Big tech will be hit hardest by Trump's latest visa suspensions

Amazon, Google, Facebook, and other tech companies are amongst the top employers of H-1B applicants.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

President Trump announced Monday that he would suspend entry into the U.S. for some foreign workers, ostensibly as a move to bolster the hurting U.S. economy during the continued COVID-19 pandemic by opening positions that would otherwise be filled by foreigners to locals.

Trump’s presidential proclamation temporarily blocks foreign workers on H-1B visas, which are issued to skilled workers, and L visas, which are issued to managers and specialized transfer employees. Some seasonal workers on H-2B visas are also being denied entry.

The suspension begins Wednesday and exempts those already in the United States, those abroad with valid visas, and workers whose entry is deemed essential for the U.S.

The Trump administration says the suspension will open up something like 525,000 jobs for U.S. workers, though the spokesperson who quoted that figure did not explain how the administration came up with it. The ban will remain in effect for at least the rest of 2020.

Big tech is amongst the most prolific employers of skilled foreign workers, and the industry will undoubtedly feel adverse effects from the ban. Removing highly skilled foreign applicants from the hiring pool for these companies doesn’t help anyone except Trump. And it certainly doesn't help with diversity efforts, nor does it make the U.S. attractive to skilled foreigners who will now be encouraged to take their abilities, entrepreneurial skills, and ideas, elsewhere.

Tech relies on foreign workers — There’s no doubt the tech industry will be hit hardest by Trump’s proclamation. Tech companies are by far the largest employers overall of those on H-1B visas.

Amazon and Google top the list of H-1B employers, while Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, Apple, and Intel all fall within the top 10. Now, none of these companies will be allowed to hire foreign applicants for the rest of the year.

The opposite of helpful — Trump’s decision to block H-1B visas for the foreseeable future does much more harm to powerful U.S. industries than it does good for American job-seekers. There’s a fundamental misunderstanding about the hiring process at play here — one based on willful ignorance and xenophobia.

Companies put a great deal of effort into hiring overseas talent for open positions because those applicants are better than domestic ones. Eliminating foreign workers from the applicant pool just forces employers to go with backup options. Companies will now need to scramble to find suitable applicants — during a pandemic when chaos already reigns supreme.

The Trump administration is doing serious damage with this policy under the name of “job creation.” Really it will just frustrate some of the country’s largest employers and harm the U.S.’s longstanding talent cultivation pipeline. The effects of this ban will be felt for a very long time indeed. But of course, long-term vision isn't exactly the President's strong suit, so that doesn't matter.