The National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) on Tuesday said the move by the U.S. to bar the entry of certain non-immigrants into America was “misguided and harmful to the U.S. economy”. Technology giants Google, Microsoft and Twitter also echoed similar views, opposing the proclamation.
Pointing out that virtually every segment of the American economy, including manufacturing, technology, accounting and medicine, employs skilled workers from other countries for innovation, productivity, and skill, the industry body said that the U.S. administration should shorten the duration of the restrictions to 90 days.
“We urge the Administration to shorten the duration of these restrictions to 90 days. Lengthening these burdensome restrictions on U.S. companies that are trying to recover from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic will only serve to harm our economy,” Nasscom said in a statement.
Ahead of the November presidential elections, U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday issued a proclamation to suspend issuing foreign work visas for the rest of the year, including H-1B visas that is popular among Indian IT professionals.
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Meanwhile, Sundar Pichai, CEO at Google and Alphabet, tweeted, “Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today. Disappointed by today’s proclamation — we’ll continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all.”
Brad Smith, president at Microsoft, tweeted, “Now is not the time to cut our nation off from the world’s talent or create uncertainty and anxiety. Immigrants play a vital role at our company and support our country’s critical infrastructure. They are contributing to this country at a time when we need them most.”
Twitter’s public policy handle also tweeted opposing the proclamation. “This proclamation undermines America’s greatest economic asset: its diversity. People from all over the world come here to join our labour force, pay taxes, and contribute to our global competitiveness on the world stage.”
Twitter added, “Unilaterally and unnecessarily stifling America’s attractiveness to global, high-skilled talent is short-sighted and deeply damaging to the economic strength of the United States.”
Nasscom said that with very few exceptions, Indian nationals and others who were granted new H-1Bs or L-1s as well as other visa types after June 23, would not be allowed to enter the U.S. until the proclamation expired.
It added that coming on the heels of the problems created by the coronavirus crisis and the USCIS and DOS office closures that had delayed the processing of visas and made it difficult, if not, impossible at times to travel to or from the U.S., this new proclamation would prevent our companies and thousands of other organisations from accessing the talent they needed from overseas.
Reiterating the critical role played by highly skilled non-immigrants, Nasscom said without their continued contributions to the U.S. economy, the economic pain would worsen, industry would slow, and the timeline for a treatment and cure of COVID-19 would lengthen. “Moreover, the people who come to the United States on H-1B and L-1 visas pay taxes and contribute to their communities and to local economies in myriad other ways as well,” it said.
“Even though our companies have hired tens of thousands of Americans and invested billions of dollars in recent years, they, like others in the sector, utilise such high-skilled individuals to service their clients. This new proclamation will impose new challenge and possibly force more work to be performed offshore since the local talent is not available,” the industry body said.
Nasscom further pointed out that thousands of U.S. corporations, universities, medical facilities, research institutions, directly and through their associations had asked the President not to take such action because of the harm it would do now and going forward as the country reopened and recovered. Such sentiments were also echoed by dozens of Republican and Democratic members of Congress and Governors, it said.
Business groups, including Nasscom, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Medical Association, Compete America, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Association of American Universities had written to the President that policies such as these undercut the ability to grow and create jobs, inhibit the provision of critical infrastructure services, and add burdensome new regulatory requirements and costs.
“American workers are facing greater challenges than they have in years, but that does not mean that talent shortages do not continue to exist. Despite national unemployment trends across the economy, the National Foundation for American Progress found that the unemployment rate for computer professionals actually went down from 3% in January 2020 to 2.8% in April 2020, according to its analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey,” Nasscom noted.
It also expressed hope that the Administration would rethink its stated plans to move forward on a series of regulatory changes that would place additional restrictions and costs on visa programmes while doing little more than amplifying the harm already being done to the U.S. economy.
“In this time of COVID-19 crisis and recovery, the Administration’s policies that impact American businesses should follow the oath taken by healthcare professionals: first do no harm,” Nasscom said.