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Tech industry, lawmakers criticize Trump’s immigration order

Google, Apple and other tech giants spoke out, along with the House and Senate Judiciary chairmen

Google offices in New York, which have been closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Google offices in New York, which have been closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)

Influential business leaders, especially those in Silicon Valley, joined lawmakers in both parties in criticizing the Trump administration’s latest order restricting immigrants and foreign workers from seeking U.S. jobs. 

“Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today,” tweeted its CEO Sundar Pichai, who said he was “disappointed” by the order. “We’ll continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all.”

The proclamation President Donald Trump issued Monday extends existing restrictions on immigrant visas through the end of the year. But it also expands them to include temporary work visas such as the H-1B visas, most well-known for employing foreign workers in the tech and business sectors. It also further blocks exchange students and visitors on J-1 visas, and foreign workers who use L-1 workers to transfer to a U.S. office.

The nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute estimates the proclamation could block an overall 325,000 people — both immigrants and temporary workers. 

In a series of tweets, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and has been an ardent supporter of Trump in Congress, said legal immigration has been a “positive” for the U.S. economy. 

“Those who believe legal immigration, particularly work visas, are harmful to the American worker do not understand the American economy,” he added.

“Unfortunately, I fear the President’s decision today to temporarily shut down these programs will create a drag on our economic recovery. The shuttering of these programs may not lead to employment opportunities for displaced American workers, but could instead increase the cost of consumer goods for Americans — particularly service industry related products.” 

Graham’s reaction was in rare alignment with his Democratic counterpart in the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York.

“As expected, the President is once again abusing the law in an attempt to distract the American public from his abject failure to combat COVID-19,” Nadler said in a statement. “Rather than leading us into a stable period of economic recovery — that brings real, sustainable jobs to the American public — he tries to shift blame and return to his favorite political ploy of targeting and scapegoating immigrants.” 

But the loudest outcry came from leaders in the tech industry.

“Like Apple, this nation of immigrants has always found strength in our diversity, and hope in the enduring promise of the American Dream,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a tweet Tuesday. “There is no new prosperity without both. Deeply disappointed by this proclamation.”

Even Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla, who has recently supported the president’s approach to the pandemic and push to reopen the economy, tweeted that he “very much” disagreed with the president’s latest action. 

“In my experience, these skill sets are net job creators,” Musk tweeted. “Visa reform makes sense, but this is too broad.”

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates reduced immigration to the U.S., was one of the few to praise Trump’s decision.

“Given the powerful moneyed interests demanding continued importation of foreign workers — and the many influential administration officials who share those views — Monday’s announcement was a real win,” he wrote in an article on the center’s website.

But U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas J. Donohue called the policy change a “severe and sweeping attempt to restrict legal immigration.”  

“Putting up a ‘not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers won’t help our country, it will hold us back,” Donahue said in a statement. “Restrictive changes to our nation’s immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth, and reduce job creation.”

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