VCs, Investors Raise Concern About Trump Travel Ban

A group of 200 tech investors, venture capital firms and startups have signed a letter raising concerns about an executive order signed by President Trump that temporarily bans travelers to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The Feb. 7 letter follows a legal challenge to the executive order that has garnered support for more than 100 tech companies, including Microsoft, Google, Salesforce and others. The Trump administration is asking the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reinstate the executive order, and judges are expected to hear that arguments about the appeal on Tuesday. (See Telco Suppliers Join Trump Opposition, but Network Operators Remain Silent.)

The new letter questioning the ban was written by the National Venture Capital Association and Engine, a policy and research group that works with tech entrepreneurs. Some of the signers included large VC capital firms, such as 500 Startups and Accel, and startups such as Pinterest.

In the letters, the authors argue that large portions of the United States' technology sector are driven by immigrants, whether they are entrepreneurs, part of the venture capital ecosystem that supports startups, or workers with technical skills who need H-1B visas to come to the US.

Mr. President: Don't build that wall.  (Source: White House Muesuem)
Mr. President: Don't build that wall.
(Source: White House Muesuem)

"The order calls for the evaluation and rolling back of various worker visa and parole programs, and is based on the concerning and misguided presumption that visa programs are harmful to American workers and the broader economy. In reality, it is well-established that immigrant workers at all skill levels make a positive impact on the U.S. economy," the letter states.

The H-1B visa program is a mainstay of the technology industry and allows US companies to bring over skilled workers. However, the program has always had opponents, including labor unions and politicians from both ends of the spectrum, who believe businesses use the visa program to import low-wage workers, as well as to outsource work.

For 2017, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service, which oversees the H-1B visa program, granted about 85,000 to all US companies. However, those numbers were released in April, before the current administration took office.

The letter also asks Trump to consider the effect the ban would have on students looking to attend US universities and colleges to pursue degrees. "As anyone in a startup incubator or accelerator can attest, working in a community of the best and brightest improves outcomes for everyone involved," according to the letter.

Despite the opposition to the executive order, not all parts of the tech field are unified. As Light Reading reported Feb. 6, many US telecom companies have remained silent on the issue and have not joined in with legal briefs or offered other letters of support. (See Telcos Tight-Lipped on Trump Travel Ban as Tech Titans Take Fire.)

In the case of the Trump administration, telecoms stand to benefit from tax breaks; easing of net neutrality rules; as well as a number of high-profile mergers and acquisition that are on the table, including the $85 billion deal between AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX). (See AT&T CEO Hoping for a Trump Bump in 2017.)

— Scott Ferguson, Editor, Enterprise Cloud. Follow him on Twitter @sferguson_LR.

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