United States President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday temporarily barring certain foreign worker visas until the end of the year.
While the Trump administration has justified the freeze on the grounds that it will open up more than half a million jobs for US workers, business leaders are crying foul.
The order takes aim at several types of worker permits, including H-1B visas that are very popular with technology companies looking to recruit software engineers and other skilled workers from abroad.
But critics have maintained that US tech firms exploit H-1B visas to outsource jobs to foreign workers at lower pay.
Among the tech titans taking to Twitter to lambast Monday’s executive order are Google’s Sundar Pichai and Tesla’s Elon Musk.
Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today. Disappointed by today’s proclamation – we’ll continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all.
— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) June 22, 2020
Pichai, Google and Alphabet Inc’s chief executive officer, said he was disappointed by the proclamation, adding also that immigration had contributed greatly to US economic growth, “making it a global leader in tech and also Google the company it is today”.
Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and PayPal representatives also took to Twitter, with Amazon calling the administration’s policy “short-sighted” and several tech companies pledging to continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all.
Very much disagree with this action. In my experience, these skillsets are net job creators. Visa reform makes sense, but this is too broad.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 23, 2020
Facebook in a company statement said that 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,” the company said.
Amazon opposes the Administration’s short-sighted decision to pause high-skill visa programs. Welcoming the best & the brightest global talent is critical to America's economic recovery. We will continue to support these programs & efforts to protect the rights of immigrants.
— Amazon Policy (@amazon_policy) June 22, 2020
According to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Amazon had the most number of H-1B visa approvals at 3,026 in 2019. Google had 2,678, Microsoft had 1,701, Facebook had 1,518 and Apple had 1,136 H-1B visa approvals in 2019.
As we plan for recovery from the COVID-19 crisis let's focus on common sense & fair immigration policies. H-1B workers should be treated with respect & dignity. They generate real innovation & growth . . . benefiting us all and fueling the our economy. We embrace all our Ohana.
— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) June 23, 2020
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook tweeted: “This nation has also found strength in our diversity”, adding that he was also “deeply disappointed” by the proclamation.
Like Apple, this nation of immigrants has always found strength in our diversity, and hope in the enduring promise of the American Dream. There is no new prosperity without both. Deeply disappointed by this proclamation.
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) June 23, 2020
Elon Musk, Tesla and SpaceX CEO, wrote on Twitter that he very much disagreed with the Trump administration’s decision.
“In my experience, these skillsets are net job creators. Visa reform makes sense, but this is too broad,” Musk wrote. Tesla had 324 H-1B visa approvals in 2019.
Now is not the time to cut our nation off from the world’s talent or create uncertainty and anxiety. Immigrants play a vital role at our company and support our country’s critical infrastructure. They are contributing to this country at a time when we need them most.
— Brad Smith (@BradSmi) June 23, 2020
Twitter also took to its own platform to say that the proclamation undermines “America’s greatest economic asset: its diversity”. Twitter had 117 H-1B visa approvals in 2019.
Statement on US high-skilled immigration proclamation:
"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.
— Twitter Public Policy (@Policy) June 22, 2020
PayPal’s CEO Dan Schulman wrote on LinkedIn that creating new restrictions for immigrants who seek to work in the US is disappointing, warning that it “will slow our progress as a nation”.
Also speaking out against the proclamation on Twitter were Box Inc CEO Aaron Levie, Microsoft President Brad Smith, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff.
This is 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. https://t.co/hGVzhkXHuX
— Aaron Levie (@levie) June 22, 2020