Banking

BofA boss joins criticism of Trump immigration policies that ‘disrupt’ lives

Brian Moynihan, Chairman and CEO of Bank of America, speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations, in 2017.
Brian Moynihan, Chairman and CEO of Bank of America, speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations, in 2017. AP

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan is among dozens of U.S. chief executives calling out the Trump administration for immigration policy changes they say are creating “considerable” anxiety for their skilled foreign employees and threatening to harm their companies’ operations.

In a letter this week to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, the CEOs, including Apple’s Tim Cook and JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, described the policy moves as “inconsistent” and generating uncertainty for the firms and their foreign workers.

The executives also said the changes significantly raise the likelihood that long-term employees, many of whom received science and technology degrees in the U.S., will lose their immigration status.

“The reality is that few will move their family and settle in a new country if, at any time and without notice, the government can force their immediate departure — often without explanation,” wrote the CEOs, who are members of the lobbying group Business Roundtable.

“At a time when the number of job vacancies are reaching historic highs due to labor shortages, now is not the time restrict access to talent,” the letter stated. “As the federal government undertakes its legitimate review of immigration rules, it must avoid making changes that disrupt the lives of thousands of law-abiding and skilled employees, and that inflict substantial harm on U.S. competitiveness.”

The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately provide comment.

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Bank of America is the only Charlotte-based company whose chief executive signed the letter. Moynihan is a member of the roundtable’s board, which Dimon chairs.

Bank of America declined to comment beyond the letter.

CEOs of American Airlines, AT&T, Coca-Cola Co., Marriott International, IBM Corp., Nasdaq and PepsiCo are among those who also signed.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, which has a large presence in Charlotte and whose CEO is a member of the roundtable, did not sign the letter. A spokesperson for the bank did not immediately provide comment.

Policy concerns

The letter underscores the mixed relationship between the Trump administration and corporate America.

Companies have greatly benefited from federal tax cuts enacted under the administration, which has also lifted regulations on businesses.

But the administration’s crackdown on immigration has generated criticism from businesses that say foreigners are integral to filling highly skilled jobs and other positions for which there are too few qualified or interested Americans.

Bank of America and Wells Fargo are among corporations that have relied heavily on foreign workers, including those on federal H-1B visas. The visas permit foreigners to work in the U.S. temporarily. In Charlotte, many workers on those visas work in the tech industry.

In the letter, the executives said they were worried about policy changes impacting visa workers.

For example, they wrote that “companies now do not know whether a work visa petition that was approved last month will be approved when the company submits the identical application to extend the employee’s status.” That change creates an especially tough challenge for companies that hire H-1B workers, the letter said.

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Among other concerns, the executives also pointed to the expectation that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will soon revoke work authorization eligibility for people on H-4 visas. Those visa workers are usually spouses of H-1B holders.

“These spouses are often highly skilled in their own rights and have built careers and lives around their ability to contribute to companies here,” the executives wrote.

“Other countries allow these valuable professionals to work, so revoking their U.S. work authorization will likely cause high-skilled immigrants to take their skills to competitors outside the United States,” the letter said.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts
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