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Trump immigration ban means a war with tech

Patrick Thibodeau | Jan. 30, 2017
The visa ban unveiled Friday by the president may hit high-skilled Iranians the hardest.

Microsoft said it has identified 76 employees who are citizens of the seven countries who have a U.S. visa and are affected. But it also said there may be other affected employees who have green cards.

The seven countries cited by the Trump administration have had no role in the ongoing H-1B visa debate. In 2014, nearly 70% of all H-1B visas were issued to people born in India, according to U.S. data.

Ron Hira, associate professor of public policy at Howard University, ran an analysis of the visas issued in the 2013 fiscal year alone and found a total of 1,220 H-1B visas, new visas or renewals, from workers in all seven countries.

In that year, Iran had the largest number of visa holders, with 810. It was followed by Syria, with 280; Libya, with 53; and Iraq, at 46. The Sudan accounted for 18 visas; Yemen, 11; and Somalia, 2.

In 2013, Microsoft was the top employer of H-1B-visa workers from the seven countries, with 31. It was followed by Qualcomm at 21, and Google at 15, according to Hira.

"The Iran numbers suggest to me that it is foreign students who graduated from U.S. universities" as well as having family ties in the U.S., he said.

Iran's Foreign Ministry, in a statement carried by Iranian media, called the U.S. move "insulting" and an "open affront" and said it is considering a reciprocal response.

The Trump order also has broad impacts.

"If a company wants to hire a worker from one of those countries, they won't be able to get a visa for at least 90 days," said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law practice at Cornell University. "Foreign national employees on work visas who are temporarily overseas may not be able to return."

The Computing Research Association, in a statement, warned that the Trump order "may also discourage foreign-born researchers from bringing their talents to the U.S. in the future, which would have significantly detrimental impacts on our national competitiveness."


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