Tech Industry Reels from Trump's Executive Orders

HR told to talk to staff, candidates as recruiting may be affected

By Aliah D. Wright Feb 3, 2017
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​Technology giants are fighting the executive order from President Donald Trump banning immigration from certain countries. On Sunday, 127 technology companies—including Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Snap—filed a friend-of-the-court brief against the ban, according to news reports. The ban will severely harm their ability to recruit and retain workers and represents "a sudden shift in the rules governing entry into the United States, and is inflicting substantial harm on U.S. companies," the court document states.

Trump's order bars people born in or who have traveled to Libya, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the U.S. for three months while his administration evaluates screening measures for refugees and immigrants.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump Administration

For more information about Donald Trump's workplace policies and how they effect HR professionals, check out the SHRM resources provided below:

· SHRM's post-election coverage
· Trump's work policies · First 100 days

But what should HR do today? Delay employees' travel plans and wait for clarification, experts say.

"I think HR needs to keep its people here," said Jon Velie, a Norman, Okla., immigration attorney and CEO of Online Visas, a global network of immigration attorneys.

"This ban adds another layer of bureaucracy that doesn't need to be there," he said. "There's a fear that people will not [want to] leave the country or come here to work. We've seen a 200-point drop in the Dow [since the ban, according to CNBC], and that's because tech companies are being frightened."

Tech companies are also evaluating reports of the president's next move: A plan reported by USA Today to overhaul the nation's work-visa programs, such as the H-1B program, which tech companies use to hire tens of thousands of foreign workers annually to fill jobs in the United States.

The policy directive—which has yet to be signed—outlines deadlines for reviewing visa categories. It reads in part:

"Our country's immigration policies should be designed and implemented to serve, first and foremost, the U.S. national interest. Visa programs for foreign workers … should be administered in a manner that protects the civil rights of American workers and current lawful residents and that prioritizes the protection of American workers—our forgotten working people—and the jobs they hold."

According to the draft of the executive order, the reforms would impact the H-1B program as well as the L-1, E-2 and B1 visa programs, possibly by setting limits on how many visas can be granted. Current regulations cap the number of employment-based visas at 85,000 annually.

Experts say the reforms would change the way U.S. companies recruit tech talent in the United States. Companies may be pressured to hire Americans before foreigners.

But there is already a tech talent shortage—even with visa allocations. According to a fact sheet published by the White House in 2016, "there were more than 600,000 technology jobs open across the United States, and by 2018, 51 percent of all STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] jobs are projected to be in the computer-science related fields. The federal government alone needs an additional 10,000 IT and cybersecurity professionals, and the private sector needs many more." As SHRM Online reported Jan. 30, by 2019, the potential shortfall of qualified professionals in the cybersecurity industry alone is estimated at 1.5 million.

Velie told SHRM Online that hiring foreign workers creates jobs for Americans.

"When Amazon, Google and Microsoft have to hire the best developers, [they also] have to hire middle management people" and employees in other divisions in support of those roles. According to Immigration and American Jobs, a report by Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan public policy research group the American Enterprise Institute and the New York City think tank Partnership for a New American Economy, "an additional 100 immigrants with advanced degrees in STEM fields from either U.S. or foreign universities is associated with an additional 86 jobs among U.S. natives."

Velie said some companies are already sending jobs to other countries. This could create what he called "a chilling effect on Silicon Valley and other areas. We could lose Silicon Valley to Vancouver."

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