artists who committed a fraud upon the United States. At the outset, they were told there would be no classes and no education. Month after month the “students” willingly paid the “University” so that they could fraudulently maintain their status (as a full-time student engaged in educational activities), and falsely obtain documents (Form I-20’s) that would allow them to illegally remain, re-enter, and work in the United States.

… as this and other cases show, the well-intended international student program can be exploited and abused.

In regards to the Karnati case, on September 26, 2019, criminal defendant Phanideep Karnati pleaded guilty to knowingly and intentionally conspiring with others, including his recruited “students,” to commit visa fraud upon the United States and to harbor aliens for profit.  While we are not permitted to discuss ongoing litigation, the United States will discuss the full scope of Mr. Karnati’s criminal conduct in a sentencing memorandum and at his sentencing hearing on January 7, 2020.

Another Indian participant was Santosh Sama. According to the government’s sentencing memo sent to a judge after Sama’s conviction:

Defendant Santosh Sama is a foreign citizen who abused the student visa program so that he would remain and work in the United States illegally. Moreover, he and his co-conspirators recruited other foreign students to do the same. Sama, by far the most prolific, industrious, and involved recruiters, received in excess of $160,000 in profits for his and his associates’ efforts.

Sama arrived in the United States in 2014 carrying his F-1 visa. He enrolled in the Atlantis University in Miami, Florida, but quickly switched to Silicon Valley University in San Jose, California, where he quickly got a CPT work permit so he could get a job even before he graduated.

In February 2017, Sama contacted the fake Farmington University to enroll as a student while working in a job elsewhere. “He told the HSI Agent that he and his friends were just looking for a way to maintain status and were not interested in attending classes,” the sentencing document says.

Sama and his co-conspirators recruited at least 300 other Indian workers to participate in the Farmington fraud, while he pocketed roughly $200 extra per student, according to the sentencing memo.

Amid the cheating, the top Indian recruiter cheated his deputy recruiters. Sama “asked that the [ICE]  agent to not tell Prem [Rampeesa] and Phanideep [Karnati] that he was being paid five hundred dollars per student [he recruited] because Sama was only paying them three hundred dollars” for every student they recruited, according to the sentencing memo.

However, the maximum sentence for Sama’s fraud is only five years, and the prosecutors are only asking for 41 to 51 months of jail.

Moreover, many other Indians have cut corners by enrolling in no-study universities.  “In many instances, the schools are nothing more than sham visa mills,” New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said in 2016 after the DHS unveiled a prior sting operation at the fake “University of Northern New Jersey.” He continued:

They have no curriculum, no classes, no instructors, and no real students. These purported schools and their corrupt administrators simply give out I-20 forms in exchange for payment. This illegal practice is known as ‘pay to stay’ because foreign nationals pay money to brokers and recruiters, like the defendants, to be enrolled in a school for the sole purpose of obtaining immigration status as a student — but with no intention of or interest in going to class or making any progress toward an academic degree.

Luckier foreign workers manage to bypass the OPT and CPT stages by getting hired directly from Indian and Chinese colleges via the H-1B program, or via the smaller, less-recognized L-1 program.

Many U.S. employers like to hire Indian migrants. Some are skilled, and many will work long hours without complaint. Moreover, the federal government allows OPT employers to keep the Social Security and Medicare taxes they would have to pay if they hired Americans students.

Many Indian managers in the United States also like to hire fellow nationals instead of young Americans, especially if the Americans can be deemed lazy, entitled or spoiled compared to the Indians who are desperate to get into the United States. Moreover,  the OPT and CPT hires rarely complain publicly about Indian-style work culture, such as payoffs to the Indian manager who keeps them employed.

This F1-to-green-card pipeline is huge; It keeps roughly at least 400,000 workers in the CPT and OPT programs, up to 750,000 people in the H-1B program, plus at least 100,000 L-1 workers employed in foreign subsidiaries of the U.S. firms. Not only are Americans excluded from those jobs — but employers can cut payroll costs and raise stock values because they are flooded with job seekers, many of whom want to be paid by in government-provided green cards, not in employer-provided dollars.

Several groups of U.S. professionals have organized to protect Americans from the H-1B and OPT outsourcing programs.

They include Collins Protect U.S. Workers, as well as White-Collar Workers of America, the American Workers Coalition, and Progressives for Immigration Reform, which raises funds at the U.S. Tech Workers site. 

Many of the OPT workers return home after a few years in the pipeline, sometimes after having saved enough dollars to live well in India. Other migrants return to foreign jobs with their Indian companies with high hopes of returning to the United States.

The vast majority of workers in this pipeline are Indians.

Why? Because U.S. companies and the Indian government are helping each other transfer many U.S. college jobs to lower-wage Indian graduates.

In fact, the crush of Indian workers has jammed the exits from the pipeline.

The exits are narrowed by “country caps,” which were designed to ensure that people from many diverse countries get a share of the 120,000  “Employment Based” green cards each year. This means that only about 20,000 Indians can get EB-1, EB-2 or EB-3 green cards a year — leaving roughly 300,000 Indian workers at their jobs — often for low wages — for many years until they can shuffle their way to the exit.

The official December 2019 “Visa Bulletin” showed that green cards were being awarded that month to Indian workers who were nominated for green cards in early 2009.

So the pipeline includes roughly 850,000 Indians — not including the Indians at Farmington. This 850,000 total includes roughly 200,000 Indians in colleges, at least 350,000 Indians working on H-1B visas, and perhaps 300,000 Indians who are working while waiting for a green card.

Many Indian graduates are employed directly or indirectly by many brand-name firms – including Walmart:

In the 2016 UNNJ fake-university case, some of the Indian and Chinese participants used the I-20 fraud to recruit the so-called students for their own companies, according to the Department of Justice:

By obtaining this authorization, a number of defendants were able to outsource their foreign national clients as full-time employees with numerous U.S.-based corporations, also in exchange for commission fees.  Other defendants devised phony IT projects that were purportedly to occur at the school.  These defendants then created and caused to be created false contracts, employment verification letters, transcripts, and other documents.  The defendants then paid the undercover agents thousands of dollars to put the school’s letterhead on the sham documents, to sign the documents as school administrators, and to otherwise go along with the scheme.

This huge labor trafficking pipeline has an impact on young American graduates but is almost entirely ignored by the college graduate journalists at establishment media outlets.

The pipeline forces down salaries by flooding the U.S market with foreign college graduates. It encourages anti-American discrimination by enabling Indian managers in the United States to hire favored Indian graduates instead of American graduates and pushes many American graduates to the sidelines.

The white collar labor trafficking has continued throughout President Donald Trump’s presidency, despite his determined crackdown on migrations from Central America. This two-track policy delivered faster wage growth to U.S. blue collar workers in 2019 than to white collar workers.

The F-1-to-Green-Card pipeline is carefully protected by lobbyists working for the nation’s universities, investors, and technology companies. But it is largely ignored by establishment reporters, including by the immigration, education, and business reporters at Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post.

The New York Times gives the topic very little coverage, but did post an excellent report in 2016 about Indian students, titled “Recruiting Students Overseas to Fill Seats, Not to Meet Standards.” That little noticed report showed extensive Indian fraud in language tests: 

At Western Kentucky, 106 of 132 students admitted through the recruitment effort scored below the university’s requirement on an English skills test, according to a resolution adopted last fall by the graduate faculty council, which raised questions about the program. “The vast majority either didn’t have any scores or there wasn’t documentation of their language skills,” said Barbara Burch, a faculty member of the university’s Board of Regents.

 But the NYT article missed the lure of work permits and mislabelled the I-20 as a visa, not a work-permit document.

Government officials are also careful not to criticize the OPT program. “International students are a very valuable asset to our country. They enrich our universities and communities by sharing their diverse perspectives, skills and experiences,” claimed United States Attorney Matthew Schneider, who is overseeing the Farmington sting.

“But, as this and other cases show, the well-intended international student program can be exploited and abused,” he said, without mentioning the companies and managers which hire the OPT migrants, or the universities which manage the labor trafficking process.

 

 

 



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