The ban and high tech labor
Political, legal and business arguments about President Trump's travel ban saturate the airwaves this week. The saga of the neo-Goldfinger in the White House, the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government raise Constitutional issues, the vissisitudes of Trump's daughter's clothing line (as traumatic as Margaret Truman's bad reviews), the case of the President's Pick for US Supreme Court ... drama, drama, drama. Already, we miss No-Drama Obama, and his respect for institutions and viewpoints other than his own.
One reason that compelled the state of Washington to bring suit against the travel ban is Microsoft.
Since Bill Gates relocated Microsoft from Silicon Valley to his hometown near Seattle, his firm has transformed the economy of the region. Before Microsoft, Seattle was a prosperous port but the major regional employer was Boeing, and if Boeing didn't get new contracts for whatever reason, Seattle-Tacoma suffered high unemployment. This is not to say that high tech doesn't have its ups and downs, because like Boeing, it operates in a world economy, a huge, unruly sea of finance, industry and war.
Microsoft, like all the major and even minor high tech firms has always hired the elite engineers and high tech workers from the best schools around the world. And those firms are not about to let the government of the United States, just one of their markets and not the best supplier of high tech labor in the world, block their access to the best young technical minds in the world.
Evidently the government, ruled by the wealthy scions of two New York City real estate developers, a rightwing superflak, and a few other pathetic fibbers and fabulists, doesn't realize or cannot admit that the neo-Goldfinger's base is not represented in this vast high-tech international working class. The president's base lacks the skills and the work ethic to hack it that league. Therefore, the president must dramatize in simple, incomplete sentences the resentment of his base for the hundreds of thousands of highly trained engineers, mathematicians and technologists and the venture capitalists who have had faith in the industry.
The evidence of what I am asserting is found in the US Department of Labor's labor certifications:
Requirement for U.S. employers seeking to employ certain persons whose immigration to the United States is based on job skills or nonimmigrant temporary workers coming to perform services for which qualified authorized workers are unavailable in the United States. Labor certification is issued by the Secretary of Labor and contains attestations by U.S. employers as to the numbers of U.S. workers available to undertake the employment sought by an applicant, and the effect of the alien’s employment on the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed. Determination of labor availability in the United States is made at the time of a visa application and at the location where the applicant wishes to work. -- US Citizen and Immigrant Services, https://www.uscis.gov/tools/glossary/labor-certification
From a recent Brookings study on high tech labor:
The mismatch between demand and supply of high-skilled workers points to a need for understanding the geographical distribution of the demand for foreign skills at the U.S. metropolitan level. Metropolitan areas are the locus of regional innovation clusters that utilize high-skilled labor, especially in STEM fields.13 Clusters of innovation have a regional advantage of being located near academic research institutions, R&D activity, venture capital and angel investor funding, a network of suppliers, and a critical mass of highly specialized labor force.14 From large regions such as Silicon Valley in Northern California to smaller metropolitan areas like Research Triangle Park in Durham, NC, regional innovation clusters have been fueling the global economy with new ideas and products. Regional innovation clusters, together with corporate and research hubs, rely heavily on the flow of people from the global sea of talent to fuel their metropolitan engines for growth. These U.S. metros rely heavily on the H-1B visa program, begun in 1990 to provide a means for employers to hire temporary high-skilled foreign workers in specialty occupations. -- Neil G. Ruis et al., "The Search for Skills: Demand for H-1B Immigrant Workers in U.S. Metropolitan Areas," Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, June 18, 2016. https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/18-h1b-visas-labor-...
San Jose Mercury-News
Silicon Valley tech companies argue in court filing against immigration ban
SAN FRANCISCO — Stepping up their fight against the president’s immigration ban, some of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies — Apple, Google, Facebook and others — have filed a legal brief claiming the executive order “inflicts significant harm on American businesses.”
“The Order represents a significant departure from the principles of fairness and predictability that have governed the immigration system of the United States for more than fifty years — and the Order inflicts significant harm on American business, innovation, and growth as a result,” according to the Sunday filing, which was signed by nearly 100 companies. “The Order makes it more difficult and expensive for U.S. companies to recruit, hire, and retain some of the world’s best employees. It disrupts ongoing business operations. And it threatens companies’ ability to attract talent, business, and investment to the United States.”
The immigration ban President Donald Trump signed last month, which barred citizens of Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria from entering the country for 90 days, is on hold following an order from a federal judge in Seattle. The administration has appealed that order, and now is gearing up for what is likely to be a contentious fight in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Many Silicon Valley tech executives spoke out against the ban last week in tweets, blog posts and letters to their employees. In filing the brief, they took their opposition one step further by jumping into the legal battle.
The filing is a request by the tech companies for the court to consider their amicus brief — a document typically filed in an appellate case by non-parties who have a strong interest in the case.
The Department of Justice declined to comment.
Another 31 companies added their names to the brief on Monday — including Tesla and SpaceX — bringing the total to 127.
Uber also is among the tech companies that signed the brief, which comes three days after CEO Travis Kalanick left Trump’s business advisory council under intense public pressure to step down. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, remains on Trump’s council and in a tweet over the weekend said he brought up the ban in a Friday council meeting.
Oracle and Amazon are absent from the brief, though Amazon previously had filed a declaration in support of the suit.
The tech companies argue the order is illegal because it discriminates on the basis of nationality, and it is overly broad in its reach. They also claim the order is written in a way that indicates the immigration ban could be lengthened and expanded to include people from other countries based on unspecified criteria.
“The Order says that its purpose is to ‘prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals,'” the brief states. “But the ban it imposes applies to millions of individuals who could not plausibly be foreign terrorists: hundreds of thousands of students, employees, and family members of citizens who have already been admitted to the United States; thousands of visa-holders who have already passed the Nation’s rigorous screening process; and countless peaceful individuals residing or born in the targeted countries.”
The order already has had adverse effects on American business, as employees of several major companies were ensnared by the ban, the tech companies’ lawyers wrote. That instability will make it more difficult and more expensive to hire talent from abroad, they argue — and make it more attractive for companies to set up shop overseas — as employees will not want to go through the hardship of obtaining visas and relocating their lives if there is a chance they will be stopped at the U.S. border, or prevented from returning to their homeland.
The United States is a “nation of immigrants,” and nearly half of Americans have a grandparent born somewhere else, lawyers for the tech companies wrote. They describe immigrants as the founders of huge companies and small businesses, Nobel prize winners and patent holders responsible for inventing everything from alternating current to the hot dog. Immigrants or their children founded more than 200 companies on the Fortune 500 list — including Apple and Ford — companies that generate an annual revenue of $4.2 trillion and employ millions of Americans, they wrote.
“Immigrants make many of the Nation’s greatest discoveries,” the brief states, “and create some of the country’s most innovative and iconic companies. Immigrants are among our leading entrepreneurs, politicians, artists, and philanthropists.”