Will Immigration Reform Hurt the Tech Industry?By Samuel Greengard | Posted 2017-02-13 Email Print
If companies can't bring the world's top talent to the U.S.—a foundation of the tech industry—it's unclear how the U.S. will retain a leadership position.
The chaos resulting from the recent presidential executive order over immigration hasn't escaped anyone. But, beyond the political implications and ramifications, there's growing concern in the tech world about entry bans. Already, companies ranging from Google and Apple to Microsoft and Facebook have had to focus on employees caught in the commotion and potentially unable to travel.
But this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. More than 100 tech firms have signed on an amicus brief opposing the travel ban, according to "Tech CEOs Take a Stand Against Donald Trump’s Immigration Order," a story in The Wall Street Journal,
And the list keeps on going. It now includes the likes of Yelp, Square, Dropbox, Uber, Twitter, Netflix, Salesforce and Space X. In addition, Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeffrey Bezos recently said that he supported the lawsuit filed by Washington state's attorney general against the executive order on immigration and refugees.
"The order represents a significant departure from the principles of fairness and predictability that have governed the immigration system of the United States for more than fifty years ...," the brief states. "The order makes it more difficult and expensive for U.S. companies to recruit, hire, and retain some of the world's best employees. It disrupts ongoing business operations. And it threatens companies' ability to attract talent, business, and investment to the United States."
It's certainly not an abstract concept. According to think tank Joint Venture, an estimated 37 percent of the Silicon Valley workforce is foreign-born.
On a separate but related front, there's also discussion about reducing the number of H-1B visas issued. This would impact the number of foreign workers who could work in the U.S.
Again, political issues aside, there's a lot to be concerned about regarding any significant change in H-1B visas. If companies can't bring the world's top talent to the U.S.—which has become a foundation of the tech industry—it's unclear how the U.S. will retain a leadership position.
Perhaps companies will move some offices out of the U.S. Perhaps they will move the company to a country that offers a more desirable environment. It's not clear how either of these approaches would benefit America or make it "great" again.
Also, if tech companies are forced to hire less than top tier talent to run and manage their operations, it's difficult to envision how they will continue to innovate and stay on top.
That's a no-win situation for everyone.