This weekend Silicon Valley stood up to President Donald Trump with many of the tech industry's most influential leaders strongly opposing his anti-immigration executive orders. But the fight on immigration is only heating up.
Despite opposition from tech leaders, President Trump is reportedly planning to issue another executive order that would overhaul many of the work-visa programs Silicon Valley heavily relies on to hire foreign workers and fill high-tech jobs. These programs include H-1B, L-1, E-2 and B1. There is a growing fear that Trump's order could reduce the number of foreign workers the tech industry can bring to the U.S. annually.
"Our country's immigration policies should be designed and implemented to serve, first and foremost, the U.S. national interest," an early draft of the order reads, according to a report by Bloomberg. "Visa programs for foreign workers ... should be administered in a manner that protects the civil rights of American workers and current lawful residents, and that prioritizes the protection of American workers -- our forgotten working people -- and the jobs they hold."
Tech leaders have opposed Trump's anti-immigration policies for a number of reasons with many of them calling the Muslim ban an immoral and discriminatory action. But principles aside, they also argue that this kind of policy -- which would impact H-1B, L-1, E-2 and B1 visas -- will cripple the tech industry's ability to hire the talent it needs.
Following reports last week about the way Trump's anti-immigration policies will affect the industry, many readers weighed in arguing that Silicon Valley should simply focus on hiring Americans first.
But while the tech industry would love to hire more Americans for these positions, there is one simple problem: the United States does not produce enough professionals to fill all of the open high-tech jobs available around the country.
There are almost five open jobs for every software developer who is looking for work, according to Yoh, a talent discovery company. In total, it is believed that about 250,000 computer science jobs alone are available at all times throughout the U.S., said Morgan Reed, executive director of ACT-The App Association. By 2020, it is expected that there will be about 1.4 million computer specialist job openings, but U.S. universities will only be able to produce enough graduates to fill 29 percent of those jobs, according to projections by the U.S. Department of Labor.
"High-technology companies need the caliber and volume of engineers countries like India and China produce because unfortunately the United States' output alone does not meet the demand of employers here," said Daniela Perdomo, CEO and co-founder of goTenna, a hardware startup based in Brooklyn.
This is why the tech industry relies on foreign workers, said Reed, whose organization represents more than 5,000 software development companies, which are based in all corners of the U.S., not just in the San Francisco Bay Area. Additionally, many immigrants who come to the U.S. to work for tech companies go on to create their own small businesses, creating more jobs in America, Reed said.
It's important "that we are able to accept that future business owner who wants to come to American, hire Americans and build a business here in the U.S.," Reed said. "Our entire nation is built on immigrants who come here and create great companies."
The programs that will be affected by Trump's planned order are not without flaw. The H-1B program in particular is known for being abused by several outsourcing companies, and there are calls from both sides of the aisles and the tech industry to overhaul that program. However, tech companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft rely on these kinds of visas to bring over workers who offer skills that tech giants cannot find from American workers alone.
"Companies like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft aren't using H1-Bs to hire low-wage bootcamp grads from other countries. They are hiring graduates from schools like IIT and Tsinghua [think MIT of India or China], and compensating those hires at the same rate as MIT grads," said Jocelyn Goldfein, an investor with Zetta Venture Partners. Goldfein was previously an engineering director at Facebook. "These immigrants create a huge amount of value and ancillary job creation."
The tech industry can surely hire more Americans -- it's no secret that the industry often ignores talented women, African Americans and Hispanics -- but it is simply not realistic to expect Silicon Valley to fill its hundreds of thousands of open jobs without the help of immigrant workers.
"The truth is, to stay competitive in a global market, U.S. businesses need to employ the best talent regardless of nationality. Imposing restrictions to visas may curb immigration but will not reduce the need for expertise which may not be available in the U.S.," said Lora Ivanova, co-founder of myLAB Box, a health startup in Los Angeles. "Many companies today already outsource various jobs and functions to deliver the best product possible. The restriction will only mean further decentralization of our labor force and the loss of tax dollars for jobs which would otherwise remain in the U.S."