President Biden’s administration is only a few days old, but some of tech’s biggest CEOs have come out in support of his potential immigration policies. Those policies, in turn, could have a significant impact on how tech companies hire over the next four years.
Some of Biden’s first executive orders included rescinding the ban on travel from countries with a Muslim majority, as well as an extension of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). However, the administration has yet to announce the details of immigration policies that more directly impact the tech industry.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai delivered his statement via Tweet:
We applaud @POTUS's quick action on COVID relief, the Paris Climate Accord, and immigration reform. Google has supported action on these important issues & we look forward to working with the new administration to help the US recover from the pandemic + grow our economy.— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) January 20, 2021
Twitter also issued a statement praising Biden’s DACA executive order. “We’ll continue to advocate for policies that support and recognize the important contributions of immigrants,” it added.
The @POTUS DACA Executive Order signed this evening delivers hope for #Dreamers. Diversity makes the US, our company, and our world better — we’ll continue to advocate for policies that support and recognize the important contributions of immigrants. https://t.co/ZsZi7CHPcL— Twitter Public Policy (@Policy) January 20, 2021
Not every tech titan used Twitter to deliver a message to the new administration. Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a statement asking Biden to reform the current immigration system:
"We welcome President Biden’s commitment to pursuing comprehensive immigration reform that reflects the American values of justice, fairness and dignity. This effort will strengthen American communities and the pathways to opportunity this country has long fostered… In the weeks and months to come, business leaders look forward to working with the Administration, as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress, to achieve bipartisan, practical and comprehensive solutions to fix our broken immigration system, including a permanent solution for Dreamers that includes a path to citizenship.”
FWD.us, an advocacy and lobbying group that pushes for expanded immigration, issued a lengthy statement that also pushed for reform (and echoed the term “broken immigration system”). Here’s the opening paragraph:
“We are thankful that President Biden and Vice President Harris are following through on their commitment to send a bill to Congress to fix our broken immigration system, centered on a pathway to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants with deep roots in our communities and who are vital to the response and recovery from COVID-19. This is an opportunity for the new Administration and for our Congress to restore the U.S.’ moral leadership, do right by the millions of hardworking immigrants who have helped keep all of us safe and cared for during the COVID-19 pandemic, and keep families safe and together. This is just a first step. What needs to happen in short order is the House and Senate must move legislation that is signed into law.”
During his campaign, Biden’s campaign website suggested that he would “increase the number of visas offered for permanent, work-based immigration based on macroeconomic conditions” and “exempt from any cap recent graduates of PhD programs in STEM fields.” How that will translate into actual policy, though, remains to be seen. His campaign also made a pledge to “protect wages and workers.”
At the very end of the Trump administration, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a so-called Final Rule that raised the wage minimums for H-1B, H-1B1, and E3 visas. The DOL planned on phasing in those changes over a multi-year period, in order to minimize the disruption to businesses, but it’s clear that raised wages (if the Biden administration allows them to continue) could impact the business-services and consulting firms that hire lots of H-1B workers and then subcontract them to other firms.
The wage increases could end up impacting tech companies, as well. Whatever the Biden administration decides to do (and however much it listens to the tech industry’s advocacy), it might be years before its own policies begin to have an impact. One thing to keep watch on: The denial rate for H-1B applications, which spiked under the Trump administration and could potentially change depending on Biden’s decisions.