Georgetown joined more than 100 universities today in signing onto an amicus brief supporting temporary employment authorization for international students, a practice that would be eliminated if a challenge in a U.S. District Court succeeds.
The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech) filed suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia more than two years ago, arguing that the department doesn’t have the authority to grant work authorization to students with an F-1 visa.
The universities, organized through the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration and NAFSA: Association of International Educators, contend that allowing these students the opportunity to gain practical experience in their field while still in the United States is crucial.
Generations to Come
“Even our best students can only learn so much from the classroom; they must then test and further these lessons in the real world,” Victor Cha, vice dean of faculty and graduate affairs at the School of Foreign Service, is quoted as saying in the brief. “The opportunity to undertake internships, employment, or research is critical to their development as future leaders in a more globalized world community for generations forward.”
The DC court issued a decision this past July allowing the case to proceed, allowing WashTech to challenge the OPT program’s legality, as well as that of the two-year extension of the program called STEM-OPT.
The Presidents’ Alliance and NAFSA note that the federal government has allowed students to pursue practical training since the 1950s, and that international students contributed $39 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2017-2018 academic year.
The universities joining the amicus brief are concerned that DHS might not defend OPT and argue that “the education that international students will receive in the United States will be less robust, and the ability of American colleges and universities to attract and educate the best and brightest from around the world will diminish.”
An amicus or “friend of the court” brief is a legal document filed in a lawsuit by individuals or groups with a strong interest in the subject matter but who are not parties in the case.
“In an increasingly competitive global higher education landscape, OPT is a signature strength of the United States,” notes Thomas Banchoff, the university’s vice president for global engagement in the brief. “The opportunity to combine formal education with work experience is a magnet for talented students from abroad.”