- Amazon, Google, Twitter, and other major tech companies are criticizing Trump’s move to halt certain immigration visas.
- The companies said it will make American firms less competitive and less diverse.
- In an order Monday, Trump extended a freeze on H-1B and other work visas, with officials arguing it would prevent immigrants from taking American jobs during an economic crisis.
- The tech industry relies heavily on the H-1B visa program and other work visas to recruit employees from outside the US, particularly for technical facing jobs.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Major tech companies including Amazon, Uber, Google parent Alphabet, and Twitter decried President Donald Trump’s freeze on a range of immigration work visas Monday, calling it “unbelievably bad policy” that will undermine America’s economic recovery and its competitiveness.
Trump issued a proclamation Monday suspending the issuance of a variety of visas that allow foreigners to work in the US for a limited amount of time. The administration said the suspension, which affects H-1B, H-2B, H-4, J-1, and L-1 visas, was necessary to protect American workers at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has pushed unemployment to its highest level in decades.
The order extends restrictions made in April that put a 60-day freeze on work visas.
Tech companies rely on H1-B visas in particular to import “high-skilled” engineering talent from around the world, helping them maintain Silicon Valley’s competitive edge in an increasingly global market. Last year, Google and Amazon were each granted roughly 9,000 H1-B visa applications.
“Preventing high skilled professionals from entering the country and contributing to America’s economic recovery puts American’s global competitiveness at risk. The value of high-skilled visa programs is clear,” an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider.
There are 85,000 “high-skilled” H-1B visa spots open in the US each year.
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai — an immigrant himself — tweeted his opposition to the order on Monday, saying: “Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today.”
Aaron Levie, the founder and CEO of Box, spoke even more forcefully, tweeting that Trump’s order was “unbelievably bad policy on every level. It will only mean more jobs move outside the US, and in no way makes America better or more competitive.”
The order, which takes effect on June 24 and will last until the year of the year, does not apply to foreign workers with visas who are already in the country, or those outside the country who have already been issued visas, according to the Wall Street Journal.
On a call with reporters Monday, Trump administration officials said the order would reserve 525,000 jobs for American citizens and cited the high unemployment rate amid the coronavirus pandemic as one of the reasons for extending the freeze.
“This proclamation undermines America’s greatest economic asset”
Several lawyers that Business Insider spoke with said they think this may lead to more restrictive immigration policy longterm and that the administration is using the current pandemic to carry out its efforts to limit immigration more permanently.
“My personal opinion is that we’re not going to be going back to any type of easing of things, even as things settle down,” Reaz Jafri, an immigration lawyer at Withers Worldwide, told Business Insider.
They also said this order and the previous order in April has led to confusion for many companies and individuals on work visas.
“Even for those of us who were in the weeds on these immigration issues, we have some concerns based off of language of what’s going to be coming next,” said Sharon Barney, an immigration lawyer at Leech Tishman.
—Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) June 22, 2020
One by one on Monday, a parade of tech companies and tech executives released statements on Twitter or through other channels, touting the contributions of immigrants to the US economy and claiming that Trump’s order will make American companies less competitive by hindering their ability to hire.
“This proclamation undermines America’s greatest economic asset: its diversity. People from all over the world come here to join our labor force, pay taxes, and contribute to our global competitiveness on the world stage,” Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Twitter’s vice president of public policy and philanthropy for the Americas told Business Insider in a statement.
Facebook echoed that and said that in reality, restricting immigration would make it harder for the US economy to recover from the pandemic. “President Trump’s latest proclamation uses the Covid-19 pandemic as justification for limiting immigration. In reality, the move to keep highly-skilled talent out of the US will make our country’s recovery even more difficult,” a Facebook spokesperson told NBC News.
Other tech companies that spoke out against the order included Salesforce and Uber, the ride-sharing giant which called the order “disappointing for people from all over the world.”
Netflix declined to comment for this story, while Apple and Microsoft did not immediately respond to requests for comment.