Today, more than 200 startups and investors from across the country joined Engine and the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) in sending a letter to President Trump opposing his Executive Orders on immigration—both the immigration ban EO signed on January 27th and the draft EO that would roll back existing worker visa and parole programs.
“Like many in the tech community, we wanted to express our disapproval of the Administration's Executive Orders on immigration—both the immigration ban and the leaked proposal that would undermine visa programs,” said Engine Executive Director Evan Engstrom. “Beyond the obvious harm these policies would have on refugees, immigrants, and the U.S.'s standing in the world community, we wanted to make sure the President understood that these policies would have a major detrimental impact on entrepreneurship and innovation.
“Immigrants have always been at the heart of American entrepreneurship. They are more than twice as likely to start companies than those born in the U.S., and more than half of startups valued above $1 billion were founded by immigrants. While it appears that the White House isn't backing down from the immigration ban, we'd like to believe that there is still time to convince the President to scrap the proposed Executive Order, which would make it harder for the best and brightest innovators from around the world to come to the U.S. to launch and grow the startups that are responsible for all net job growth in this country.”
Signatories ranged from early-stage startups like NourishWise in Nashville, TN and WorkHound in Des Moines, IA, to later-stage companies like Pinterest, General Assembly, and Vimeo. The letter was also signed by almost 100 individual investors, including Ron Conway, Dave McClure, Venky Ganesan, Jeff Clavier, and William H. Draper III.
Here’s what a few of the letter’s signatories are saying about why the EOs are problematic:
Checkr CEO Daniel Yanisse, a French immigrant to the U.S. and the son of a Syrian immigrant, noted in a blog post: “Without open immigration policies my parents would not have immigrated to France, I would not have immigrated to the US and Checkr would not exist today employing almost 100 people.”
General Assembly CEO and Co-Founder Jake Schwartz wrote in a blog post on the immigration ban that “This move by the White House runs counter to every angle possible: logic, economics, and the moral imperative that America has historically embraced and benefited from. We must remain vigilant and take action to ensure that we create and foster a safe and open environment for everyone in our community, no matter who they are or where they come from.”
Iowa Startup Accelerator Managing Director David Tominsky highlighted the integral role immigrants play at startups and tech companies in the Iowa ecosystem: “Living in a place like Iowa, hiring top technical talent for growing companies can be very difficult. Some of the best talent I helped companies in Iowa hire during my time as a technical recruiter prior to ISA were on TN, H-1B, and F1 visas. Since coming on as Managing Director at the Iowa Startup Accelerator, I've also seen some of the hurdles faced by talented entrepreneurs who are unable to bring their talents to the U.S. because of immigration issues. The Administration's Executive Orders will further limit the ability of immigrants to contribute to startups in Iowa and across America.”
Vimeo CEO Joey Levin shared a note with the company’s employees following the immigration ban EO: “We are a company filled with immigrants and children of immigrants and a wide range of religions — and we are deeply troubled by potential implications on our families, our friends, our partners, and our community. We understand and appreciate that our government needs to make difficult decisions in the interest of America’s national security, but we believe it is critical that the White House considers the specifics, the context, and the tone of any approach that can undermine the freedom and equality that we love about our country.”
Patreon noted that “We're still relatively small at just under 80 employees with only a handful of employees on visas. During the week after the immigration ban EO was signed, I was approached by almost all of them for 1x1 meetings where they expressed concern about their immigration status, their travel plans over the coming months, how their visas would be affected and for more information about the green card process. These are employees from countries not covered by the immigration ban, but the Administration's actions have created a huge amount of uncertainty for our employees, making them nervous and unsure about their future and remaining employed in the United States.”