A ‘not welcome’ sign won’t help: Companies react with anger to visa restrictions.
President Trump on Monday suspended new work visas through at least the end of the year. The sweeping order denies employment permits for hundreds of thousands of skilled foreign workers, like programmers. Seasonal hospitality workers and work-study students are also affected.
The president cited the pandemic, saying that the visa programs “pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.”
The business world reacted with anger. “Putting up a ‘not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers won’t help our country, it will hold us back,” said Thomas Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Technology firms, which account for the bulk of H-1B visas, were particularly aghast. “This is a full-frontal attack on American innovation and our nation’s ability to benefit from attracting talent from around the world,” said Todd Schulte of FWD.us, a pro-immigration advocacy group for big tech companies.
Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, was “disappointed” by the decision:
In a statement, Amazon said that “preventing high skilled professionals from entering the country and contributing to America’s economic recovery puts American’s global competitiveness at risk.”
Facebook said “highly-skilled visa holders play a critical role in driving innovation — at Facebook and at organizations across the country — and that’s something we should encourage, not restrict.”
The chairman of Twitter, Patrick Pichette (who is Canadian), suggested an alternative: “A message to all you H-1B seekers; just look to the North, where we welcome you (and your family) with open arms.”
Here are the workers and industries affected by the ban.
According to government data, the suspended visa categories accounted for about 600,000 workers in 2019.
A skilled-worker visa, the H-1B is used by U.S. employers to fill roles in tech, finance, accounting and other specialized fields. New H-1B visas are capped at 85,000 a year, and about three-quarters are used by technology companies. There were 189,847 workers on H-1Bs in 2019.
The H-2B visa is used by U.S. employers for temporary nonagricultural jobs, such as cooks, landscapers and groundskeeping staff, cleaners and forestry and conservation workers. There were 97,623 workers on such visas last year. Officials said there would be exemptions for food processing workers under President Trump’s executive order.
The H-4 allows spouses and families of H-1B and H-2B visa holders to live in the United States.
The J visa category is for exchange program applicants coming to the United States to study or work, including au pairs, interns, camp counselors and researchers. There were an estimated 230,000 people on J visas in 2019. Two administration officials suggested that parents could seek waivers to the ban on au pairs.
The L visa is for international companies who want to transfer managers or executives to U.S. branches for monthslong or yearslong stints. There were 76,988 such visas in 2019.
Monday’s order also extends a 60-day prohibition on the issuance of green cards to most foreigners looking to live in the United States that the president ordered in April.
Who’s Not Affected
Administration officials said the president’s order would not affect people outside the United States who already have valid visas or seasonal farm workers, whose annual numbers have ranged from a low of about 50,000 to a high of about 250,000 in the past 15 years, the New York Times’s Michael D. Shear and Miriam Jordan reported. There will be a narrow exception under Mr. Trump’s ban for certain medical workers dealing with coronavirus research, officials said.
Two prominent Democrats in the Senate are questioning how meatpacking companies could justify exporting record amounts to China in April while warning of an impending shortage of pork and beef across the United States.
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker sent a letter late Monday to the chief executives of Smithfield, Tyson, Cargill and JBS, criticizing their China exports at the same time they were lobbying the Trump administration to keep their plants open amid the pandemic because they wanted to keep feeding Americans.
The senators said the companies were putting meat workers’ lives in danger, while also raising food prices for American consumers.
“This pattern of behavior raises questions about whether you are living up to your commitments to the workers who produce your pork and beef; the communities in which you operate, and the nation’s consumers that rely on your products to feed their families,’’ the senators wrote.
The letter was prompted by a report in The New York Times last week detailing how pork exports to China totaled a record 129,000 tons in April, as the American meat industry took advantage of surging and profitable demand from that Asian country.
The meat companies say much of the meat had been produced weeks ahead of when it was shipped to China in April and before packing plants became hot spots for the virus. After President Trump signed an executive order in late April to keep the plants operating, some of the large meat companies say they have switched their production to better meet domestic demand.
Stocks on Wall Street climbed along with global markets, as investors zeroed in on signs of economic recovery and the prospect for another round of stimulus spending by the government.
The S&P 500 rose more than 1 percent, after having climbed about 0.7 percent on Monday. As they have done for several days recently, technology stocks fared even better than the broader market, with the Nasdaq composite on track to return to its record highs as Apple climbed more than 3 percent.
The gains came after a turbulent night for financial markets around the world, after one of President Trump’s advisers seemed to suggest that a trade deal between the United States and China had been scrapped. But after Mr. Trump took to Twitter, and his surrogates appeared on television to clarify the statement, stocks quickly recovered.
Lifting sentiment were initial surveys of corporate purchasing managers that echoed other signals of a rebound underway in the United States, Britain and Europe. The IHS Markit composite purchasing managers index for the United States rose to 46.8 in June, up from 37 in May. A reading under 50 still signals economic contraction.
“The second quarter started with an alarming rate of collapse but output and jobs are now falling at far more modest rates in both the manufacturing and service sectors,” Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said in a statement accompanying the data. “The improvement will fuel hopes that the economy can return to growth in the third quarter.”
Oil prices also climbed, reflecting the economic optimism, with the U.S. benchmark rising above $41 a barrel at one point.
Investors were also emboldened by expectations for another round of stimulus spending by Washington. A White House economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said that it could include “tax rebates and direct mail checks,” even as he cautioned that nothing had been settled. The trading day began on a more volatile note.
On Monday evening, Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump’s trade adviser, said “it’s over” when asked in an interview on Fox News about the trade war pact that was reached between the United States and China in January. The pact had eased trade tensions between the two countries but has since become a source of investor concern. China pledged to increase purchases of American agricultural products and other goods under the pact, but its struggles with the coronavirus pandemic put those promises into doubt.
Later on Monday, Mr. Trump confirmed that the pact was still in force. “The China Trade Deal is fully intact,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “Hopefully they will continue to live up to the terms of the Agreement!”
But at Square, a payments business where Mr. Dorsey is also chief executive, he is facing a growing chorus of unhappy customers.
Thousands of small enterprises that use Square to process credit card transactions — including plumbers, legal consultants and construction firms — have complained that the company recently began holding back 20 to 30 percent of the money collected from customers. The withholdings came with little warning, they said, and Square asserted the right to hang on to the money for the next four months.
Square told them that it was doing this to protect against risky transactions or customers who demanded their money back. But several affected businesses provided documents to The New York Times showing they had not had any returns or risk flags.
“It may not be the coronavirus that puts us out of business but actually the greed of Square that breaks the camel’s back,” said Jesse Larsen, the owner of PennyWise Contracting, a construction company in Olympia, Wash.
A Square spokesman said the company would publish a blog post on Tuesday to explain its new “rolling reserve” policy, the one that some merchants have experienced.
When office workers around the world went remote four months ago, many managers feared that productivity would collapse. The distractions of home — from child care to television — would wreak havoc on workdays, they thought.
Some individuals have had a harder time than others working from home, but many companies say productivity has remained at pre-pandemic levels, or even increased, The Times’s David Gelles writes. Without long commutes, small talk with colleagues and leisurely coffees in the break room, many workers — especially those who don’t have to worry about child care — are getting more done.
Companies are also discovering that processes and procedures they previously took for granted — from lengthy meetings to regular status updates — are less essential than once imagined. And though some executives are concerned about burnout, they are enjoying the gains for now.
“We’re seeing an increase in productivity,” said Fran Katsoudas, Cisco’s chief people officer.
A Deutsche Bank survey of workers in countries hard hit by the coronavirus found that on average, those in the United States felt they were more productive than before the pandemic, whereas those in Europe felt they were less productive.
Masayoshi Son, the billionaire who controls the investment giant SoftBank, got one step closer to offloading his stake in the long-troubled wireless carrier Sprint.
Months after Sprint closed its merger with T-Mobile in April, Mr. Son’s company announced its intention to sell its stake in the newly combined business. T-Mobile said on Monday that it would help sell nearly 200 million shares of Sprint held by SoftBank, valued at about $20 billion.
Mr. Son has for years tried to sell off his control of Sprint, a debt-laden business. He had long pushed for a merger with T-Mobile, which would allow him to reap some cash that could be used to shore up his other businesses.
An outspoken entrepreneur, Mr. Son has had to defend his struggling empire after weak performance in some of his investments, including WeWork. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, huge swaths of his empire saw drops in revenue.
SoftBank reported an operating loss of $12.7 billion for the fiscal year that ended in March, its first yearly loss in 15 years. T-Mobile, controlled by the German company Deutsche Telekom, has become a hefty challenger to its rivals Verizon and AT&T, with roughly 100 million customers across the country.
Companies see a multibillion-dollar opportunity in virus-proofing offices.
With companies pressing to figure out how to safely reopen workplaces, makers of everything from office furniture to smart ventilation systems are rushing to sell them products and services marketed as solutions.
Some companies, like makers of thermal cameras that sense skin temperature, are rebranding their wares as virus-containment fever-scanning products. Others are creating entirely new services.
And they have a captive market. To protect employees and reduce liability for virus outbreaks at work, companies are racing to comply with public health guidelines on issues like employee screening and social distancing. In the United States, the market for contact-tracing technologies for employers could soon be worth $4 billion annually, according to estimates from International Data Corporation, a market research firm.
But the preventive tools and pandemic workplace rules are so new — as is the emerging science on the virus — that it is too soon to tell how well, or if, they work.
“These are all untested theories and methods right now,” said Laura Becker, a research manager focusing on employee experience at I.D.C. “What is going to be the most effective component of all of these work force return strategies? We don’t know.”
Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.
Airlines continue to amass emergency funds to get them through the pandemic. United Airlines on Tuesday said it would raise $3 billion in a bond offering backed by its loyalty program, while American Airlines on Sunday said it would raise $3.5 billion in varied financing.
The 2021 Golden Globes will take place on Feb. 28, a date that the Oscars abandoned last week in an effort to salvage its 93rd installment in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association said. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will host the Golden Globes, which the press association said would continue to be “Hollywood’s party of the year.”
Reporting was contributed by David Gelles, Nathaniel Popper, Michael Corkery, Mohammed Hadi, Edmund Lee, Natasha Singer, Julie Creswell, Niraj Chokshi, Katie Robertson, Mary Williams Walsh and Brooks Barnes.