ICE has published an expanded list of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs that qualify students seeking a 27 month post-studies employment authorization card rather than the usual 12 month card. The expansion includes a number of new fields which is welcome though the absence of clinical health care fields that are facing critical shortages is not. Given the demand for H-1B visas, the ability to work for 27 months in Optional Practical Training should give American-educated foreign graduate students an advantage over their counterparts overseas, something that makes sense given the fact that the US provided some or all of their advanced education.


The Obama Administration is touting the move by ICE in a new White House Immigration Report that ties in to the renewed attention being given to the issue. Of course, there's a contradiction between the President's rhetoric and what he has just done. This move is precisely the kind of action that the President stated he was powerless to do because it is Congress' role, not his. And as I've noted, as the Chief Executive, his role is more than to just sign and veto bills. He has been given broad powers by Congress to administer the immigration system and can do much to fix things without Congress having to do anything other than authorize money.


President Bush was very creative in using his executive authority in 2008 to solve the problem of students being shut out of the H-1B quota when he established the STEP OPT program and I am glad that President Obama is building on what is a successful initiative. Hopefully, our President will use a similar approach to address other broken parts of the US immigration system.