Amazon slams Trump’s new visa ban as ‘short-sighted’ risk to American competitiveness

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President Donald Trump’s signature on an executive order further restricting immigration to the U.S. hardly had time to dry before Amazon issued a sharp rebuke of the policy Monday afternoon.

The order blocks foreign-born talent from immigrating to the U.S. on several categories of work visas in an attempt to prioritize American workers in the economic recovery from the pandemic. It’s a headache for big technology companies that use the visas to recruit international talent.

The U.S. government awarded more H-1B visas to Amazon than any other company in fiscal year 2019 and the company is not pleased about the policy change. A spokesperson shared this statement with GeekWire about the order:

“We oppose the Administration’s short-sighted action. Preventing high skilled professionals from entering the country and contributing to America’s economic recovery puts American’s global competitiveness at risk. The value of high-skilled visa programs is clear, and we are grateful for the many Amazon employees from around the world that have come to the U.S. to innovate new products and services for our customers. Welcoming the best and the brightest global talent to the U.S. is more important than ever, and we will continue to support efforts that will preserve their ability to strengthen our economy.”

Microsoft President Brad Smith echoed Amazon’s comments on Twitter.

The policy extends a moratorium on green card authorizations that Trump implemented in April, adding more categories of employment-based visas to the ban.

Trump’s order suspends entry of immigrants on an H-1B, H-2B, and L visa and their companions. It also covers certain types of J visas, like au pairs and camp counselors. The order applies to visa holders who are outside of the U.S. when it takes effect on June 24 and visa applicants whose work authorization has not yet taken effect. The order does not apply to any lawful permanent residents of the U.S. Workers deemed “essential” during the pandemic, such as the food and agriculture sector, are exempt.

The order is set to remain in place through Dec. 31, 2020. Trump instructed the Department of Homeland Security to review the policy within 30 days of June 24 — and every 60 days after that — to recommend any modifications deemed necessary.

Trump said that the employment-based visa program “presents a significant threat to employment opportunities for Americans affected by the extraordinary economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak” in the executive order.

But Trump’s record of curbing legal immigration since the beginning of his presidency has critics doubting whether the policy is really motivated by the COVID crisis.

“The Trump administration has been ratcheting up work visa restrictions from the beginning, when unemployment was low,” said Doug Rand, co-founder of the Seattle startup Boundless Immigration and a former Obama White House official. “The pandemic is just a pretext to continue pursuing an extreme agenda of restriction that most Americans oppose.”

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