A new world?
Since his election as president of the United States in 2016, the administration of Donald Trump has taken a hard stance on immigration and proposed radical measures to control and limit immigration into the country, especially targeting illegal immigrants. This is consistent with growing sentiment among the public in the United States and across Western Europe that immigrants are making it more difficult for locals to find and keep decent jobs at reasonable wages and that immigrants also impose a significant burden on public funds, in the form of social welfare programs and using public services without contributing through taxes. As an example of this increased pressure from governments, on Tuesday, September 5, 2017, the Trump administration formally announced the end of DACA — a program that had protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation (1).
The announcement provoked a strong and united response from more than a hundred Silicon Valley executives, including the likes of Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos and Apple CEO, Tim Cook (2). One of the most vocal opponents to this move towards greater isolationism has been Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook. He has openly condemned the DACA decision as well as earlier decisions by the administration to ban immigration from seven Muslim countries. Facebook is especially vulnerable to President Trump’s crackdown on immigration as according to one study, more than 15% of the company’s U.S. workers in 2016 were immigrants needing work visas (3). Facebook and other technology companies (including non-tech U.S. companies) increasingly rely on a mix of local and immigrant labor to be competitive in the global market (4) and the move by the U.S. to more isolationist policies threatens to detract from the goals of companies such as Facebook to source the best talent from around the world. Facebook’s supply chain of talent is especially exposed. The response which Facebook has taken to these issues is to engage the government and voice its concerns through petitions to the government (2) and a more concerted long term effort to push for immigration reform with lawmakers on Capitol Hill (5).
Looking forward: What options does Facebook have?
Going forward and in addition to steps already taken, I would recommend Facebook to partner with other firms in reaching out to lawmakers and providing ideas and suggestions for how an immigration deal most palatable to all stakeholders can be reached and to also invest in educating the American public on the net benefits of legal migration to the country. The general public may not be aware of studies which claim that immigrants contribute to the success of the American economy and that if, for instance, the rescission of DACA is allowed to stand, the economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions, or that immigrants play an outsized role as entrepreneurs and create millions of jobs (6). Other research suggests that more than 40% of the companies in the Fortune 500 were founded by immigrants or their children (6). Some of these firms include Amazon, Google, AT&T, Proctor and Gamble, Apple and eBay (7). Yet another study found that immigrants have started more than 50% of $1 billion start-ups in the United States (8). Another argument to be made to lawmakers and the public for easing restrictions on immigration is that America is so competitive on the global stage because of its ability to attract and retain the best talent, not only from within the United States but also from around the world (9) and that Silicon Valley faces increasing competition from cities in India, China and France, which are friendlier to entrepreneurs (10).
How much can Facebook and other companies do to adapt to a world threatening to be more isolationist? Is there merit in competing more aggressively for the best labor to be found in America? How best can the company engage with lawmakers?
(1) Trump ends DACA but gives Congress window to save it.
(2) Open Letter from leaders of American Industry.
(3) Facebook vulnerable to expected changes in key visa program.
(4) Public Policy Institute of California research paper on Silicon Valley’s skilled immigrants.
(5) Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg On Capitol Hill To Press Lawmakers On Immigration Reform.
(6) Report by New American Economy “Reason for Reform: Entrepreneurship”
(7) Immigrants made American business what it is today.
(8) National Foundation for American Policy: Immigrants and billion dollar start ups
(9) Why Silicon Valley wouldn’t work without immigrants
(10) Tensions rising in Silicon Valley over Trump’s immigration crackdown