How the student visa undermines American workers

2:58 PM, Mar. 9, 2011
Written by
Joe Guzzardi

Khalid Aldawsari, who entered the United States legally on an F-1 student visa, is proof that the federal government refuses to take seriously the damages done to America by its multiple, permissive non-immigrant visa programs.

Many non-immigrant visa holders never return home; they either change status to become legal permanent residents or illegally overstay their visas. In either case, they eventually compete with Americans for scarce jobs and add to the country’s ever-expanding population base. Aldawsari, charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, was an F-1 visa student at South Plains College after having studied at Texas Tech and Vanderbilt Universities. His plot may have involved blowing up dams, nuclear plants and former president George W. Bush’s Dallas home.

About 700,000 international students are currently enrolled at thousands of universities throughout the United States. Nearly 300,000 entered on an F-1 visa. Only a tiny percentage of those visa holders, of course, could be classified as terrorists. Yet nearly a decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks wherein the perpetrators used a variety of visas, including the F-1, to implement their plans, the system for legal entry into the country is as flawed as it was 10 years ago.

Because virtually every type of legal immigration vehicle has been exploited, all the visa categories need to be scrutinized or, even better, have a moratorium imposed on them. The first to be revamped should be the F-1 visa. The question that needs to be asked about the F-1, but so far has not been, is whether the large scale visa program benefits the United States in the long run, particularly jobless Americans.

About 15 percent of foreign-born students eventually obtain green cards and remain permanently. Once they graduate and enter the job market, these immigrants compete directly with Americans workers for the few positions that may open up. And since they are often willing to work for less money, the wage structure for future workers can be reduced.

Ironically, American taxpayers subsidize their own displacement. Gordon Winston, Director of the Williams College Project on the Economics of Higher Education, calculates that taxpayer subsidies for private and public foreign-born students, even if they pay full tuition, is nearly $7,000 and $10,000 at private and public universities, respectively.

The higher education industry, on the other hand, benefits substantially and is one of the major reasons that the F-1 visa remains a permanent part of immigration policy. Not only do the universities reap the financial rewards from overseas students that pay the full rate, they’re also provided with a large cheap foreign labor pool that helps with the teaching and tracking of large undergraduate class sections.

In a statement about how Aldawsari used the F-1 to gain U.S. entry, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) blamed “lax enforcement of our immigration laws