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President Trump Suspended Visas for Foreign Workers. Google and Other Tech Companies Aren’t Happy.

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President Donald Trump is picking another fight with the technology sector.

On Monday, the president took another swipe at the tech giants, suspending the issuance of H-1B visas through the end of the year. H-1B visas allow foreign workers with specific skills to work in the United States under the sponsorship of their employers. The announcement follows an executive order the president issued a few weeks ago that intended to limit the protections online services receive from litigation over material posted by users under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

The ongoing debate about the H-1B visa program is whether tech companies really can’t find the talent they need at 亚游真人官方网站home—or whether they are using them to hire skilled but less expensive tech experts from outside the U.S. Tech industry leaders, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs take the view that restrictions on H-1B visas primarily have the effect of hurting the competitive position of U.S. companies, rather than protecting jobs for U.S. workers

U.S. tech companies–and U.S. divisions of Indian outsourcing companies –are by far the most frequent employers of H-1B visa holders. A scan of data published online by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, shows the companies who employ the most H-1B workers include consulting firms like Cognizant (CTSH), Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys (INFY), Deloitte Consulting, CapGemini and Accenture (ACN), as well as large U.S. tech companies like Amazon (AMZN), Microsoft (MSFT), Alphabet (GOOGL), Facebook (FB) and Apple (AAPL).

Barron’s reached out to close to 20 technology companies for comment on the issue, and while not all responded, those that did strongly protested President Trump’s decision.

Amazon: “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 programs is clear, and we are grateful for the many Amazon employees from around the world that have come to the U.S. to innovate new products and services for our customers. Welcoming the best and the brightest global talent to the U.S. is more important than ever, and we will continue to support efforts that will preserve their ability to strengthen our economy.”

Google: “Immigrants have not only fueled technological breakthroughs and created new businesses and jobs but have also enriched American life. 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. ”

Facebook: “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 U.S. will make our country’s recovery even more difficult. America is a nation of immigrants and our economy and country benefit when we encourage talented people from around the world to live, work, and contribute here. That’s more true now than ever. 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.”

Microsoft pointed to a tweet by the company’s President, Brad Smith: “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.”

Cisco pointed to a statement by the Business Roundtable, where Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins serves as chairman of the group’s Immigration Committee: “As we continue to work with policymakers to meet the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Business Roundtable is concerned that the Administration’s proposed changes to immigration policy will disrupt business operations, the lives of our employees and ultimately harm our ability to do our part to rebuild the economy. We believe that the government should administer U.S. immigration laws in a transparent, consistent and predictable manner. Businesses are more likely to invest and grow in the United States if they know how the government will administer immigration rules, and talented foreign workers are more likely to pursue opportunities here if they know the rules will not change while they go through the process. Immigrants make invaluable contributions to our country and CEOs of America’s largest employers will continue to advocate for bipartisan solutions to modernize our immigration system.”

A number of prominent tech executives and founders took to Twitter to oppose the H-1B suspension.

Courseraco-founder Andrew Ng: “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.”

Salesforce.comPresident and Chief Legal Officer Amy Weaver: “.@ Salesforce remains committed to advocating for common-sense immigration policies. H-1B workers generate innovation & growth that benefits us all and it will hurt the U.S. economic recovery and U.S. innovation leadership to further restrict H-1B visas.

Max Levchin, serial entrepreneur and investor: “Turning away skilled, driven, creative folks offering to work extra hard for their shot at the American dream is going to send them off to other economies, similarly in need of such talents for their own post-COVID recovery efforts. H-1B holders result in net job creation.”

In response to requests from Barron’s, Apple (AAPL) and Oracle (ORCL) declined to comment. Infosys says it was in a “silent period” and could not comment. A number of other companies did not immediately respond for comment.

Write to Eric J. Savitz at eric.savitz@barrons.com