Tech companies are worried about Trump’s executive orders on immigration

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg relays concerns, and Google prepares for the worst.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at the F8 Facebook Developer Conference in San Francisco. CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at the F8 Facebook Developer Conference in San Francisco. CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File

U.S. tech companies have been relatively quiet since the election, but are breaking their silence following a spate of executive orders President Donald Trump signed during his first week in office.

On Wednesday, Trump signed an order to begin construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and on Friday, he signed another order limiting migration from seven Muslim-majority countries and temporarily suspending all refugee resettlement. The orders also impact permanent residents, who are often referred to as green card holders.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed his concern over the new administration’s policies in a post Friday.

My great grandparents came from Germany, Austria and Poland. Priscilla’s parents were refugees from China and Vietnam. The United States is a nation of immigrants, and we should be proud of that.

Like many of you, I’m concerned about the impact of the recent executive orders signed by President Trump.

We need to keep this country safe, but we should do that by focusing on people who actually pose a threat. Expanding the focus of law enforcement beyond people who are real threats would make all Americans less safe by diverting resources, while millions of undocumented folks who don’t pose a threat will live in fear of deportation.

We should also keep our doors open to refugees and those who need help. That’s who we are. Had we turned away refugees a few decades ago, Priscilla’s family wouldn’t be here today.

Zuckerberg went on to say that he was glad to hear Trump’s willingness to “work something out” for immigrant children who come to the U.S. with their parents, and his belief the U.S. “should continue to benefit from ‘people of great talent coming into the country.’”

Google’s response, however, to Trump’s orders was less diplomatic and a little more reactive. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, instructed employees traveling overseas to immediately return to the United States if they could be impacted by Trump’s immigration actions.

According to an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, Google CEO Sundar Pichai denounced the president’s orders, calling them a “painful” cost.

“We’re upset about the impact of this order and any proposals that could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families, or that could create barriers to bringing great talent to the U.S.,” Pichai wrote. “It’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Google has 187 employees traveling abroad that could be subject to Trump’s 90-day ban of citizens from at least seven Muslim countries.

Immigration issues are core values in the Silicon Valley ethos, not just ideologically, but economically. Immigrants make up much of the industry’s workforce and occupy roles in every tier, from entry-level to executive. For example, Google’s Pichai is an Indian native.

Before taking office, Trump set his sights on immigration reform beyond building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. On the campaign trail, Trump criticized Silicon Valley’s diversity problem, claiming the industry is over-reliant on the high-skill H-1B visas to recruit foreign talent instead of looking for diverse applicants in the United States.

The then-candidate released a policy paper on immigration that criticized the potential for wage abuse surrounding H-1B visas, suggesting that “raising the prevailing wage paid to H-1Bs will force companies to give these coveted entry-level jobs to the existing domestic pool of unemployed native and immigrant workers in the U.S., instead of flying in cheaper workers from overseas.”

Trump hasn’t mentioned plans to reform H-1B since taking office, but a new bill introduced into Congress hopes to eliminate some of the predatory wage practices tied to the H-1B visa program by allotting more to the companies who pay the most. Combined with the implications of this week’s executive orders, the tech industry will have many more policy battles to fight for its employees.