Silicon Valley tech firms fear President Trump's new visa ban could limit job growth

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- An executive order signed by President Trump on Monday bans certain foreign workers from the United States. Tech companies are concerned that the ban, which includes the H-1B work visa program that is widely used throughout Silicon Valley, will impact growth and investment.

"It's a very big deal because at a time when you have 35-36 million Americans out of work, you want to make sure you still have job creators being enabled to create jobs for all Americans," says Dilawar Syed, CEO of Lumiata. The company, based in San Mateo, Calif., uses artificial intelligence to provide insights to healthcare organizations.

Lumiata has used the H-1B program to hire scientists and engineers. Syed says if Silicon Valley can't hire, it will get left behind. "It's going to have an immediate impact on whether you can launch a certain product on time, if you're a startup, or a midsize company (for example)," explains Syed.

He admits that the H-1B visa program is in need of reform. But he believes the new ban is a political move by President Trump ahead of the November election, and part of the president's broader anti-immigration platform.

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President Trump says the ban is to make more jobs available for Americans out of work during the novel coronavirus pandemic. However, Peter Leroe-Munoz, Senior Vice President of Tech and Innovation Policy at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, says most high-skilled jobs in Silicon Valley have been vacant since before the COVID-19 recession, and that unemployment is much lower in high-tech compared to other industries, such as travel and hospitality.

"So really, the proposed immigration ban only serves to undermine the tech industry and doesn't really go to addressing any issues of helping Americans get jobs," says Leroe-Munoz, adding, "Foreign born workers make up 60 percent of all tech workers in Silicon Valley. So, this represents a very serious threat to the work force."

"It's a blanket action and it's very dangerous for trying to regulate a complicated place like Silicon Valley," says Robert Chapman Wood, Professor of Strategic Management at San Jose State University.

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He says if the U.S. is closed, workers and investors will go to other countries, who will then compete against American industries.

"Recently, for the first time, we have seen Canadian entrepreneurial centers being pretty competitive with Silicon Valley. (And) the Chinese and the Indians both want to have their entrepreneurial centers be the centers of the future," says Professor Wood.

The ban runs through the end of the 2020.
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