Operation OPTical Illusion — puns DHS’s — has been investigating
potential abuse of OPT since January, so it’s possible that the timing of the arrests of 15 students and visa revocations for 1,100 more was coincidental. Still, the framing of the OPT case and of the proposed new rule echo what’s been a central theme of both the Trump campaign and the Trump administration, that American jobs are under threat from outsiders, including international students.
“Every one of those fraudulent work permits does take a job from Americans,” Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of homeland security said in announcing the arrests. He called the investigation “another example” of the Trump administration “putting America first.”
From the first days of the current presidency, international-student policy has been under scrutiny, from the travel ban to increased social-media vetting to new restrictions on students from China. As the election comes to a conclusion, there is little sign officials are letting up on the gas.
When it comes to the OPT investigation, it was no secret that DHS had been taking a closer look at work authorizations, checking students’ documents, asking for missing paperwork, and conducting visits to work sites over recent months. With the rapid growth in participation, one in five current student-visa holders is actually on OPT.
What was more of a bombshell: That administration officials placed blame on college staff who oversee the student-visa database on their campuses. In his remarks, Cuccinelli accused college administrators of “willful ignorance or a level of negligence” and said the government would terminate some from their role as designated school officials.
Many DSOs quickly pushed back, noting that it’s not their job to vet or investigate employers.