A battle is brewing between Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Silicon Valley over immigration. And “The Donald” is targeting his anger at Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The issue is H-1B visas for foreign workers that are popular among tech firms, which use them to bring in skilled employees from overseas. Zuckerberg and other technology executives such as Google (soon to be Alphabet) (GOOGL) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo Finance parent Yahoo (YHOO), are calling on the government to loosen requirements for those so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) foreign workers. Zuckerberg has been especially vocal, co-founding Fwd.us, a group dedicated to advancing the political goals of tech companies.
But Trump, who has made upending the country’s immigration system a key theme of his campaign, says doing so reduces the chances of American workers-- especially those underrepresented in Silicon Valley-- from getting tech jobs. So he’s calling for rules that would require companies using H-1B employees to pay them more money.
“Raising the prevailing wage paid to H-1Bs will force companies to give these coveted entry-level jobs to the existing domestic pool of unemployed native and immigrant workers in the U.S., instead of flying in cheaper workers from overseas. This will improve the number of black, Hispanic and female workers in Silicon Valley who have been passed over in favor of the H-1B program. Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator, Marco Rubio, has a bill to triple H-1Bs that would decimate women and minorities.”
Yahoo Finance Senior Columnist Michael Santoli points out Trump’s position is creating a kind of a “strange bedfellows” situation.
“It’s a case that’s been made before by, interestingly, mostly left-wing voices to say this is a loophole of a law, it allows companies to get cheaper labor than they otherwise wouldn’t be able to find under the guise of getting scarce, skilled labor from overseas,” he notes.
But Santoli believes Trump’s notion of why tech executives want these workers might be a little misplaced.
“They want to fill jobs,” he says. “It doesn’t seem to me that it’s about a wage arbitrage situation. They simply feel they don’t have enough qualified people and need those educated workers from overseas.”
Santoli adds the H-1B issue is really nothing new.
“It’s been an industry objective for a very long time to enlarge the program because they don’t feel they don’t have enough access to foreign engineering talent,” he says. “The argument is there is a tremendous supply of overseas workers who could do these jobs that we can easily tap into. And interestingly one of the big selling points of enlarging the program is many of these folks come over here to be educated in our universities and then they go back because maybe they can’t find jobs in the industry domestically.”
When reached by Yahoo Finance, a Facebook spokesperson said the company had no comment at this time.
Note: This story has been updated to include Facebook response