Major tech companies including Amazon, Uber, Google parent Alphabet, and Twitter decried President Donald Trump’s freeze on a range of immigration work visas Monday, calling it “unbelievably bad policy” that will undermine America’s economic recovery and its competitiveness.
Trump issued a proclamation Monday suspending the issuance of a variety of visas that allow foreigners to work in the US for a limited amount of time. The administration said the suspension, which affects H-1B, H-2B, H-4, J-1, and L-1 visas, was necessary to protect American workers at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has pushed unemployment to its highest level in decades.
The order extends restrictions made in April that put a 60-day freeze on work visas.
Tech companies rely on H1-B visas in particular to import “high-skilled” engineering talent from around the world, helping them maintain Silicon Valley’s competitive edge in an increasingly global market. Last year, Google and Amazon were each granted roughly 9,000 H1-B visa applications.
“Preventing high skilled professionals from entering the country and contributing to America’s economic recovery puts American’s global competitiveness at risk. The value of high-skilled visa programs is clear,” an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider.
There are 85,000 “high-skilled” H-1B visa spots open in the US each year.
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai — an immigrant himself — tweeted his opposition to the order on Monday, saying: “Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today.”
Aaron Levie, the founder and CEO of Box, spoke even more forcefully, tweeting that Trump’s order was “unbelievably bad policy on every level. It will only mean more jobs move outside the US, and in no way makes America better or more competitive.”
The order, which takes effect on June 24 and will last until the year of the year, does not apply to foreign workers with visas who are already in the country, or those outside the country who have already been issued visas, according to the Wall Street Journal.
On a call with reporters Monday, Trump administration officials said the order would reserve 525,000 jobs for American citizens and cited the high unemployment rate amid the coronavirus pandemic as one of the reasons for extending the freeze.