Venture: The Silicon Valley Opinion On Trump's Immigration Policy

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Since the election of Donald Trump, millions of Americans, have experienced a plethora of events that have affected their daily lives, as well as those from other countries, view the news in the U.S. from the outside. Since becoming president, some of Donald Trump's memorable moments include initiating the summit between him and Kim Jong-Un, withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, and enacting immigration policies that may contribute to the brain drain of Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley is a unique region because not only it is the center of the tech industry in the U.S. but it's also an area where technological innovation and cultural diversity successfully coexist with each other. Immigrants form the economic backbone of Silicon Valley in various fields such as engineering, local politics, and food service, and limiting immigration could also be detrimental to the Silicon Valley's economy in the future.

Currently, one of President Trump’s immigration policies that affects the Silicon Valley companies on a more personal level would be the controversial policy of separating children from their families at the border. There were 100 employees from Microsoft who had written a letter to the CEO, Satya Nadella, via Microsoft’s internal message board protesting the company’s work with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), calling the separation of families “inhumane” and also mentioning the $19.4 million contract Microsoft had with ICE for processing data and artificial intelligence capabilities.

One of Microsoft’s main competitors, Apple, also shared its own opinions toward the recent separation of families at the border, with Apple CEO Tim Cook stating that he was heartbroken at seeing images and hearing the sounds of kids crying after they were being separated from their families. Cook had mentioned that he had spoken with President Trump on various issues such as the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords and the status of undocumented Dreamers, and found that the President “would not agree on all things”. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also had opinions regarding the current immigration crisis as he encouraged Facebook users to pledge donations to the following organizations, Texas Civil Rights Project and RAICES. Zuckerberg and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg had already donated to a campaign to raise money for RAICES, which provides immigration-related legal services, and as of June 18, 2018, over 500,000 people had donated up to $20 million.

Ever since Donald Trump became President, the Trump Administration has had a complicated history when it comes to implementing immigration policy. One of President Trump's first executive orders was the temporary travel ban that limited the amount of visitors coming into the United States, particularly those that are from the seven Muslim-majority countries listed in the travel ban.

That executive order is titled, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” and it stated that those who wishes to migrate to the U.S. must “not bear hostile attitudes towards it and its founding principles”. In regards to approval for admission, the executive order also stated,

    The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism.

On February 5, 2017, nearly 130 companies in Silicon Valley had filed an amicus brief stating that President Trump’s executive order had violated both immigration law and the United States Constitution. Some of the companies that were in the coalition to file against the travel ban include Microsoft, Google, and Tesla as these companies have their fair share of employees around the world and that they also believe that the executive order was a threat to how business is conducted in Silicon Valley.

Google is one company that was among the first of many Silicon Valley companies that objected to the temporary travel ban that was enacted in the beginning of President Trump’s administration. On January 30, 2017, 2,000 employees in Google offices worldwide staged walkout protests and had already donated $2 million to a crisis fund that is aimed towards supporting refugees and with the hashtag, “#GooglersUnite”, employees shared pictures and videos of walkouts at all of the offices.

People who’ve arrived on H-1B visas have facing difficulties in fining alternatives to prolonging their employment in this country, even those who have been working for the same company for several years and in the U.S. for 10-15 years. One man named Vikram Rangnekar, who worked at LinkedIn for 6 years, was working in Silicon Valley on a H-1B visa and any attempt to switch jobs or obtain a new visa by starting a new company can prolong his green card application. He decided upon working in Canada because according to him,

    The permanent-resident process (Canada's green card equivalent) is easy, and if you have all the points, it takes less than six months. The government is working hard to help and improve the start-up scene.

However, the H-1B system also has its own critics as they believe that the current system favors outsourcing firms from India that keep workers’ wages low and the companies that cooperate with these firms would then replace American workers with those who arrived on H-1B visas. According to a report by Goldman Sachs, the United States issues about 85,000 H-1B visas per year and 70 percent of those 85,000 visas were issued for people who are mostly from India and work in technical positions such as engineering and coding.

The subject of immigration in something that most people in Silicon Valley circles care about a lot as part of the successes generated by Silicon Valley companies is due to the work contributed by immigrants who have established their careers here in the United States. One benefit of having a work environment that's balanced by native-born and immigrant employees is that every employee will learn different ideas from their peers by working with each other on a daily basis.

The use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter by tech executives have been used to great effect when it comes to notifying the public about charitable causes and certain subjects. The statements made by Silicon Valley tech executives on these subjects, particularly immigration, are the polar opposites of the statements that have been made by President Trump for over the past few years.