Silicon Valley fury at Trump visa curbs

Business and tech industry leaders in the US have reacted with anger after President Donald Trump's latest round of immigration curbs, which they say will deny them the skills of thousands of expats they desperately need.

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Mr Trump has signed an executive order this week extending a ban on certain visa categories until at least the end of 2020 in a move which he claimed would create jobs for Americans who were suffering economically because of the coronavirus pandemic.However, critics maintained he was using the Covid-19 outbreak as a cloak to mask a more general tightening of immigration laws.What has particularly irked business leaders - especially those in Silicon Valley - has been the further extension of a ban on H-1B visas, under which tens of thousands of overseas tech and other skilled workers come to the US annually, notably from India.The BBC reported that, last year, there were about 225,000 applications competing for 85,000 spots available through the H1-B visa programme.Additionally, further restrictions have been imposed on the L-1 visa, which facilitates intra-company transfers from overseas.Google CEO Sundar Pichai was one of the first to react, posting on Twitter: "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."Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Twitter's head of public policy and philanthropy for the Americas, said the policy would end up hurting the US economy. "This proclamation undermines America's greatest economic asset: its diversity," he said."Unilaterally and unnecessarily stifling America's attractiveness to global, high-skilled talent is short-sighted and deeply damaging to the economic strength of the United States."A spokesman for the Migration Policy Institute think-tank in Washington, DC, estimated that the new restrictions, which come into force today (June 24), would block 219,000 workers coming to the US this year.And a spokesman for Amazon told CNN: "Preventing high skilled professionals from entering the country and contributing to America's economic recovery puts American's global competitiveness at risk."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."Facebook said in a statement: "President Trump's latest proclamation uses the Covid-19 pandemic as justification for limiting immigration. In reality, the move to keep highly-skilled talent out of the US will make our country's recovery even more difficult."Highly-skilled visa holders play a critical role in driving innovation— at Facebook and at organizations across the country — and that's something we should encourage, not restrict."Jason Oxman, CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council, added that the latest curbs posed a dangerous threat to economic recovery in the US."As U.S. companies get their employees back to work, immigrants working in the technology industry are vital to sustaining promising recovery trends, as well as supporting the United States' ongoing response to Covid-19," he said."We urge President Trump to reconsider his actions and work with the business community on a plan that will actually bolster job growth and ensure economic security for all Americans."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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