- Sixty CEOs have sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen denouncing policy changes they say are harming their companies’ immigrant workers.
- The executives named several recent changes that make it more challenging for highly skilled foreign workers to renew or apply for visas, or obtain green cards.
- The letter said that ultimately these changes will make life more difficult for their immigrant employees, and likely force them to take their talents elsewhere.
Dozens of prominent CEOs have sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen denouncing several recent changes to immigration policies that they say have stoked fear among their employees and could ultimately harm US businesses.
The letter named 60 executives – including Apple’s Tim Cook, JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, BlackRock’s Larry Fink, and IBM’s Ginni Rometty – and warned the Trump administration that its policies will prompt highly skilled immigrants to take their talents elsewhere.
“As the federal government undertakes its legitimate review of immigration rules, it must avoid making changes that disrupt the lives of thousands of law-abiding and skilled employees, and that inflict substantial harm on US competitiveness,” the letter read.
Over the last year and a half, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, agency has implemented a host of changes to the country’s legal immigration system that, in many cases, make it more difficult to apply for or renew work visas, or obtain a green card.
The CEOs pointed to several key changes they said were negatively affecting thousands of employees:
- Inconsistency from immigration officers in vetting visa applications from workers who have had previous visas approved. “Now, any adjudicator can disagree with multiple prior approvals without explanation,” the CEOs wrote.
- Allowing immigration officers to immediately deny visa applications without first notifying the companies and applicants and without asking for potentially missing information to be submitted. “Companies now do not know whether a work visa petition that was approved last month will be approved when the company submits the identical application to extend the employee’s status,” the letter said.
- The looming elimination of H-4 visas, which are currently used by the spouses of skilled immigrant workers. “These spouses are often highly skilled in their own rights and have built careers and lives around their ability to contribute to companies here,” the letter said.
- Deporting immigrants whose visa renewal or green card applications are denied while they’re living in the US. The CEOs said many of their employees fear being deported “even if they have complied with immigration laws and intend to promptly depart the country.”
‘Now is not the time to restrict access to talent’
The CEOs noted that many of the employees affected by these changes have not only worked in the US for years and followed US immigration laws, but they possess valuable skills that cannot easily be found among American workers.
“At a time when the number of job vacancies are reaching historic highs due to labour shortages, now is not the time restrict access to talent,” the letter said.
USCIS has defended many of the policy changes by arguing they “protect the interests of United States workers” or “discourage frivolous or substantially incomplete” applications.
But the agency has come under fire previously for what some perceived as hostility towards legal immigrants. USCIS Director Lee Francis Cissna stoked controversy in February when he dropped the term “nation of immigrants” from the agency’s mission statement.
“Who does the agency serve? I think there’s been a misunderstanding of that one the years,” Cissna said last week. “People kind of naturally fall into the belief that the individuals that we serve are the people that we interact with every day when we take applications or petitions. I don’t think that we serve them. We serve the people.”
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