Big Tech is very supportive of immigration. A sizable portion of the industry’s workforce is made up of immigrants, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai. But Big Tech doesn’t just support increasing visa caps for high-skilled foreign workers. Many in the industry also support DACA, and prominent leaders, including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, even formed a super PAC to lobby for full amnesty and citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the U.S.
The tech sector actively supported immigration before former President Donald Trump’s election, so they have also steadfastly opposed his various efforts to restrict immigration. A host of tech companies joined an amicus brief in June 2020, opposing Trump’s temporary freeze on foreign worker visas.
“These initiatives, including the H-1B, H-2B, and L-1 visa programs, help drive American growth and innovation by attracting the world’s best talent – including engineers, doctors, bankers, biomedical researchers, software developers, and tech executives – at a time when the global contest to attract skilled workers is increasingly competitive,” their brief read. It also argued suspending visas would stifle companies’ ability to attract “the world’s best talent, drive innovation, and further American prosperity.”
Dozens of tech companies also opposed Trump in 2017, when he issued an executive order barring refugees and temporarily halting visitors from several countries. Opponents denounced the anti-terrorism effort as a “Muslim ban.”
The industry’s pro-immigration efforts predated Trump’s administration. In 2014, former President Barack Obama moved to help millions of illegal immigrants. At the same time, he made some small changes to the immigration process for high-skilled workers and their families but not enough to satisfy the Silicon Valley set.
A number of tech leaders, including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, founded an immigration super PAC (FWD.us) in 2013 to “help fix our country’s harmful immigration system.” Its homepage describes the beginning of that solution as “creating the ability for the 11 million undocumented immigrants to become citizens.” The group has also lobbied for higher caps on work visas for skilled foreign workers.
- In 2020, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Salesforce and Spotify supported a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s effort to prevent foreign students from residing in the U.S. if their colleges offered only online classes (because of the pandemic).
- Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix and Twitter were among 52 companies that backed a legal challenge opposing Trump’s temporary ban on H-1B and other work visas during COVID-19. Facebook accused the administration of using the pandemic as an excuse and warned: “the move to keep highly skilled talent out of the US will make our country's recovery even more difficult." Tech CEOs Sundar Pichai, Tim Cook and Microsoft President Brad Smith all tweeted criticism of Trump’s immigration freeze.
- Dozens of tech companies signed an amicus brief with other businesses against Trump’s 2017 immigration executive order barring refugees and temporarily halting U.S. visits from citizens of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan. Signers included Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest. Amazon was listed as a witness in the case which was why it didn’t sign.
- Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sent company employees an email denouncing that same Trump policy. “This executive order is one we do not support. Our public policy team in D.C. has reached out to senior administration officials to make our opposition clear,” he wrote. He went on to say that Amazon was speaking to legislators and had “prepared a declaration of support for the Washington State Attorney General who will be filing suit against the order.”
Big Tech’s immigration lobbying group FWD.us advocates a path to citizenship for all 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and LinkedIn Founder (and current Microsoft board member) Reid Hoffman are listed among its founders. The major contributors list included even more tech people, including YouTube co-founder Steve Chen, AirBnB CEO Brian Chesky, Stan Chudnovsky and Chris Cox of Facebook, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, former Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, Google’s Eric Schmidt, Microsoft’s Brad Smith and Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom.