As companies deal with the fallout from Donald Trump’s executive order that restricts entry to the US from seven predominantly Muslim countries, it looks like there could be further changes in store for work immigration visas.
While this second executive order is still a draft, it would cover a number of visa programs, including the H-1B program that is popular with tech companies, and the L-1, E-2, and B1 visa programs.
A copy of the order obtained by Bloomberg shows companies would have to prioritize hiring American workers, or if foreigners were hired, the most highly compensated would be prioritized.
“Our country’s immigration policies should be designed and implemented to serve, first and foremost, the U.S. national interest,” the draft says.
“Visa programs for foreign workers…should be administered in a manner that protects the civil rights of American workers and current lawful residents, and that prioritizes the protection of American workers — our forgotten working people — and the jobs they hold.”
Bipartisan Support For Overhaul
Reform of these visas has already been brought forward by politicians on both sides of the aisle. While large tech companies rely on H-1Bs to bring in top talent, they are mainly used by large outsourcing companies.
The current legislation caps H-1Bs at 85,000 a year, and the program is highly oversubscribed.
Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren has called for reform which would curtail what she describes as “outsourcing abuse” of the program by adding in higher salary requirements to make the visas more competitive.
Last week, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Democrat Senator Dick Durbin submitted legislation aimed at increasing enforcement and modifying wage requirements.
“Reforming the H-1B and L-1 visa programs is a critical component of fixing our broken immigration system and must be included in comprehensive immigration reform legislation. For years, foreign outsourcing companies have used loopholes in the laws to displace qualified American workers and facilitate the outsourcing of American jobs. The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act would end these abuses and protect American and foreign workers from exploitation,” Durbin said in a statement.
Corporate backlash across the country
Trump’s original executive order sets new barriers banning immigration from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia.
The tech community has been most vocal in its opposition to the bans, as many employees of startups and tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Apple are affected.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the company would continue to advocate in favor of immigration.
“As an immigrant and as a CEO, I’ve both experienced and seen the positive impact that immigration has on our company, for the country, and for the world,” Nadella said in a post on LinkedIn.
Google has pledged $4 million to support efforts by four nonprofit organizations to fight the executive order and assist those affected.
But it’s not just liberal tech companies in opposition. Ford Motor Company CEO Mark Fields and Executive Chairman Bill Ford have released a statement opposing the immigration order, despite no employees being directly affected.
“Respect for all people is a core value of Ford Motor Company, and we are proud of the rich diversity of our company here at home and around the world. That is why we do not support this policy or any other that goes against our values as a company,” the statement read.
Fields is a member of Trump’s manufacturing council and had previously been supportive of the president’s comments.
Muhtar Kent, the CEO of the world’s largest seller of soft drinks, Coca-Cola, said the policy was “contrary to our core values and beliefs.”
“As a US company that has operations in more than 200 countries and territories, we respect people from all backgrounds and greatly value the diversity of our global system’s more than 700,000 associates,” Kent said in a statement.
Coca-Cola joined Starbucks, Nike, and Chobani, among many other companies, in vocally opposing the order.
Coffee Support for Refugees
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has vowed to hire 10,000 refugees from around the world, issuing a letter detailing how he plans to do so.
“There are more than 65 million citizens of the world recognized as refugees by the United Nations, and we are developing plans to hire 10,000 of them over five years in the 75 countries around the world where Starbucks does business. And we will start this effort here in the U.S. by making the initial focus of our hiring efforts on those individuals who have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel in the various countries where our military has asked for such support,” he wrote.
The hashtag #BoycottStarbucks started trending on Twitter after the release of the letter, calling for the coffee chain to focus on hiring more Americans.
The US labor market is currently seen as being close to full employment, with the unemployment rate near a nine-year low of 4.7 percent.
Unemployment claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 99 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch since 1970.