Silicon Valley is ready to take on the Trump administration should the newly inaugurated president continue to push his anti-immigration policies forward in a manner that could disrupt the industry's ability to recruit top global tech minds, according to numerous entrepreneurs and innovators.
President Donald Trump, who ran a campaign fueled by anti-immigration and isolationist rhetoric, has been quick to deliver on many of his promises of closing down the nation's borders.
"Big day planned on NATIONAL SECURITY tomorrow," Trump tweeted Tuesday night. "Among many other things, we will build the wall!"
On just his sixth day in office, Trump is expected to sign executive orders on Wednesday reducing the flow of immigrants and refugees into the country. Among the orders will be one authorizing the construction of a wall along the Mexican border, a multi-month ban on most refugees into the U.S., and the suspension of visas to anyone from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen--all of which are predominantly Muslim countries.
For those in tech, these actions skirt a line that the industry will likely not let Trump cross without a fight.
Specifically, the tech industry and its Washington lobbyists are expected to raise a clamor should the new administration show signs that it plans to reduce the number of H-1B visas given out annually. These visas are used by tech companies across the industry to plug work force gaps that cannot be filled by American talent alone.
"If we want to continue to be the great entrepreneurial and innovation beacon of the world, we will kill the golden goose faster than we can imagine if we shut our borders," says serial entrepreneur Mike Grandinetti, chief marketing and strategy officer at Reduxio, a storage startup. "The minute that we no longer make immigrants feel welcome they will take their talents elsewhere."
In the past, influential tech leaders like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have advocated for an increase of these visas. Silicon Valley is under no illusion that Trump will expand the H-1B program, but if the administration shows signs of planning to reduce these visas or otherwise make it more difficult to recruit bright foreign minds to Silicon Valley, the industry will react in a swift and broad manner, many entrepreneurs said.
If Trump does take a hard-line stance for the reduction of H-1B visas, "you will see lobbying and tech leaders using their influence as much as they can to steer the government on a different course," says Ben Parr, a tech investor, entrepreneur and the co-founder of Octane AI, a startup whose tools can be used to create artificially intelligent messaging bots.
Beyond the H-1B program, the tech industry has a love and appreciation for immigrants, who enjoy disproportionate representation among the ranks of its engineers and entrepreneurs.
"We can expect the tech industry to really have a pro-immigration stance. It's absolutely critical for continued innovation," says Billy Alvarado, chief business officer at Stripe, the payments startup that is valued at more than $9 billion.
Immigration "is something that we will always advocate for," says Alvarado, who is an immigrant from Honduras.
Many of Silicon Valley's most influential leaders are the children of immigrants or are immigrants themselves. Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was the son of an immigrant from Syria. Other notable tech immigrants include Sergey Brin, the Google co-founder who immigrated from the Soviet Union; Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai, two immigrants from India who are now the CEOs of Microsoft and Google, respectively; and the late Andy Grove, a Hungarian immigrant who co-founded Intel in the earliest days of Silicon Valley.
Even the tech CEOs closest to Trump are immigrants: Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist who served on his transition team, was born in Germany, while Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who advises Trump on the economy, moved here from South Africa.
"There is a lot of anecdotal and statistical data to show that these are good and productive members of society," says Kalpesh Kapadia, CEO of Selfscore, a financial tech startup in Palo Alto, California that helps immigrants get access to credit.
A study released last year found that of the country's 44 current unicorn companies--meaning startups with valuations of more than $1 billion--51 percent were founded by immigrants. That's important considering these immigrant founders have create an average of approximately 760 jobs per company in the U.S., according to the study, which was conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy, a nonpartisan think tank.
"When you are outside of your comfort zone and outside of the environment where you've grown up, it's always about surviving," says Kapadia, who is originally from India. "You have to make it. You have to succeed. That's the motivation, aspiration, and the drive that immigrants have."
Despite heavily opposing Trump during the 2016 campaign, tech leaders have thus far shown a willingness to give Trump a chance and work with the new president.
Many of the industry's top leaders, including Musk and Nadella, met with Trump in December in New York to discuss how the president could help Silicon Valley. Musk and several other key tech leaders, including Uber CEO Travis Kalanick (whose co-founder Garrett Camp is an immigrant from Canada), serve as business advisers to the new administration. Earlier this month, Amazon was even willing to let Trump take credit for 100,000 jobs the company plans to add over the next year and a half. But already, that patience appears to be wearing thin.
"Sigh," Musk tweeted Tuesday night a few hours after Trump's wall tweet.
That's because, aside from immigration, Trump has shown several signs that his administration may hurt Silicon Valley as much as or more than it will help it.
Trump this week signed an order pulling the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an international trade deal that could have helped tech companies more easily move products and data in and out of countries around the Pacific Ocean. Trump has also appointed Ajit Pai--who is a staunch opponent of Net Neutrality, for which the tech industry has always lobbied aggressively in Washington--as the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. And now, Trump is moving quickly on his anti-immigration platform.
A wall along the Mexico border won't cause tech much damage, but a reduction of the H-1B program will. Don't expect the tech industry to stand for it.