Earlier this month, the administration of Donald Trump postponed the enactment of the International Entrepreneur Rule, a program that would grant foreign business people the temporary ability to found companies in the United States. The ultimate goal, the administration announced, is to rescind the rule.
The move rankled the tech industry, which owes much of its plenitude to the work of enterprising immigrants. “Steve Jobs might never have been born,” many doting technocrats have ruminated, if his father hadn’t been able to come to the United States from Syria. AOL co-founder Steve Case lambasted the decision as a “big mistake,” and venture capitalist Bobby Franklin told the Los Angeles Times the development stems from “a fundamental misunderstanding of the critical role immigrant entrepreneurs play in growing the next generation of American companies.”
This sentiment is hardly new. Silicon Valley has a history of lobbying for immigration rights, which has culminated in a number of technocratic Obama-era bills, including the Immigration Innovation Act and the Startup Act.
Since Trump’s xenophobic ascent, however, the industry’s efforts to preserve its workforce have grown more visible, galvanized by the shock of such unprecedented threats to its talent as the travel ban targeting Muslim-majority countries. Tech titans condemn Trump while lauding immigrant technologists, parading their own potential to maintain the country’s diversity, boost its productivity and ensure opportunities for industrious immigrants in what have proven to be trying times.
Yet, when sifted through the Silicon Valley filter, immigration reform takes a disingenuous turn.
Among the tech industry’s chief targets is the H-1B visa, which allows US companies to temporarily employ foreign workers in “specialty occupations,” such as engineering, medicine or accounting. Tech lobbyists have long implored authorities to ease H-1B restrictions, claiming concern over a dearth of domestic engineers.