The technology industry is lobbying Donald Trump on a seemingly unlikely issue: Immigration reform.
The Internet Association, an industry body that represents Google, Facebook, and Amazon, among others, has sent the President-elect an open letter congratulating him on his shock win, and laying out its policy priorities — including protecting strong encryption, surveillance reform, patent reform, and immigration reform. (We saw the letter first over on The Verge.)
“The U.S. immigration system must allow more high-skilled graduates and workers to stay in the United States and contribute to our economy,” the organisation’s letter urges. “To accomplish this, the U.S. must expand and improve the Green Card program, including the creation of a STEM Green Card system.”
Donald Trump has previously wavered and made contradictory remarks when it comes to high-skilled immigration.
In March, his campaign slammed the use of H1-B skilled worker visas — a visa program heavily relied upon by the American technology industry. “The H-1B program is neither high-skilled nor immigration: these are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay,” it said in a statement. “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labour program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.”
But he has also said that he is “softening the position because we need to have talented people in this country.”
On immigration more broadly, Trump is less ambiguous. The caustic reality TV star has previously pledged to enact a complete ban on all Muslims entering the United States, called Mexican immigrants “rapists,” and pledged to build a huge wall along the United States’ southern border.
So what will President Trump mean in practice for tech companies reliant on hiring foreign talent? Like so much of his presidency, that remains unclear — and the tech industry clearly doesn’t want to get off on the wrong foot.
Much of the industry had recoiled in horror at Donald Trump’s divisive candidacy. Back in July, more than 100 tech leaders — including Twitter cofounder Evan Williams, Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar, and Box CEO Aaron Levie — signed an open letter saying Trump would be a “disaster for innovation.” Back in April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a veiled dig at the serial-bankruptcy businessman, telling an audience: “It takes courage to choose hope over fear. Instead of building walls, we can build bridges.”
But the Internet Association, whose members include Airbnb, Netflix, Spotify, Twitter, Uber, and Yahoo, is taking a more conciliatory tone. “The internet industry looks forward to working with you on policies that encourage this kind of growth, innovation, and consumer choice,” it wrote in its letter.