New U.S. legislation that sharply boosts visa fees to pay for tighter border security may play well in some parts of the country, but the applause is faint in Silicon Valley.
The measure, signed into law by President Barack Obama on Friday, is expected to raise operating costs for outsourcing firms that use large numbers of foreign-born employees to serve their U.S. customers. But the biggest impact, critics say, is to increase the perception that America is becoming more protectionist and hostile toward foreigners.
“It’s adding to the negativity about America,” said Vivek Wadhwa, a visiting scholar at the University of California and research associate at Duke University who studies immigration issues. “The money raised is insignificant and the damage is huge.”
Backers of the bill predict the visa fee increase will raise about $200 million a year to help pay for a $600 million appropriation to beef up security on the U.S.-Mexico border. The money is expected to pay for improvements that include hiring more border guards, boosting the number of federal agents and drone aircraft used for surveillance.