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New Delhi: Several Silicon Valley giants, including Google and Twitter, trade bodies, members of the US Congress and former members of the Donald Trump administration Tuesday denounced the US President’s order to temporarily suspend H-1B and other work visas until the end of the year.

Sundar Pichai, Indian-born chief executive of Google and Alphabet, took to Twitter to express his disappointment and highlight immigration’s immense contribution to America’s economic success, which made it a global leader in tech, and “also Google the company it is today”.

Microblogging site Twitter said, “This proclamation undermines America’s greatest economic asset: its diversity… Unilaterally and unnecessarily stifling America’s attractiveness to global, high-skilled talent is short-sighted and deeply damaging to the economic strength of the United States.”

SpaceX and Tesla chief Elon Musk said he “very much disagree[d] with this action”. Replying to a New York Times news alert of the Trump order, Musk said, “In my experience, these skillsets are net job creators. Visa reform makes sense, but this is too broad.”

Computing giant Microsoft president Brad Smith criticised the timing of order that could “create uncertainty and anxiety”. He said, “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.”

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The reactions came after Trump proclaimed the order to move to a “merit-based immigration” system, which will aid domestic workers who have been economically impacted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The move is expected to impact movement of Indian professionals to the US, especially those from the IT sector, doctors and researchers as Trump has suspended all types of non-immigrant work visas – H-1B, H-2B, H4, L-1, J-1 and F-1. 

Since H-1B is also widely used by universities such as Stanford University and the University of California, foreign national students will also be affected.


Also read: India braces for US restrictions on H-1B, L-1 visas, making efforts to lessen impact on firms


What other critics say

Alice G. Wells, the outgoing principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, criticised the move saying, “Knowing how to tap foreign talent is a US strength, not a weakness!”

Indian-origin Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said he was “deeply disappointed” by Trump’s “misguided” order. He urged Trump to reverse it so that the US “health care system and economy are ready to combat the next phase of this pandemic and to create the jobs” necessary. 

Similarly, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), a trade body that represents major tech giants like Google, Amazon, eBay and Dropbox, also issued a formal statement asking Trump to “reconsider his actions”.

In its statement, ITI said the move will adversely affect the US economy rather than uplift it. ITI CEO Jason Oxman said, “As U.S. companies get their employees back to work, immigrants working in the technology industry are vital to sustaining promising recovery trends, as well as supporting the United States’ ongoing response to COVID-19.”

US Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue also slammed the Trump administration. He called the order “a severe and sweeping attempt to restrict legal immigration” — one that will “push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth, and reduce job creation”.


Also read: India needs policy ‘predictability’ to be an alternative to China: US-India trade body


Indian sentiment

In India, the sentiment was similar. Debjani Ghosh, president of India’s IT industry body Nasscom, said the move will put the US economy at a disadvantage. “Recovery without access to talent is going to be an uphill challenge,” she said.

Meanwhile, some tried to help Indians in the US who will be affected by the order.

In a thread of tweets, Y Combinator’s Continuity Fund Partner Anu Hariharan offered advice to recently graduated students who were considering H-1B visas.

For instance, she suggested that “if your employer has presence outside the US, then work out of that location till your H1B gets approved”, or “instead of applying to every single job listed, make a list of 10 to 15 companies or individuals you would work for”.

Internal support

US President Donald Trump, however, found some support in his own administration, with members like Chad Wolf, secretary of Homeland Security, and US secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia endorsing the move.

In a tweet, Wolf said this will fend off “illegal aliens” from taking US jobs. He said, “For too long, frivolous & fraudulent asylum claims have been used by illegal aliens to obtain work authorization. This abuse of the system is unfair to legitimate asylum seekers, diminishes job opportunities for Americans, & disrespects the rule of law”.

In an official statement, Scalia said the Department of Labour gives full support to the move and in “strengthening wage protections and addressing abuses in the H-1B program”. She also said the department will be cooperating with the Department of Homeland Security to “identify businesses that misuse the H-1B program to the detriment of American workers”.


Also read: Covid-hit world is shutting out Indians. It will affect remittances, economies and lives


 

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