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Front Line: Visa Ban Upends Companies and Competitiveness

The administration’s freeze and restrictions on visas for foreign workers may only exacerbate the economic crisis brought on by COVID-19.

Q3 2020
A host of companies have been blasting the Trump administration for its extended freeze on green card visas and new restrictions on H-1B and other work visas, effective June 24th. President Trump’s position: immigrants are taking American jobs while the nation faces an economic crisis resulting from COVID-19.

The ban is set to expire in 2021 but could be extended if Trump is re-elected. While the ban does not apply to foreign workers with visas who are already in the U.S. or those outside the country who have already been issued visas, healthcare workers who treat and/or are researching COVID-19, as well as those working in the nation’s food supply chain and at tech firms, are particularly taking issue.

Tech Speaks Out
Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote on Twitter, “Like Apple, this nation of immigrants has always found strength in our diversity and hope in the enduring promise of the American dream. There is no new prosperity without both.

Google (and Alphabet) CEO Sundar Pichai, an immigrant himself, tweeted, “Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today.

Twitter wrote through its Office of Public Policy, “This proclamation undermines America’s greatest economic asset: its diversity. People from all over the world come here to join our labor force, pay taxes, and contribute to our global competitiveness on the world stage.” According to research by Dice Insights, U.S. Department of Labor figures show that Google hired 7,604 H-1B workers in 2019; Facebook, 1,521; and Apple, 836.

Strain on Innovation & Essential Workers, Too
Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, which represents many of these tech companies, stated in a press release, “The President’s latest actions to restrict American access to global talent will hurt our country’s competitiveness and will result in other countries gaining what we have lost. On the heels of the President’s action in April to limit immigration by suspending green card applications, this executive order puts even more strain on our nation’s innovators during this unprecedented time.”

This nation of immigrants has always found strength in our diversity… Tim Cook, CEO, Apple Further, Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), stated in a press release, “Leaders should be working to strengthen manufacturing in the United States, but these actions will make our industry unquestionably weaker. The reality is the visa programs targeted by this executive order boost manufacturing in America and support job creation. We will lose talented individuals to other countries, giving them an added advantage in competing against us.”

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) points out in its HR Today magazine how, before COVID-19, U.S. employers hired about 450,000 new immigrant workers per year. But it also stresses that these workers fill a wide range of jobs, from farm work, food processing, and construction to research science and medicine, and that the response to the coronavirus has brought into stark relief how essential many of these occupations are. It adds, “The current system is strongly skewed toward higher-skilled immigrants. Most employment-based green cards require a college education or advanced degree; only 5,000 are available for employers that want to sponsor low-skilled workers.”

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