Silicon Valley opposes Trump’s order on H-1B visas, say immigrants drive innovation

While Google CEO Sundar Pichai said they will continue to stand with immigrants, an Amazon spokesperson called the order a short-sighted action.
Silicon Valley opposes Trump’s order on H-1B visas, say immigrants drive innovation
Silicon Valley opposes Trump’s order on H-1B visas, say immigrants drive innovation
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US President Donald Trump suspended H-1B and H-4 visas for the rest of the year, putting plans, jobs and the future of thousands in jeopardy. Indians are the largest recipients of the H-1B visa.

The executive order that Trump signed states that American workers compete against foreign nationals for jobs in every sector of the economy, including against millions of aliens (immigrants) who enter the United States to perform temporary work. Temporary workers are often accompanied by their spouses and children, many of whom also compete against American workers. The White House said that this will free up 5.25 lakh jobs.

“Under ordinary circumstances, properly administered temporary worker programs can provide benefits to the economy. But under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, certain nonimmigrant visa programs authorizing such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers,” the order states.

The order is set to have a significant impact on India’s IT industry, especially companies such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys and others, that use these visas to hire Indians to work in the US. According to reports, TCS and Infosys exposure to H-1B visas is at 40-50% while Wipro and HCL Tech's at 30-35%.

Tech leaders, especially Indians leading global technology companies have expressed their disappointment in Trump’s order.

“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, CEO of Alphabet and Google said in a Tweet.

Brad Smith, President of Microsoft said in a tweet that 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,” he tweeted following Trump executive order.

Amazon, which has been significantly growing its presence in the Indian market also opposed Trump’s executive order. A company spokesperson called it a short-sighted action and said that 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, and we are grateful for the many Amazon employees from around the world that have come to the U.S. to innovate new products and services for our customers. Welcoming the best and the brightest global talent to the U.S. is more important than ever, and we will continue to support efforts that will preserve their ability to strengthen our economy,” the spokesperson said.

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), a trade body representing major IT and technology companies said that the executive action stands to upend the ability of US employers – in the tech sector and otherwise to hire the people they need to “strengthen their workforce, repower the economy, and drive innovation.

ITI represents companies such as Google, Adobe, Accenture, Cognizant, AMD, Amazon, eBay, Dropbox, among others.

“At a critical time for the US economy, it will have a dangerous impact on the economic recovery and growth for years to come. As U.S. companies get their employees back to work, immigrants working in the technology industry are vital to sustaining promising recovery trends, as well as supporting the United States’ ongoing response to COVID-19. We urge President Trump to reconsider his actions and work with the business community on a plan that will actually bolster job growth and ensure economic security for all Americans,” ITI President and CEO Jason Oxman said.

Reacting to Trump’s move, Debjani Ghosh, president of India’s IT industry body Nasscom tweeted saying this move would be bad for the US economy and innovation in the country, at a time when the country should be doing all it can to build the economy back up. Recovery without access to talent is going to be an uphill challenge, she added.

TechNet, a network of technology CEOs and senior executives in the US said that the order hinders the ability of businesses to make decisions on how best to deploy their existing workforce and hire new employees. 

“This will slow innovation and undermine the work the technology industry is doing to help our country recover from unprecedented events,” TechNet President and CEO Linda Moore said.

Top executives of other major companies such as Tesla’s Elon Musk, Coursera’s Andrew Ng also reacted 

H-1B visas are designed for certain skilled workers such as those employed in science, 

engineering, and information technology fields, and H-4 visas are given to immediate family members of H-1B holders. H-2B visas are given to seasonal workers such as hotel and construction staff.

L-1 visas are meant for executives who work for large corporations and J-1 visas are issued to research scholars, professors and other cultural and work-exchange programs.

According to reports, nearly 5,00,000 migrant workers are employed in the US on the H-1B visa.

As of April 1, the US reportedly received nearly 2,75,000 unique registration requests for the H-1B, for the congressionally mandated cap of 85,000 of which 65,000 are for high skilled workers and 20,000 to high skilled workers who obtained a master’s or a higher degree from a US university. Of these 2.75 lakh registrations, 67% were from India. 


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