Immigration has been a driving force behind many of the leading technology companies in the United States.
Some, including Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), are led by CEOs who were not born in this country while over 200 companies on the Fortune 500 were started by immigrants or their children. In addition most top tech brands are global, with offices all over the world, and talent working domestically that was not born in the U.S.
At least partly because of that nearly 100 technology companies including Microsoft, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL), Facebook, Twitter, and many others have filed a legal brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit opposing President Donald Trump's temporary immigration ban keeping people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. In the brief the companies argue that the ban "inflicts significant harm on American business."
What are they opposing?
In one of his first acts as president, Trump signed an executive order banning refugees and visa-holders from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. That order has been stayed by a U.S. District judge and an appeals court declined to immediately reinstate the presidential order. The technology companies, many of which operate and employ workers in and from the impacted countries filed their brief to show their opposition to the president's actions.
"Immigrants make many of the Nation's greatest discoveries, and create some of the country's most innovative and iconic companies," the brief states. "America has long recognized the importance of protecting ourselves against those who would do us harm. But it has done so while maintaining our fundamental commitment to welcoming immigrants -- through increased background checks and other controls on people seeking to enter our country."
The companies that signed the brief acknowledged what Trump was, at least on the surface, trying to accomplish with the executive order.
"We share your goal of ensuring that our immigration system meets today's security needs and keeps our country safe," said a draft of that letter obtained by Bloomberg News. "We are concerned, however, that your recent Executive Order will affect many visa holders who work hard here in the United States and contribute to our country's success."
Tech requires global talent
Putting aside any political questions, the tech industry opposes Trump's immigration ban in part because it takes global talent to compete. The U.S. simply does not produce enough workers -- specifically coders who write the software that powers the products made by these companies -- to meet demand.
To fill those needs companies across the U.S. use H1B visas to receive special dispensation to hire workers who otherwise would not be able to legally work in the country. A H1B visa, according to MyVisaJobs.com, allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign professionals in specialty occupations for three years, extendable to six years. "To qualify for H1B Visa, the foreign professional must hold a bachelor's or higher degree from an accredited college or university in the specialty occupation," according to the site. In some cases specialized training can be substituted for a degree.
Technology companies dominate the list of employers using workers on H1B visas. Data compiled by MyVisaJobs.com shows that in 2016 Infosys held the top spot, having sponsored 25,405 visas. while Microsoft, Apple, and Alphabet were all in the top 25.
It's about more than self interest
It's easy to see the business reasons behind why these technology companies oppose Trump's immigration restrictions. Most, if not all of the companies that filed the brief would be impacted by having employees unable to travel and in some cases the executive order would impact hiring.
For at least some of these companies, however, the opposition goes beyond pure business logic. Many of these brands were either founded by immigrants or by the children of immigrants and immediate business concerns aside, they simply want a world where new immigrants to the U.S. can be free to move here and found the next Microsoft, Apple, or Alphabet.