US Tech Industry Slams Trump’s Ban on Muslim Immigrants
In an unexpected case of walking the talk, President Trump has stumped the world. On Friday, he issued an executive order to temporarily ban immigrants from seven Muslim countries, also instating stringent validation for the countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. The move has received severe flak from tech industry leaders, primarily, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sundar Pichai of Google. The US tech industry is substantially dependent on immigrant workers, and was thrown in a tizzy due to this move.
Trump’s anti-immigration outlook was well propagated throughout his election campaign, but most analysts and the public thought it was just that — a campaign. No one seemed to think that such drastic measures would be played out for real. But recent orders by the 45th president of the United States are proving otherwise, and the tech industry, which will be adversely affected, is not taking it lightly. The seven countries from which refugees have been blocked for a period of 120 days are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. For Syria, the ban is indefinite. Google took a decision to recall its immigrant staffers from the banned countries, who were on foreign travel. Tension prevailed in Silicon Valley about the consequences on its global leadership, many of whom are from Muslim countries.
Google CEO Pichai mentioned in a memo to his employees that he was upset about what the impact of this order would be, and stated that any such proposals that impose restrictions on Googlers and their families could create barriers to bringing great talent to the US. The memo was aptly titled “Get Back to US Now”. He stated that it was painful to see the impact on his colleagues, and that Google has always been, and continues to be, proactive in highlighting immigration issues. About 187 Google employees have been affected by the order. After recalling the employees who were abroad, Google appealed to employees to reach out to Google’s global security team if they needed any help. Facebook’s Zuckerberg expressed his views in a written post, mentioning that he was “concerned about the impact of the recent executive orders.” He added a personal touch to his concern by proclaiming that his very own great grandparents had come from Germany, Austria and Poland, and his wife Priscilla’s parents were refugees from China and Vietnam. He went one step ahead, stating that the US was a nation of immigrants, and that everyone should be proud of this fact. He advocated safety in no uncertain terms with these words: “We need to keep this country safe, but we should do that by focusing on people who actually pose a threat … We should also keep our doors open to refugees and those who need help. That’s who we are.”
Despite public angst and opposition by the who’s who of US industry, this seems to be the first amongst many moves under Trump’s “America First” agenda. According to sources, next in line is an overhaul of the current work visa program. This will have a direct, negative impact on Silicon Valley, which uses the program to bring thousands of temporary workers into the US and adds a cost advantage. In fact, according to Trump’s Chief Strategy Advisor Steve Bannon, “two-thirds or three-quarters of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer issued a statement saying that this was a move under “a larger immigration effort.” Many of the tech biggies such as Apple, Amazon and Microsoft find a chunk of talent through the H-1B program. While the Department of Labor received more than 618,000 applications last year, the government caps allocations at 65,000.
It is interesting to note that Trump’s own paternal grandfather Frederick Trump was an immigrant from Germany and his current wife and first wife were also immigrants.
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