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Trump’s next immigration order could hit tech companies where it hurts

3 Feb

By Jeff Dunn

President Trump is off to a poor start with the tech industry. His temporary travel ban on seven majority-Muslim nations has drawn condemnation from nearly all of Silicon Valley’s major players, near-immediately actualizing the fears those firms had about him during his campaign.

Now, that divide looks poised to grow deeper. Bloomberg reported on Monday that Trump’s next executive order will aim to tamper the work-visa program that tech companies frequently use to hire thousands of workers each year. The move would be another step in Trump’s hardline nationalist agenda, with the aim of coercing tech companies into prioritizing non-immigrant American workers.

As we’ve noted before, Trump himself has flip-flopped on the issue, but his close aide and attorney general pick, Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, has long been a critic. Opponents of the program typically feel that tech companies abuse H-1B visas, among others, to save cash on foreign workers.

Yet, as this chart from Statista shows, the biggest tech companies that utilize the program aren’t exactly paying low wages for that labor. The fact that Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and IBM are among the 30 most prominent seekers of H-1B workers — according to tracking site — should signify how reliant the tech world is on the program. The fact that the average salaries provided in their H-1B application filings are mostly in six figures seems to refute the notion that those firms are using the visas for low-skill positions.

That said, these are just the biggest tech firms to utilize the program. The largest users are still India-based IT firms like Infosys, Tata, and Wipro; the positions they tend to fill with visa holders typically aren’t as lucrative. The working experience for some of those visa holders hasn’t always been smooth, either.