Wave of Tech Startups, Investors Protest Trump’s Immigration Plans




It took just a few hours after a letter protesting President Donald Trump’s immigration restrictions went out for dozens of tech entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and trade groups to ask that their names be added to the list of opponents.

Over 200 signatories from the startup and investment community joined a Feb. 7 letter to the White House, expressing concerns about Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order banning entry of immigrants and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

The letter also pushed back against plans outlined in a leaked draft of another executive order, dated Jan. 23, that would deeply impact the industry with new restrictions on high-skilled worker visas, immigrant entrepreneurs and foreign students graduating from U.S. universities.

The request that other groups be added is “a recognition that because this new proposed executive order on visa issues could have such a large detrimental impact on the tech sector, people want to have a voice and make sure the startup perspective in particular is being recognized,” Evan Engstrom, executive director at Engine, a tech startup advocacy group, told Bloomberg BNA.

The tech industry has been among the most vocal in lashing out at Trump’s ban, which has been lifted, at least temporarily, as legal challenges play out across several states. On Feb. 6, more than 120 mostly tech-focused companies – including Apple and Facebook – submitted an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco, stating that the executive order damages their ability to recruit top talent.

As of last year, over half of U.S. startups valued at $1 billion or more were founded by immigrant entrepreneurs, according to 2016 data from the National Foundation for American Policy. Companies such as Google, Tesla and PayPal were launched by foreign-born innovators.

For start-ups and smaller tech companies who lack deep pockets to lure talent with high salaries, or cover immigrant recruits’ legal fees, restrictions on the H-1B high-skilled visas, as laid out in the leaked draft order, are particularly worrisome.

The draft would appear to reverse an Obama-era rule that created a legal pathway for foreign-born entrepreneurs to launch their businesses in the U.S. Foreign students with degrees from U.S. universities would also face new restrictions when trying to enter the workforce, according to the draft.