Daily US Times: Some of America’s biggest tech companies on Monday backed a challenge to President Donald Trump’s restrictions on foreign workers.
Amazon, Facebook, and Apple are among the companies arguing that the temporary visa bans will damage US firms.
The US President imposed restrictions on some foreign workers to safeguard jobs for Americans during the virus pandemic.
Many of those affected by the decision are technology workers from India.
Netflix, Twitter, Microsoft, and other big technology companies also backed the lawsuit, which was filed last month by major US business associations.
Those industry groups included America’s biggest business association, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the National Association of Manufacturers, which represents 14,000 firms.
The brief argued that the visa restrictions, which were announced in June this year, will hurt US businesses.
The tech firms said Mr Trump’s proclamation was based on a “false assumption” that it would protect American jobs as it would mean they may now have to employ people in other countries.
“Global competitors in Canada, China, and India, among others, are pouncing at the opportunity to attract well-trained, innovative individuals,” the brief said.
“And American businesses are scrambling to adjust, hiring needed talent to work in locations outside our nation’s borders,” it added.
The companies contended that it could do irreparable damage to American businesses and further hurt the already struggling US economy.
Mr Trump’s proclamation suspended the entry of a range of foreign workers until the end of 2020.
Silicon Valley reaction
Some of America’s biggest technology companies condemned the move shortly after the announcement in June.
Facebook said the measure “uses the Covid-19 pandemic as justification for limiting immigration”. The social media giant warned: “In reality, the move to keep highly skilled talent out of the US will make our country’s recovery even more difficult”.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, wrote on Twitter that he was “deeply disappointed” by the new proclamation, while head of Alphabet Sundar Pichai said immigration was critical to the success of his company and the country. Alphabet is the parent company of Google and YouTube.
The US e-commerce giant Amazon, which received more than 3,000 H-1B visas last year – more than any other firm – called the order “short-sighted”.
Who is affected?
The Trump administration said the visa freeze would impact about 525,000 people.
That included an estimated 170,000 people blocked by the decision to extend a ban on some new green cards – which grants permanent residence to foreign workers.
Trump administration first announced it was halting those visas in April. Existing visa holders are not expected to be affected under the new restrictions.
The order also applies to H-1B visas, many of which are granted to skilled Indian technology workers.
Those visas have allowed Silicon Valley companies to outsource American jobs to lower-paid foreign employees as critics say.
There were about 225,000 applications competing for 85,000 spots available through the H1-B visa programme last year.
Poorvi Chotani, a managing partner at Law Quest, an immigration law firm with offices in the US and India, said: “How can the US recover more than 17 million lost jobs due to the pandemic by keeping out a little more than half a million foreign workers for the rest of the year?”
Three quarters of the H-1B visas issued every year still go to workers who are India-born, although the top seven Indian tech companies now pick up only 6% of the total visas under this programme.
The authors of The Other One Percent, a study of Indians in America, say the H-1B visa programme is also the reason for the “rise of Indian-Americans into the highest educated and highest earning group, immigrant or native in the US.”
US-based researchers Devesh Kapoor Nirvikar Singh and Sanjoy Chakravorty found that by the early 2010s, some 60% of the 100,000 India-born people entering the US each year through skilled-based paths were on the H-1B programme. They were mainly employed in computer-related occupations.
Between 2004 and 2012, nearly half of a million H-1B visas issued went to Indians. Along with their dependants they accounted for more than a fourth of the Indian-American population, which is currently around 3 million.