What role does immigration play in the technology community? In what ways can it be harmful? How can it be helpful?
With the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, immigration has become one of the foremost issues in American politics today. His staunch anti-immigration stance has not been met with universal support from the technology community - in fact, the world’s largest tech companies - such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft - seem to think that immigration is good for them. When Trump issued an executive order banning all immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, 97 leading technology companies filed a friend-of-the-court brief to challenge it.
Here are some of their claims:
Immigrants make great executives and founders
In 2016, researchers at the National Foundation for American Policy, a nonpartisan think tank, examined the 87 privately held American startups that were valued at $1 billion or more at the time. More than half of them were found to have been founded by one or more people who had immigrated to the United States. Almost three quarters (71%) of these companies also held immigrants in critical roles on their executive teams.
- Ebay was founded by an Iranian-American born in France;
- Yahoo was co-founded by a Taiwanese-American;
- Google was co-founded by a Russian immigrant, with its current chief executive hailing from India.
- Microsoft, too, has promoted an Indian-born man to its Chief Executive position.
- Even the legendary Steve Jobs was himself was a child of immigrants.
Immigrants make great researchers and workers
Despite making up only 13% of the U.S. population, 42% of researchers at America’s leading cancer research centers are foreign-born. 40% of the Nobel Prizes in a science field (Physics, Chemistry, Medicine) awarded to U.S. researchers were awarded to immigrants.
Under an executive order issued by then-President Obama in 2012, “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA), around 700,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children have received work permits. Some 85,000 people, many of them technologists, come into the country on H-1B visas every year. Repealing DACA could cost the US economy between $280 and $433 billion in lost productivity over ten years, not to mention the further drain inflicted by potentially denying entry to some of the world’s most skilled workers.
Immigrants are needed for tech’s long-term growth
The individuals who make up the world’s largest companies, the people who are already successful, would likely be okay in the short term if all of Trump’s domestic agenda were enacted immediately. Being wealthy naturalized citizens would insulate them from the direct effects of immigration restrictions or reductions in the social safety net. Nevertheless, the tech leaders in the above-mentioned brief have come out in strong and near-unanimous opposition to the controversial orders of our current President, recognizing that stopping the extreme crackdowns on immigration is key to their own long-term survival. In this case, the world’s largest companies are acting – correctly – both selfishly and progressively at the same time.
A hard ban on immigration makes it far more difficult for companies to attract and retain top talent from around the world. Keeping the door open for them to come in will help to build a better and brighter world for everyone.
We took some strong stances here! Do you disagree? Do you think we missed any facts? Let us know in the comments below!
About Author: Max Jackson
Writer, Programmer, Brain Scientist, Unreconstituted Class Warrior