BFF-46, 47 Trump visa freeze delivers blow to US tech sector

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Trump visa freeze delivers blow to US tech sector

WASHINGTON, June 23, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – The US tech sector is likely
to be hit hard by President Donald Trump’s decision to extend a freeze
on most immigrant visas, with critics saying the move could undermine
American innovation and leadership.
Trump this week said he would extend the ban through the end of the
year and broaden it to include H-1B visas for highly skilled workers,
as well as L visas used by companies to transfer their own employees.

The move could deal a blow to Silicon Valley and the rest of the
tech sector, which has long relied on skilled immigrants to fill key
positions of engineers, data scientists and other jobs in high demand.

While Trump has argued the temporary freeze was aimed at helping US
workers facing high unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic,
critics said the move would backfire and hurt one of the key segments
of the American economy.

The freeze “stands to upend the ability of US employers — in the
tech sector and beyond — to hire the men and women they need to
strengthen their workforce, repower the economy, and drive
innovation,” said Jason Oxman, president of the Information Technology
Industry Council, a trade group that includes more than 70 companies
including Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft.

“At a critical time for the US economy, it will have a dangerous
impact on the economic recovery and growth for years to come.”

– More about politics –

Darrell West, who heads the center for technology innovation at the
Brookings Institution, said the announcement was “more about politics
than good policy,” coming at a time when the White House is feuding
with Silicon Valley over social media and other issues.

“Trump’s executive order is short-sighted in that it will make it
difficult for tech companies, farmers, and the hospitality sector to
find the workers they need,” West said.

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FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group founded by tech executives
including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, also said the order would be
counterproductive by limiting immigrants who will contribute to
science and technology.

“This is a full-frontal attack on American innovation and our
nation’s ability to benefit from attracting talent from around the
world,” the group’s president Todd Schulte said.

A senior administration official said the order would affect 525,000
jobs in the US, which is currently reeling from a high unemployment
rate caused by the pandemic.

It will affect H-1B visas provided to 85,000 workers each year with
special skills, many of them joining the US technology industry, as
well as J visas, common for academics and researchers, and L visas
used by companies to shift workers.

Trump aides said they want to restructure the H-1B visa program from
an annual lottery to a system that gives priority to those foreign
workers with the most value.

But a recent Georgetown University study found that the US is
struggling to compete for global workers with key skills including
artificial intelligence and that without easing immigration “other
countries may begin to draw AI talent away from American schools and
employers. ”

– Personal stories –

Some tech executives added their own personal stories in countering
the administration’s arguments.

India-born Google CEO Sundar Pichai said “Immigration has
contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a
global leader in tech.”

Susan Wojcicki, head of Google-owned YouTube and the daughter of
Polish immigrants, echoed those remarks.

“My family escaped danger and found a new home in America,” Wojcicki
said on Twitter. “We join Google in standing with immigrants and
working to expand opportunity for all.”

South African-born Elon Musk, who founded Tesla and SpaceX, said he
disagreed with the freeze: “In my experience, these skill sets (of
tech workers) are net job creators. Visa reform makes sense, but this
is too broad.”

Andrew Ng, a British-born Chinese-American computer scientist who
heads the online education firm Coursera, said the suspension “is bad
for the US, bad for innovation, and will shatter dreams and disrupt
lives.” He added: “as a former H1B visa holder, my heart goes out to
all the families affected.”

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