H-1B: Google, Amazon, Twitter, Microsoft lead chorus against visa suspension

Very much disagree with this action, tweets Elon Musk echoing common sentiments

trump_pichai US President Donald Trump, Google CEO Sundar Pichai | AFP, Reuters

The Trump administration's decision to suspend the most sought-after H-1B visas along with other types of foreign work visas until the end of 2020 to protect American workers in a crucial election year has invited widespread criticism from the tech world. Companies such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Twitter lost no time to criticise the proclamation signed by President Donald Trump on Monday. Most of the mutli-national companies in the US owe their success to immigrant minds and hence, the foreign visa suspension at a time when businesses are trying to revive economic activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic will backfire, the companies warned. 

"We oppose the administration's short-sighted action. 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 programmes is clear, and we are grateful for the many Amazon employees from around the world that have come to the US to innovate new products and services for our customers. Welcoming the best and the brightest global talent to the US is more important than ever, and we will continue to support efforts that will preserve their ability to strengthen our economy," Amazon, one of the first companies to react, said in a statement. 

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, himself an immigrant who has, on a number of occasions, openly voiced his opposition to the US move to restrict entry of immigrants into the country, took to Twitter to remind the contributions of foreign workers to the US economy and emphasise the company's commitment to such workers. "Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today. Disappointed by today’s proclamation - we’ll continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all," said Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.

Susan Wojcicki, CEO of Alphabet-owned YouTube, quote-tweeted Pichai and said: "Immigration is central to America's story, and it's central to my own family's story. My family escaped danger and found a new home in America. Sundar Pichai is right—at YouTube, we join Google in standing with immigrants and working to expand opportunity for all."

Echoing similar views, Microsoft President Brad Smith tweeted: "Now is not the time to cut our nation off from the world’s talent or create uncertainty and anxiety. Immigrants play a vital role at our company and support our country’s critical infrastructure. They are contributing to this country at a time when we need them most." The tweet was retweeted by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, another immigrant chief executive. 

Twitter stated that the proclamation undermines the US's greatest economic asset—its diversity. "This proclamation undermines America’s greatest economic asset: its diversity. People from all over the world come here to join our labor force, pay taxes, and contribute to our global competitiveness on the world stage. Unilaterally and unnecessarily stifling America’s attractiveness to global, high-skilled talent is short-sighted and deeply damaging to the economic strength of the US," Twitter tweeted from its public policy handle.

Andrew Ng, the British-born Chinese American co-founder of e-learning platform Coursera, tweeted: "The suspension of the H1B visa program is bad for the US, bad for innovation, and will shatter dreams and disrupt lives. As a former H1B visa holder, my heart goes out to all the families affected."

In a strongly-worded tweet, Salesforce President and CLO Amy E Weaver said that her company would "remain committed to advocating for common-sense immigration policies". "H-1B workers generate innovation and growth that benefits us all and it will hurt the US economic recovery and US innovation leadership to further restrict H-1B visas," she tweeted. 

SpaceX founder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk also disagreed with the Trump administration's decision. 

In India, industry body Nasscom termed the work visa suspension proclamation as "misguided" and said this could be harmful to the US economy, possibly forcing more work to be performed offshore since the local talent is not available in the country. "This new proclamation will impose new challenge and possibly force more work to be performed offshore since the local talent is not available... Highly skilled non-immigrants are playing critical roles in the delivery of these services and the development of these services and products. Without their continued contributions to the US economy, the economic pain would worsen, industry would slow, and the timeline for a treatment and cure of COVID-19 would lengthen," Nasscom said in reaction to the US move. 

Trump's proclamation has irked a lot of immigrants as well as entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in the Silicon Valley.