The White House’s executive order on immigration has prompted pushback from numerous American companies because of the implications it will have on their employees. Although the order was meant to protect the country, its haphazard enforcement jeopardizes the competitive advantage of some of the leading American companies – which, in turn, will impact American workers.
Both sides of the aisle have long agreed that the nation’s immigration system is broken and in need of an overhaul (how to do so, of course, is where the parties diverge). In national polls, immigration is regularly in the top 4 or 5 issues listed – and it’s an issue that also motivates voters, as the 2016 presidential election demonstrated. Throughout the campaign, President Trump emphasized strong borders and enforcement, which resonated with the electorate. Unfortunately, the President’s first executive order on the issue has been interpreted in an overbroad way and put our international competitiveness at risk.
Companies based in the United States have led the world in technological innovation for a long time, and our leadership has attracted the best and brightest from other countries to come here; now, some of those tech industry leaders are petitioning the Trump Administration to use its executive enforcement discretion to uphold our competitive advantage by not prohibiting some of its employees from travel to and from the United States.
Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon – among others, even in traditional manufacturing sectors – have sent an open letter to the Administration urging enforcement discretion for some of their employees who may be affected by the executive order. They argue that their employees who may be affected are those who hold permanent legal status through their visas, and their travel – for leisure, or to see family – could impact their work environment.
Microsoft, in particular, made a more specific and separate case from the general letter. The tech company’s chief legal officer wrote that they have 76 employees whose permanent work location is in the United States who may be impacted by the order, and of some heartbreaking conditions – cases where parents have been separated from their children, or where an employee has a critically ill family member abroad that they may be prohibited from visiting.
American economic superiority has long been premised on inviting the best and brightest from around the world to the United States to help build products and companies that make lives better for all Americans. While it’s important to have secure borders and, particularly, to vet refugees and asylum-seekers from destabilized parts of the world, it’s another matter to apply the same standards to those who have longstanding legal status to live and work in the United States. It’s important to preserve these norms – and to make sure that, in the future, the best and brightest still know that the United States is open for business.
Nicole Neily is the President of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a nonprofit that publishes public-interest journalism at Watchdog.org.