Big Tech backs lawsuit against Trump’s immigration decision

11 Aug 2020

The White House in Washington, DC. Image: © Danny/

Top US tech firms have raised concerns about the potential implications of Trump’s temporary ban on worker visas.

Some of the largest technology firms in the US, including Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, are backing a legal challenge against temporary restrictions on foreign worker visas, which were introduced by US president Donald Trump during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In June, Trump introduced a temporary ban on H-1B work visas, which are often used by Big Tech to attract specialist skilled workers from other countries. The ban, which is expected to stay in place until at least then end of the year, also affects H-2B visas for seasonal workers, J-1 visas for short-term exchanges, and L visas for management or executives of multinational companies.

The president’s goal was to suspend the entry of almost all immigrants to the US, claiming that the measure would ensure employers prioritise hiring people who are already in the US during the pandemic. The temporary visa ban was estimated to impact more than half a million people.

In response, a number of large tech firms have now backed a lawsuit filed by major US business associations, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the US Chamber of Commerce.

The brief argued that the visa restrictions will hurt US businesses, lead employers to hire workers outside the US and further damage the US economy. According to Reuters, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix and Twitter are among 52 companies that signed the brief.

The plaintiffs are calling for a preliminary injunction to reverse the Trump administration’s ban. The first hearing on the motions for a preliminary injunction will be held on 27 August.

Opposition to the visa ban

The brief argued that, as a result of the ban, competitors in China, Canada and India are “pouncing at the opportunity to attract well-trained, innovative individuals”, while businesses in the US are “scrambling to adjust” and hiring talent in other countries to meet their needs.

When the ban was introduced in June, Facebook claimed that the US government was using the pandemic “as justification for limiting immigration”, adding that “the move to keep highly skilled talent out of the US will make our country’s recovery even more difficult”.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, argued that immigration is critical to the nation’s success, as well as his company’s success; while Amazon, which received more than 3,000 H-1B visas in 2019, called the decision “short-sighted”.

According to Forbes, concerns have been raised about the potential for the ban to continue for another four years if Trump is re-elected in November. If that were to happen, virtually no employment-based immigrants could be allowed enter the US for an extended period.

The motion calling for a preliminary injunction on the decision includes a claim from economists that there is no economic basis for Trump’s statement that preventing the entry of immigrants will reduce unemployment in the US.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic