Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company wants to be a
constructive voice in the immigration debate.
The immigration issue hits very close to home for
Silicon Valley tech companies, and Pichais’ comments signal
that the industry is rethinking its tactics to fight for the
Almost exactly one year ago, Google CEO
Sundar Pichai stood in front of cheering employees vowing to
“stand together” and
“never compromise” in opposing the Trump administration’s
On Friday, Pichai spoke out again in defense of immigration and
of the benefits that immigrants bring to the US. But the
India-born CEO, himself the perfect embodiment of the cause,
seemed to have ditched his firebrand approach in favor of a a
more diplomatic tone.
“It’s really important that we don’t make it a
tech-versus-the-rest-of-the-country issue,” Pichai said on-stage,
a Q&A event in San Francisco organized by MSNBC, when
asked about immigration by hosts Kara Swisher and Ari Melber.
Many of the big immigration issues remain unresolved, hot-button
the travel ban, the fate of the
so-called Dreamers, and the controversial visa system US
corporations use to hire skilled foreign workers. Indeed, the
deadlock over immigration policy in Congress helped trigger the
federal government shutdown that began on Saturday.
There’s a lot at stake for Google, which recruits engineering
talent from all over the world and which counts some Dreamers —
immigrants who were brought into the US illegally by their
parents but now have work visas — among its ranks.
Still, after a year of the Trump presidency, Pichai appears to
have adapted to the political climate his company now operates
in. Instead of “never compromise,” Pichai stressed the need
for Google to play a “constructive” role in the immigration
“We are very open to constructively reforming the H-1B process,”
Pichai said, referring to the
visas that allow US companies like Google to hire foreign
This softening in tone may not be the capitulation it appears to
Sure, as a publicly-owned company Google has a responsibility to
its shareholders to get on with business and it would be silly to
expect Google to go to the mat on any issue that doesn’t directly
affect its bottom line.
But Pichai’s real message seemed to be that Silicon Valley needs
to be smarter to win this battle.
“It’s up to us as tech companies to make the case as to why
immigration is good for the country, not just for tech
companies,” he said. “I think we have to do that better.”
Silicon Valley’s greatest strength has always been its ability to
sell the world on its vision of the future.
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates put a computer on every desk.
If Google can convince hundreds of millions of people to visit
its website every day, then surely it should be able to convince
citizens and politicians about the merits of a diverse
Pichai knows he has a good argument on his hand, and, like a good
tech product, he just needs to figure out how to sell it.
The full Q&A with Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojciki is
set to air on MSNBC on Friday January 26, in a program called
“Revolution: Google and YouTube Changing the World.”