Monday, 6 March 2017

Trump’s Immigration Policy Threatens Asians Working in Silicon Valley

In Silicon Valley, where 60 percent of foreign-born individuals hail from India, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and other Asian countries, the outcry against President Trump's anti-immigration stance has been especially high-profile. And the latest immigration rules, rolled out in the last few days, have many communities on edge.

On Friday, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency announced that it would suspend the H-1B visa program, one of the main routes to employment for immigrants sponsored by tech companies. Then Trump signed a new executive order on Monday banning entry from six countries: Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

These new rules will weaken the Asian community in the US, and its powerful contribution to the technology industry in the US. Throughout 2015, Asians made up 27 percent of the workforce at Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, LinkedIn, and Yahoo (though they were underrepresented in managerial and executive-level positions). In recent years, they've also made gains in the C suite with Google's Indian-born CEO, Sundar Pichai, and Microsoft's Indian-born CEO, Satya Nadella.

Microsoft, Google and Amazon were in the top 20 companies that sponsor immigrant workers through H-1B visas, according to My Visa Jobs. But less visibly, thousands of low-paid foreign workers on H-1B visa programs also work to keep Silicon Valley running. Many work as janitors, security guards, maintenance employees, or cooks to support their families. And often for a less-than-livable wage.

When the first wave of travel ban and immigration rules was announced under the Trump administration, more than 100 tech companies, included Apple and Facebook, joined together to sign an amicus brief opposing the executive order. These companies are likely to speak out again since the latest rules are just slightly scaled-back versions of those announced earlier, though several of them also seek to benefit from the Trump administration.

"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 read. "It disrupts ongoing business operations. And it threatens companies' ability to attract talent, business, and investment to the United States."

Meanwhile, the administration's crackdown on undocumented workers will also upend the communities in and around Silicon Valley. There are an estimated 1.6 million undocumented Asian immigrants in the valley—a number that may be surprising to some—according to AAPI Data. They account for roughly 14 percent of the entire undocumented population, and have remained largely invisible compared to other minority diaspora.

"Undocumented immigration is clearly not just a Latinx issue, but also a deep AAPI [Asian American and Pacific Islanders] one too," Gregory Cendana, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), told Motherboard.

Trump's newest immigration rules, which seek to deport anyone in violation of immigration laws, not just those with criminal records, will impact almost all immigrant communities. The measures detailed in two Department of Homeland Security memos introduced in February outline a policy that looks similar to President Obama's, but with greater and more severe law enforcement mandates.

Together, first and second-generation Asian Americans (in many cases, children and their immigrant parents) amounted to 37 percent of their racial demographic in 2012, a Pew Research Center census found. The combination of stripped-down visa programs and law enforcement will undoubtedly alter the communities that comprise Silicon Valley, and weaken some economic sectors supported by Asian immigrants. 

But maybe that's what Steve Bannon wants

from Trump’s Immigration Policy Threatens Asians Working in Silicon Valley

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