Originally Published in The Hill
Rebecca Klar - January 21, 2021
Silicon Valley cheered President Biden’s executive action on immigration reform on his first day in office, marking a stark contrast with their criticism of the Trump administration's hard-line policies.
Biden signed two executive orders and sent a sweeping immigration bill to Congress on Wednesday, earning praise from CEOs at some of the biggest U.S. tech companies.
The orders repealed former President Trump’s travel ban on majority-Muslim countries and directed federal agencies to take action to preserve and strengthen the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields from deportation young immigrants who entered the country illegally as children.
The comprehensive immigration bill Biden sent to Congress includes provisions that would provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants and overhaul certain visa programs, such as providing dependents of H-1B visa holders work authorization.
H-1B visas, which Trump had sought to tighten restrictions on, are set aside for skilled workers, particularly in the technology field.
Tech companies that were among Trump’s fiercest critics on immigration commended Biden for taking steps on immigration so early in his presidency.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, who is chair of the Business Roundtable Immigration Committee, said Biden’s actions on immigration policy will “strengthen American communities and the pathways to opportunity this country has long fostered.”
“We welcome President Biden’s commitment to pursuing comprehensive immigration reform that reflects the American values of justice, fairness and dignity,” Cook said in a statement.
“In the weeks and months to come, business leaders look forward to working with the Administration, as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress, to achieve bipartisan, practical and comprehensive solutions to fix our broken immigration system, including a permanent solution for Dreamers that includes a path to citizenship,” Cook added.
“The @POTUS DACA Executive Order signed this evening delivers hope for#Dreamers. Diversity makes the US, our company, and our world better — we’ll continue to advocate for policies that support and recognize the important contributions of immigrants,” Twitter posted.
“IBM stands with #Dreamers, Americans at heart who make vital contributions to our communities and economy. Today's action by @JoeBiden to preserve #DACA tells our Dreamers that this country cares. We look forward to a permanent, bipartisan solution in the near future,” IBM tweeted.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai more generally applauded Biden’s actions on immigration and climate change.
“We applaud @POTUS's quick action on COVID relief, the Paris Climate Accord, and immigration reform. Google has supported action on these important issues & we look forward to working with the new administration to help the US recover from the pandemic + grow our economy,” Pichai tweeted.
Vacation rental company Airbnb specifically lauded Biden’s reversal of the travel ban on majority-Muslim countries, calling it a “step in the right direction.”
“At Airbnb we continue to believe that no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, everyone deserves to belong,” Joe Gebbia, Airbnb co-founder, said in a statement. “We are grateful to the policymakers and organizations that helped advocate for this change and to the families they serve, we are proud to say ‘welcome home.' "
The tech industry battled with Trump throughout much of his four years in office over immigration policies. Most recently, tech giants like Apple and Google filed amicus briefs in support of lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s efforts to tighten requirements for employers to hire workers on H-1B visas.
Although Biden’s actions drew a positive response from tech companies, Silicon Valley's relationship with the new administration going forward remains up in the air.
Biden has said he supports revoking Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which grants tech companies a liability shield for content posted on their platforms by third parties. Biden’s reasoning for supporting a repeal differs from Trump's, with the 46th president arguing that tech companies haven’t done enough to tackle misinformation.
A hard push by Biden to repeal Section 230 would likely sour relations with the tech community, which has largely been supportive of Democrats over the years.
Biden is also starting his presidency amid mounting scrutiny over the market power of tech giants, and several ongoing investigations and lawsuits accusing some Silicon Valley firms of antitrust violations.