This is where Canada’s “Waterloo” conducts a silent coup against Silicon Valley, thanks to the use of immigration as a political punching bag in the United States, and yet another move against foreignw workers by the Trump administration.
The American tech industry is already reeling from the effects of a lack of homegrown talent at a time when the United States is ostensibly in war for technological dominance–the only kind of dominance that matters right now.
Now, it will be in bigger trouble.
On Monday, President Trump signed an executive order to suspend several temporary work visas for skilled workers, managers and au pairs through the end of the year, proclaiming: “Under the extraordinary economic contraction from the Covid-19 outbreak, certain nonimmigrant visa programs pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.”
This move follows a similar one In May, when Trump issued a temporary halt on new green cards, which was set to expire Monday but stopped short of suspending guest worker programs amid concerns from the business community.
Faced with protests, COVID crisis, slow economic recovery, plunging approval ratings and criticism of his overall handling of the pandemic, Trump is turning to his tried and true method of reanimating his support base–attacking immigration.
According to the White House officials, the goal of the move is to protect 525,000 jobs and is part of its response to job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Since the start of the pandemic, 46 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits, but they originate from very few professions covered in Monday’s executive order.
The order applies to H-1B visas, which are designed for certain skilled workers such as those employed in the tech industry and researchers, as well as L-1 visas, which are meant for executives who work for large corporations.
Unsurprisingly welcomed by hardlines, the tech industry is up in arms. Immigrant tech labor, they say, could speed up economic recovery, and the executive order will thus backfire profoundly.
Amazon called the order “short-sighted”.
Tech companies have been at odds with Trump over immigration since his first days in office. Silicon Valley has clashed with him over travel bans, as well as his crackdown on immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, known as Dreamers.
Just last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration could not carry out its plan to shut down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has allowed nearly 800,000 young people to avoid deportation and remain in the U.S. But it’s more than likely only a temporary victory–November 2020 elections aside.
What the business community is concerned about is this: America will lose the tech war if it bans immigration for specialized workers.
In the first 20 days of March alone, when the federal government rolled out a new streamlined H-1B visa process, employers sought to hire 275,000 foreign workers, nearly half of them foreigners with advanced degrees from U.S. universities. As it stands, there is a cap of 85,000.
Data shows that in 2018, immigration officials denied nearly one out of every four requests for new visas for skilled foreign workers. That’s the highest denial rate for new H-1B visa applications in nearly 10 years.
But the reality is that America was losing the global tech dominance war even prior to the pandemic.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the Trump administration’s crackdown on foreigners is Canada, followed by Australia, Germany and a handful of Asian nations. Instead, the U.S. has become a training ground for the rest of the world’s high-tech workforce.
Silicon Valley is succumbing to this new reality, with companies opening offices in Canada’s ‘Tech Triangle’ at Waterloo to tap tech talent, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon.