Google's Sundar Pichai was "disappointed." Apple's Tim Cook was "deeply disappointed." Elon Musk disagreed with the move "very much."
But it turns out not all CEOs are opposed to Trump's decision. In fact, a smaller group of tech companies sound utterly thrilled by the development. For example,
- the CEO of Shopify could hardly contain his excitement,
- the head of artificial intelligence firm AltaML said he was "proud" of how things were working out, and
- the head of cloud accounting firm FreshBooks said the current trend "really helps a lot."
So, what do the happy companies have in common that separates them from the bigger tech firms criticizing Trump's decision?
They're all Canadian. And if the U.S. won't take highly skilled foreign workers, they say they're champing at the bit to recruit them to their companies in cities like Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, and more.
"If this affects your plans, consider coming to Canada instead," Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke tweeted, linking to a New York Times article about Trump's decision. "Shopify is hiring all over the world and we have lots of experience helping with relocation."
Lutke, who emigrated from Germany to Canada in 2002, founded Shopify in Ottawa in 2006. (Executives at AltaML and FreshBooks spoke to the Canadian business news source Financial Post.)
In a follow-up tweet, Lutke added: "If getting [to] the US is your main objective you can still move on south after the h1b rules change. But Canada is awesome. Give it a try."
Granted, Canada's population and economy are roughly a 10th the size of the United States'. And, the Trump order has been in place only a short while, so it's hard to measure the immediate effect.
But there's also little doubt that Canada has been gaining at the expense of some U.S. companies over the past few years, because of earlier visa restrictions and a perception that the United States simply doesn't welcome immigrants.
During 2018 and 2019, Canada brought in 40,000 skilled tech workers, and there are even companies that specialize in setting up virtual subsidiaries of U.S. firms north of the border, so they can hire foreign workers but move the jobs to Canada.
In a study last year, CBRE found that Toronto was the number-one "brain gain market" in North America, meaning it had the biggest growth in technology jobs, outpacing San Francisco, New York, and Seattle.
Vancouver was fifth on the list. And, a local news report from that city was almost giddy this week, covering the prospect of even more immigration to Canada as a result of Trump's restrictions:
Canada's innovation sector says it backs up what they've been seeing since Donald Trump took office: highly skilled, highly valuable workers choosing Canada over the U.S. ... It's not just the H1B visa, [but also] uncertainty about how America's handling coronavirus, and a general atmosphere of hostility toward immigrants.
Looking at the leadership of the top U.S. tech companies, it's hard to miss the story of how legal immigration led to the development of some of the biggest and most innovative firms.
The CEOs of both Google and Microsoft are immigrants, and of course Google co-founder Sergey Brin emigrated from Russia. At Tesla, Musk emigrated from South Africa to Canada before finally reaching the United States.
And, while Jeff Bezos was born in the United States, his father was an immigrant from Cuba. If they hadn't been able to come to the U.S., it's easy to imagine another world in which they might have wound up building companies in the country to our north.
"The marketplace for the world's smartest people is competitive," Michael Petricone, senior vice president of government relations for the U.S. Consumer Technology Association told Marketplace earlier this year. "If immigrants don't come here, they're going to go someplace else. They're going to go someplace like Canada."