Tech Leaders Slam Trump’s Temporary Work Visa Ban

Leaders from across U.S. technology industry are condemning new restrictions on employment-based visas imposed by President Donald Trump this week.

Tech employers say they use work visas to recruit employees for specialized roles when the U.S. talent pool runs dry. Leaders at Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Tesla, YouTube, Apple, Twitter, Salesforce, and other tech companies issued statements criticizing the executive order within a few hours.


"Now is not the time to cut our nation off from the world's talent or create uncertainty and anxiety," said Microsoft President Brad Smith in a tweet. "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."

Tech companies are reliant on several of the visa categories that Trump banned through 2020 in an attempt to shift jobs to American workers as the country recovers from the pandemic-induced economic recession. Trump said the temporary moratorium on H-1B, L, and certain J visas will force companies to hire out-of-work Americans.

"Under ordinary circumstances, properly administered temporary worker programs can provide benefits to the economy," Trump said in the executive order. "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."

Trump's latest move extends an April executive order temporarily blocking green card authorizations and adds additional employment-based visa categories. But the president's attempts to curb legal immigration the U.S. predate the pandemic, leading some in the tech industry to doubt the motivations of the executive order.

"The Trump administration has been ratcheting up work visa restrictions from the beginning, when unemployment was low," said Doug Rand, co-founder of the Seattle startup Boundless Immigration and a former Obama White House official. "The pandemic is just a pretext to continue pursuing an extreme agenda of restriction that most Americans oppose."

Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn is one of several tech leaders who expressed concern about the impact the order will have on American economic competitiveness:

The policy suspends entry of immigrants on an H-1B, H-2B, and L visas. It also covers certain types J visas, like au pairs and camp counselors. The order applies to visa holders who are outside of the U.S. when it takes effect on June 24 and visa applicants whose work authorization has not yet taken effect. Fields deemed "essential" during the pandemic, such as the food and agriculture sector, are exempt, which could open the door for exceptions in some tech roles.

The order is set to remain in place through Dec. 31, 2020. Trump instructed the Department of Homeland Security to review the policy within 30 days of June 24 — and every 60 days after that — to recommend any modifications deemed necessary.

Continue reading for more reactions to the visa ban from the tech industry:





This story first appeared on GeekWire.

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On this week's episode of LA Venture, hear from Marcos Gonzalez, the managing partner at Vamos Ventures, a seed-stage venture fund which invests in Latino and diverse founders. Over half of L.A. County is Latino. A relatively new fund, investments are in the range of $100,000 to $500,000. Seems like a great time to be investing in this community! And, Vamos is hiring...

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El Segundo-based telemedicine technology provider Cloudbreak Health and Florida-based UpHealth Holdings, a digital healthcare provider, announced they will combine and go public via a SPAC in a deal that values the combined companies at $1.35 billion.

Named UpHealth, Inc., the new company aims to streamline online health care by becoming a single provider of four different services: telehealth, teletherapy, a health care appointment and management system and an online pharmacy.

UpHealth runs healthcare platform Thrasys Inc. and MedQuest Pharmacy, along with two other behavioral health companies. The merger with Cloudbreak, which under the pandemic expanded their interpretation services to remote medicine, will give the new company a foothold in almost 2,000 hospitals.

"What we wanted to do was form a business that could really be a digital infrastructure for health care across the continuum of care, right from home to hospital," said Jamey Edwards, the co-founder and CEO of Cloudbreak. Under the agreement, he will become the company's chief operating officer.

GigCapital2 expects the merger transaction to close at the start of Q1 2021. UpHealth will be publicly traded under the ticker "UPH" on the New York Stock Exchange. UpHealth's integrated care management platform serves over 5 million people, and is expected to reach 40 million over the next three years, according to the company.

Jamey Edwards, Cloudbreak

Jamey Edwards, co-founder and executive director of Cloudbreak

COVID-19 caused a meteoric growth in the use of telehealth services. In February, 0.1% of Medicare primary visits were provided through telehealth. In April, that number was nearly 44%, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"Key stakeholders have seen and responded well to the benefits that telemedicine can bring, but they need a more comprehensive, integrated solution," said Al Gatmaitan, who has been named the co-chief executive officer of UpHealth. "This is what UpHealth focuses on, the adoption of digital health solutions well beyond the pandemic crisis."

The deal with the blank check company GigCapital2 gives the two digital health companies access to a wider network. UpHealth and its family of companies operate in 10 countries and their pharmacy has 13,000 e-prescribers in the U.S.


UpHealth will use the Cloudbreak platform as part of their global telehealth services to provide patients with round-the-clock care under a variety of specialties, including telepsychiatry and tele-urology. UpHealth also has contracts internationally, to provide country-wide care in India, Southeast Asia and Africa.

Edwards joined Cloudbreak in 2008 when it went from public to private. It has raised $35 million in venture funds, most recently in the first quarter of this year scoring $10 million from Columbia Partners Private Capital.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story identified Jamey Edwards as executive director of Cloudbreak, he is its CEO.

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With a waitlist six months out and demand growing from hotel-weary travelers, he said it isn't a priority yet.

"We almost don't need to," said Edwards.

That's because the $25,000 to $50,000 custom trailers have been a hit with a loyal fan base, and rising demand during the pandemic has only helped. Orders for compact trailers at the lower price end, including Happier Camper's 75-square-foot camper, are growing as newbie road trippers look for COVID-safe travels.

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