More than a dozen of the biggest names in tech have thrown their support behind last week’s U.S. lawsuit pushing back against ICE’s proposed plans to deport any foreign students planning to attend online-only classes in the coming semester.
That’s according to a brief filed yesterday and signed by 19 different tech orgs — including the likes of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Adobe — have called the move into question, pointing out that it wouldn’t only fuck over the students they rely on for their own operations, but would also devastate the “next generation of investors.”
As the brief explains, the giants “face the additional challenge of ensuring that their headquarters teams embody the diversity of background, language, and culture needed to create and sell products and services in a host of very different markets around the world.”
These tech giants (and many others) file thousands of U.S. visas per year to keep foreign talent grinding away in their offices. More than 65% of these visas are for immigrated programmers and coders, as opposed to, say, the roughly 4% of these visas that are written for researchers in the healthcare industry.
Stripping away someone’s visa for the crime of, uh, staying indoors during a pandemic that requires social distancing wouldn’t only be a gut punch to the tech companies that rely on this outsourced labour, but to the American educational system writ large. As the Washington Post reported last week, close to 400,000 student visas were issued for the 2018 school year — and as we’d pointed out with our own coverage at the time, the two schools that spearheaded the initial lawsuit against the DHS, MIT and Harvard, have thousands of students a piece who are either on F-1 visas or nonimmigrant visas. Since then, around 60 other universities have filed their own brief to back the suit, and 17 states wrote their own separate suit over the order.
Even if the call-out suit from the Ivy League didn’t prompt federal authorities to reconsider their proposal, there’s a chance that adding these tech players actually might. After all, ICE depends on some of the tech companies named in the suit, like Microsoft and Salesforce, to keep its detention camps running smoothly — or at least, as smoothly as a detention camp can be run. With the latest leg of the suit, these companies aren’t just calling the DHS out for having a plan that kneecaps some of the most profitable companies in the tech sector today, but for also having a plan that kneecaps their own operations at the Southern border.