Google, Amazon, other big tech companies speak out against Trump work visa restrictions

Nearly 2 of 3 approved H-1B applications in 2019 were for 'computer-related occupations'

Big tech executives are speaking out against President Trump's executive order limiting foreign worker visas through 2020 as the country battles coronavirus and lockdown-induced unemployment.

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The White House order, signed Monday, allows exceptions for certain foreign workers, such as those in the food industry, but H-1B visas, which allow people from outside the U.S. with specific skillsets to work within the country, are restricted.

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AmazonTwitter and executives from AppleTeslaGoogle and Microsoft all spoke up against the executive order on social media, saying they benefit from a global talent supply.

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Tim Cook, Apple

"Like Apple, this nation of immigrants has always found strength in our diversity, and hope in the enduring promise of the American Dream," Apple CEO Tim Cook said Tuesday. "There is no new prosperity without both. Deeply disappointed by this proclamation."

Elon Musk, Tesla

"Very much disagree with this action," Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter Monday. "In my experience, these skillsets are net job creators. Visa reform makes sense, but this is too broad."

Sundar Pichai, Google

"Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today," he wrote in a Monday tweet. "Disappointed by today's proclamation - we'll continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all."

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Brad Smith, Microsoft

"Now is not the time to cut our nation off from the world's talent or create uncertainty and anxiety," he wrote. "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."

Amazon

Amazon released a statement from the brand, saying that the company "opposes" the Trump administration's restrictions.

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"Amazon opposes the [a]dministration’s short-sighted decision to pause high-skill visa programs," Amazon tweeted from its Amazon Policy account. "Welcoming the best [and] the brightest global talent is critical to America's economic recovery. We will continue to support these programs [and] efforts to protect the rights of immigrants."

Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Twitter

Twitter also issued a statement from its Public Policy account Monday citing Twitter's vice president of U.S. public policy and philanthropy, Jessica Herrera-Flanigan.

"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," Herrera-Flanigan wrote.

She added that "unnecessarily stifling America’s attractiveness to global, high-skilled talent is short-sighted and deeply damaging to the economic strength of the United States."

Data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services shows that the number of H-1B approvals increased 16.9 percent from 332,358 in 2018 to 388,403 in 2019. The majority of these H-1B holders came from India and China. USCIS also found that 66.1 of approved H-1B applications in 2019 were for "computer-related occupations."

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Critics of H-1B say the program underpays foreign workers compared to their American counterparts, according to nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank the Economic Policy Institute.

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The EPI also found that one in every two college students with STEM degrees are hired in a STEM position after graduating, indicating that "that the supply of graduates is substantially larger than the demand for them in [the] industry" while hundreds of thousands of foreign workers accept these jobs every year.

The executive order is meant to preserve 525,000 American jobs as the U.S. unemployment rate stands at about 13.3. percent since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted business closures and millions of layoffs.

Trump's order also impacts H2-B, H-4 and J-1 visas.

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