Last Friday, President Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) that temporarily blocks the entry of nonimmigrants from certain countries, including those who have temporary work or student visas. The stated purpose of the EO is to protect the nation from terrorists, a goal the White House seeks to accomplish by targeting certain countries.
Unfortunately, the EO has swept up our co-workers, family members, and neighbors, leaving scores of travelers stranded on foreign soil with uncertain prospects for recourse. The EO affected many workers in the software industry, and innovators around the nation are feeling the impact.
A significant number of software companies, including those that make apps, rely on the best and brightest workers from overseas. Small companies in particular value the ability to sponsor the entry of nonimmigrant software developers. These talented workers help drive the innovative products and services that define the robust app economy, which in turn creates more high-paying American jobs. Small companies undergo extremely onerous vetting processes to meet the paperwork and due diligence requirements to ensure these workers have proper visas. Many app companies are willing to bear these costs in order to grow and strengthen the American economy.
The EO allows the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State to grant, on a case-by-case basis, visas to nonimmigrants from the target countries, if it is in the “national interest” to do so. Building in exceptions is necessary, but we are hopeful that the exception framework can be significantly improved. The concept of a separate review for each person who has been blocked under the EO conjures images of families waiting for the green light to return home as bureaucrats deliberate. We’ve already seen some of these scenarios unfold. This is simply no way to treat our co-workers and neighbors.
Instead, at the very least, nonimmigrant visa holders should be allowed an expedited approval process where they have already been vetted by federal agencies and clearly pose no national security threat. Microsoft has submitted such a proposal to the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, suggesting that they adopt a standing exception for “Responsible Known Travelers with Pressing Needs.”
Among other requirements, the Microsoft proposal provides that a person from one of the target countries could be admitted if he or she 1) has a valid work or student visa and supporting documents, or be a family member of such a visa holder; 2) has committed no crime in the United States; or 3) is applying to depart the United States and subsequently re-enter, so long as the trip is for business and not through one of the covered countries or is a family-related emergency (which would be subject to a case-by-case determination).
This proposal is a not only a step in the right direction, it presents an opportunity to begin thinking about how to ameliorate the impacts the EO has had on our workplaces and communities. We support the petition and hope this engagement with the Trump administration yields a discussion that produces a positive outcome for foreign workers, their families, and the app developers who depend on their great contributions.