Silicon Valley prepares to take on Trump over immigration agenda

The president’s aggressive immigration agenda has Silicon Valley preparing to take on Mr. Trump.

At issue: H-1B visas. Companies rely on them to recruit top talent from around the world. 

“The immigration policy, in particular this visa program, is -- I think it’s very much on the table,” said Jessica Levinson, a law professor at Loyola University. “My guess is it will be changed and it is very much up in the air.” 

Trump signs order to halt immigrants from some Muslim countries

Currently, the U.S. grants visas to 85,000 foreign workers a year through a lottery. But a draft of a proposed executive order published in The New York Times this week suggests change is coming. The administration wants to “consider ways to make the process for allocating H-1B visas more efficient and ensure that beneficiaries of the program are the best and the brightest.” 

Just how the administration would do that is what concerns Mike Grandinetti, chief marketing officer at Reduxio, a digital storage startup. 

“We are looking to recruit at least 10 engineers and you know we can’t afford to slow down... to continue to stay head of the big guys,” he said.

More than half of the country’s startup companies -- worth more than a billion dollars -- were founded by immigrants. 

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is from South Africa, and two of the world’s largest tech companies, Microsoft and Google, also have immigrant CEOs.

In a statement, Google says it’s “concerned” -- a feeling now prominent in Silicon Valley. 

“Even if they’re here legally, there’s a level of paranoia,” Grandinetti said. 

The concern among some business leaders is that if tech companies can’t bring in the best workers in the world, then they just might move their operation to countries where those workers are allowed.