On Monday, President Trump issued a proclamation suspending a range of visa programs — including the guest worker visas, like the H1-B, commonly used by tech companies to attract overseas talent. The new restrictions apply primarily to new visa applicants or H1-B holders who are currently out of the country.
A range of tech companies and industry groups have already pushed back against the proclamation, casting the order as a threat to the tech industry and US innovation more broadly.
In a statement to The Verge, Google emphasized the contributions of immigrants to American public life, without directly addressing the new restrictions.
“Immigrants have not only fueled technological breakthroughs and created new businesses and jobs but have also enriched American life,” said Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda. “America’s continued success depends on companies having access to the best talent from around the world. Particularly now, we need that talent to help contribute to America’s economic recovery.”
Google is one of the top sponsors of H1-B visas among large tech companies, filing more than 6,500 applications for guest worker visas in 2019.
The program, which is capped at 85,000 workers nationally, has been controversial for a number of reasons. A recent OneZero report found that H1-B workers were more vulnerable to discrimination because their immigration status was tied to employment, which left them “feeling like an underclass.”
The Information Technology Industry Council — an industry group that includes nearly every major tech company, including Google — emphasized the H1-B visa’s importance in maintaining the industry’s competitive edge.
“Today’s executive action stands to upend the ability of U.S. 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,” the group said in a statement. “At a critical time for the U.S. economy, it will have a dangerous impact on the economic recovery and growth for years to come.”
The Internet Association — whose members include Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google — took a similar line. “The diverse and accomplished H-1B visa holders in the U.S. create American jobs and help our economy grow,” the group said in a statement. “All industries benefit from a visa system that allows U.S. companies to attract the best and brightest no matter where they’re from.”
In 2017, the Trump administration suspended fast processing of H1-B visas, supposedly as a way to reduce overall wait times. A month later, the White House ordered a broad review of the program, although the results of the review were never made public. Monday’s order was described as a response to the economic damage wrought by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.