Tech Vs. Trump: Industry Leaders React to Immigration Ban

Tech industry leaders have been amongst those voicing concern following President Trumps unprecedented use of an executive order to bar refugees from entering the US, with a number of figures and firms pledging large donations or offering help.

Trumps order bans the admission of all refugees into the United States for 120 days, as well as banning people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US for 90 days, even if they are in the possession of a Green Card or valid, approved Visa.

“Like many of you, Im concerned about the impact of the recent executive orders signed by President Trump. We need to keep this country safe, but we should do that by focusing on people who actually pose a threat. Expanding the focus of law enforcement beyond people who are beyond people who are real threats would make all Americans less safe by diverting resources, while millions of undocumented folks who dont pose a threat will live in fear of deportation.

We should also keep our doors open to refugees and those who need help. Thats who we are. Had we turned away refugees a few decades ago, Priscillas family wouldnt be here today.”
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook

Zuckerberg was one of the first to speak out against Trump in a Facebook post that referenced history of immigration in both his own family and that of his wife. Zuckerberg did express hope that President Trump has stated he will “work something out” for Dreamers – a specially category of undocumented immigrant who were brought into the US at a very young age, and benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“Were upset about the impact of this order and any proposals that could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families, or that could create barriers to bringing great talent to the US. Its painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues.”
Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google

Googles Sundar Pichai spoke out about the impact of the order as the company announced it was seeking to recall employees currently abroad who might be affected by the ban, with The Wall Street Journal reporting that “at least” 187 employees who normally live and work in the US could be impacted.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin was spotted at a protest opposing the ban at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, and the company has reportedly set up a $2m (£1.59m) crisis fund for people affected by the order, which will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Immigrant Legal Resource Center, International Rescue Committee and Mercy Corps.

“We stand firmly againsts these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community. We know this directly impacts many of our community members, their families, and friends. We stand with you, and are donating $1m over the next four years to the ACLU to defend our constitution. We ask that you continue to be there for each other – and together, continue proving the power of community.”
John Zimmer and Logan Green, co-founders, Lyft.

Google wasnt the only firm to donate money, with ride-sharing service Lyft pledging $1m to the ACLU to fight an order that the co-founders called “antithetical to both Lyfts and our nations core values” in a public letter.

The ACLU, which supports freedom of speech and other civil liberties, received more than $24m in donations from the public over the weekend, around six times what it normally raises annually. Among other figures in the tech world to donate were Stripes Patrick Collison, Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack, and Nest founder Tony Fadell.

“While every government has their own immigration controls, allowing people from all around the world to come here and make America their home has largely been the USs policy since its founding.”
Travis Kalanick, CEO, Uber

Lyfts rival Uber didnt donate to the ACLU, but has established a $3m legal defence fund aimed at helping drivers with immigration issues, including offering translation services and 24/7 legal support. Kalanick has drawn criticism from multiple sources including his own employees for his close ties to Trumps administration, where he serves as part of the economic advisory group, but he has said he plans to “urge” President Trump to restore the rights of US residents attempting to travel.

Uber also attracted criticism on Saturday, when it was accused of taking advantage of protests at JFK International Airport in New York. The company eliminated surge pricing to and from the airport, but as other cab companies were taking part in a strike protesting the executive order, many saw this as the firm attempting to profit from the situation. The company later apologised for any “confusion” over its decision, and said it was not an attempt to break up any strike, simply to let people know they could get to and from JFK at normal prices.

trump protest

“The blanket entry ban on citizens from certain primarily Muslim countries is not the best way to address the countrys challenges. Many people negatively affected by this policy are strong supporters of the US. Theyve done right, not wrong, and dont deserve to be rejected.”
Elon Musk, CEO, SpaceX & Tesla

Kalanick is not the only tech industry leader being criticised for his close ties to Trump. Elon Musk also serves on the economic advisory council, and said via Twitter that he was seeking to build consensus within that group about “specific amendments” that could be made to the immigration order, which would then be presented to the President. He urged people to read the order in full, which he said was “better than reading other peoples opinions about the source material.”

“Open doors brings all of US together. Closing doors further divides US. Lets all find ways to connect people, not separate them. Not allowing countries or refugees into America is not right, and we must stand with those who are affected.”
Brian Chesky, CEO, Airbnb

Airbnb pledged that it would provide “free housing to refugees and anyone not allowing the US” off the back of the ban, with CEO Brian Chesky going on to call the executive order “a policy I profoundly disagree with” and “a direct obstacle to our mission at Airbnb” in a memo to the companys employees.

“We are living in an unprecedented time, one in which we are witness to the conscience of our country, and the promise of the American Dream, being called into question. I am hearing the alarm you all are sounding that the civility and human rights we have all taken for granted for so long are under attack, and want to use a faster, more immediate form of communication to engage with you on matters that concern us all as partners.”
Howard Schultz, CEO and chairman, Starbucks

While not a tech firm, Starbucks is a prominent user of mobile technology, and CEO and chairman Howard Schultz promised to utilise the latest technology to support communication between executives and employees in what he called “uncertain times”. He also announced that Starbucks plans to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years in the 75 countries around the world where it does business, beginning with a focus in the US on hiring individuals who served with US troops as interpreters and support personnel.

For more on President Trumps impact on the mobile industry, check out our coverage of his first week in office, and what his presidential campaign means for marketing.