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Tech giants, like Amazon, Expedia, Google, and Microsoft, have thrown their considerable weight behind Washington state and Minnesota in a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s executive immigration order. But smaller players have just as much to lose under anti-immigration policies — and now some of them are stepping into the ring.

Fifteen startups have added their names to an amicus brief, signed by more than 100 technology companies and other businesses. The original brief backs the states’ case, detailing how the executive order negatively impacts employees and business operations.

The supplemental startup brief also describes the important role immigrants play in the entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Start-up companies contribute substantially to this country’s economic prosperity and growth potential and for reasons similar to those already set forth by the Technology Companies in their Amici Brief, start-ups are especially affected by the immigration order at issue. Many start-up companies are founded by, and rely heavily on the hard work of immigrants. Orders of the type at issue here cause immediate harm to technology companies, their employees and their families, and the competitiveness of the United States in the global market for innovation. In many instances, the technological innovation driven by U.S. start-ups contributes not only to the national prosperity but also to the national security. Implementation of the immigration order at issue thus has the potential to harm the country’s security as well as its prosperity.

As of last year, more than half of U.S. startups valued at  $1 billion or more were founded by immigrant entrepreneurs, according to a study cited in an open letter The National Venture Capital Association sent to President Trump yesterday. The letter, signed by more than 100 investors and entrepreneurs, implores the president to reconsider his existing executive order, which temporarily blocks citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. and suspends refugee immigration indefinitely.

“While we recognize the importance of promoting national security and protecting the interests of American workers, we strongly believe that the existing and proposed Executive Orders will not accomplish these goals and in fact, could undermine our ability to found and grow new companies that create jobs here in the U.S.,” the letter says. “We urge you to reconsider these actions and their impact not only on American values, but also on America’s economic future.”

The NVCA letter also expresses concerns over a draft of another executive order, originally obtained by Bloomberg News.

The draft pledges to overhaul the H1-B visa program, which allows skilled, graduate-level immigrants to work for employers in the U.S. Big tech companies, like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, rely heavily on the H-1B visa to recruit talent.

Lending Robot CEO Emmanuel Marot. (Lending Robot Photo)

“Preventing immigrants to work in the U.S. will entice employers, including large U.S. corporations, to open shops elsewhere,” said Emmanuel Marot — an immigrant himself and the founder of Lending Robot, a signatory of the startup amicus brief. “I remember Microsoft opening engineering offices in Vancouver, B.C. because of immigration limits in the U.S. Google, Amazon, and Apple will setup engineering offices in other countries, where they will be able to onboard as many Russian, Iranian or Chinese they want. Not only does it not bring jobs to the U.S., but the economic growth around those hires is also going away.”

The leaked order also reveals the Trump administration’s plans to kill the “International Entrepreneur Rule,” that President Obama pushed through after Congress failed to create a “startup visa” to encourage foreign entrepreneurs to grow companies in the U.S.

Henry Chen.

“The startup parole is not against President Trump’s interest to protect domestic workers,” said Henry Chen, a startup founder from China who was considering the Entrepreneur Rule as a way to return the states; Chen graduated from the University of Missouri in 2015. “International Entrepreneurs won’t compete with domestic American workers, instead, we have great potentials to create more job opportunities and boost American economy. I hope President Trump, used to be an Entrepreneur himself, would not shut this door and revoke the rule.”

It’s unclear when the draft executive order will be implemented. Meanwhile, the legal battle over Trump’s travel ban is escalating quickly. Yesterday, a panel of judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals grilled representatives of Washington state and President Trump over a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by a federal Judge in Seattle Friday. The TRO immediately halted implementation of Trump’s immigration ban until its legality could be tested in court.

The Department of Justice claims the president was well within his authority to suspend immigration of aliens deemed to be a national security threat. The Trump administration says the temporary halt is necessary to study immigration procedures and defend the country against threats of terrorism.

President Trump used his favorite platform to express frustration with the legal challenges to his immigration order.

The Ninth Circut judges will likely decide whether the travel ban will be reinstated by the end of the week. The high-profile case is expected to rise to the Supreme Court.

Washington and Minnesota have been steadily amassing support from other states and members of the business world but this latest brief is the first explicit declaration of support from the startup community.

“I don’t think U.S., has an immigration problem, because of the fact that it is a country of immigrants (Donald J. is not exactly Native American) proves that immigrations worked, historically,” said Marot.

Read the full amicus brief and a list of startup signatories below.

  1. Alta Plana Corporation
  2. Amitree Inc.
  3. Bright Idea Energy Solutions Inc.
  4. Cognitive Computing Consortium
  5. iCouldBe.Org Inc.
  6. Indico Inc.
  7. JP Linguistics Inc.
  8. Lending Robot Inc.
  9. Loop AI Labs Inc.
  10. The Kitchens Inc.,
  11. DBA Forkable
  12. The Social Edge Inc.
  13. TwoToTango Inc.
  14. Unitive Inc.
  15. Vital AI LLC

Startup Amicus Brief by GeekWire on Scribd

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