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:
Imagine if Real Madrid Or Barcelona could only hire players from Spain. They probably wouldn’t be the best in the w… https://t.co/iLyMeaL1tm— Luis von Ahn (@Luis von Ahn) 1592879755
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:
@nytimes Very much disagree with this action. In my experience, these skillsets are net job creators. Visa reform m… https://t.co/Oy3WaNYFbM— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk) 1592881725
This story first appeared on GeekWire.