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Top CEOs Express Concern About Changes in U.S. Immigration Policy

U.S. President Donald Trump

Top executives of various leading firms have spoken out against changes in the Trump administration’s immigration policies, calling them a threat to company operations and the country’s economic growth.

In a letter written to Kirstjen M. Nielsen, the Secretary of Homeland Security, 59 CEOs of several companies, including Apple, PepsiCo, JPMorgan Chase and AT&T, have expressed “serious concerns” over the changes in the immigration policies.

“Inconsistent government action and uncertainty undermines economic growth and American competitiveness and creates anxiety for employees who follow the law,” the letter said. “In many cases, these employees studied here and received degrees from U.S. universities, often in critical STEM fields.”

The letter, dated Aug. 22, was coordinated by the Business Roundtable, a Washington-based group of chief executive officers of major U.S. corporations formed to promote pro-business public policy.

It was signed by dozens of business leaders including Apple Inc.’s Tim Cook, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon and Pepsico Inc.’s Indra Nooyi.

The letter pointed out the current issue of a huge backlog in clearing of green card applications. “Due to a shortage of green cards for workers, many employees find themselves stuck in an immigration process lasting more than a decade,” it said. “These employees must repeatedly renew their temporary work visas during this lengthy and difficult process. Out of fairness to these employees — and to avoid unnecessary costs and complications for American businesses — the U.S. government should not change the rules in the middle of the process.”

The several policy memoranda issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) cause “anxiety for employees who follow the law,” the executives said.

“On October 23, 2017, USCIS rescinded its long-standing ‘deference’ policy under which the government issued consistent immigration decisions unless there was a material change in facts or there was an error in the prior government decision. Now, any adjudicator can disagree with multiple prior approvals without explanation,” the letter stated.

The CEOs further talked about the other controversial issues, such as revoking work authorization eligibility for the H-4 visa holding spouses of H-1B employees, who can further contribute to companies in the United States. Saying that these spouses are “often highly skilled in their own rights,” they added that revoking their U.S. work authorization will “likely cause high-skilled immigrants to take their skills to competitors outside the United States.”

The also highlighted the fear of deportation that employees are facing now due to policy changes. “Our employees are concerned that they will face removal proceedings even if they have complied with immigration laws and intend to promptly depart the country,” the letter said.

The CEOs appealed to the government to avoid making sudden changes in the immigration policies, which can “disrupt the lives of thousands of law-abiding and skilled employees,” and “inflict substantial harm on U.S. competitiveness.”

The letter pointed out that the job vacancy rate in the United States is at its highest now, hence losing workers will not be beneficial to maintain company operations.

“At a time when the number of job vacancies are reaching historic highs due to labor shortages, now is not the time restrict access to talent,” the letter said.

The USCIS said that the “administration has been relentlessly pursuing necessary immigration reforms that move towards a merit-based system,” CNN reported. “USCIS is committed to reforming employment-based immigrant and non-immigrant immigration programs so they benefit the American people to the greatest extent possible,” it quoted USCIS spokesperson Michael Bars was quoted saying.

Global tech giants such as Apple, Google and Microsoft had earlier spoken up against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Children Arrival (DACA) program, and pledged to stand by their employees.