Silicon Valley rages against immigration ban

While Wall Street keeps schtum on Trump's latest controversial move...

Silicon Valley rages against immigration ban

From left, White House Senior Adviser for policy Stephen Miller, Jeff Fettig, CEO of Whirlpool, Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors and Kevin Plank, founder, CEO and Chairman of Under Armour, wait for President Donald Trump, who hosted a breakfast with business leaders, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The heads of major Silicon Valley players such as Apple and Airbnb have come out strongly against US President Trump's decision to suspend the country's refugee programme and introduce a travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries.

With the likes of Google and Facebook emailing their employees to denounce the new administration's actions, the reaction from the tech community is in stark contrast to the relatively quiet response from more traditional business and Wall Street leaders. 

As Cornelius Harley, director of Boston University's Centre for Finance, Law & Policy told Reuters, firms in the banking, healthcare and car industries "see themselves on the cusp of a new era of deregulation, and they d not want to do anything that would offend the new emperor". 

Meanwhile, financial institutions are keeping a low public profile while possibly also having direct access, in the case of the likes of Goldman Sachs, to the White House and Trump's ear.

So it is Silicon Valley, with the importance it places on corporate social responsibility, speaking out.

Apple's chief executive Tim Cook made it clear that the iPhone maker did not stand behind the ban, touching on the fact that the biological father of co-founder Steve Jobs was a Syrian immigrant:

"Apple would not exist without immigration."

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg (pictured above) also got personal to make his point, posting on Facebook about his immigrant heritage. He wrote:

My great grandparents came from Germany, Austria and Poland. Priscilla's parents were refugees from China and Vietnam. The United States is a nation of immigrants, and we should be proud of that.
Like many of you, I'm concerned about the impact of the recent executive orders signed by President Trump.

We should also keep our doors open to refugees and those who need help. That's who we are. Had we turned away refugees a few decades ago, Priscilla's family wouldn't be here today.

That said, I was glad to hear President Trump say he's going to "work something out" for Dreamers -- immigrants who were brought to this country at a young age by their parents. Right now, 750,000 Dreamers benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allows them to live and work legally in the US. I hope the President and his team keep these protections in place, and over the next few weeks I'll be working with our team at FWD.us to find ways we can help.
I'm also glad the President believes our country should continue to benefit from "people of great talent coming into the country."

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took to his microblogging site to tweet:

He also pointed out that 11% of Syrian immigrants to the US are business owners, more than triple that of US-born business owners.

Indian-American Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella drew on his own life experience, writing on LinkedIn:

"As an immigrant and as a CEO, I’ve both experienced and seen the positive impact that immigration has on our company, for the country, and for the world.

"We will continue to advocate on this important topic."


Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Picture by Saurabh Das AP/Press Association Images

At Google, CEO Sundar Pichai circulated an internal memo recalling more than 100 employees from overseas back to the US. He wrote:

"We are 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.

"It's painful to see the personal cost of this Executive Order on our colleagues. We've always made our view on immigration issues known publicly and will continue to do so."

Starbucks lead the charge when it came to taking action, with outgoing CEO Howard Schultz pledging to hire 10,000 refugees worldwide over the next five years and the coffee giant announcing a number of initiatives that seem specifically-designed to mitigate the impact of many of Trump's proposed policies.

Airbnb confirmed it would offer free housing to refugees refused entry to the US "and anyone not allowed in the US". Brian Chesky, the co-foundere and CEO of the home-renting service, tweeted:

"Not allowing countries or refugees into America is not right, and we must stand with those who are affected. Open doors brings all of US together. Closing doors further divides US. Let's all find ways to connect people, not separate them."

Uber was initially not so unequivocal in its stance. In fact, a #DeleteUber campaign was launched when CEO Travis Kalanick – who sits on Trump's business advisory group – failed to come out against the immigration curbs. Responding to public pressure, Kalanick has now pledged to set up a $3m legal defence fund and offer 24/7 legal support for affected drivers, as well as compensate drivers for their lost earnings, calling the ban "unjust".

He posted on Facebook:

At Uber we’ve always believed in standing up for what’s right. Today we need your help supporting drivers who may be impacted by the President's unjust immigration ban.

Drivers who are citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen and live in the US but have left the country, will not be able to return for 90 days. This means they won’t be able to earn money and support their families during this period.

So it’s important that as a community that we do everything we can to help these drivers.

Elon Musk

Elsewhere, Elon Musk – who has admitted on Twitter that he's feeling the strain of being one of the few tech leaders open to getting closer to Trump and advising him – rejected the policy in strong terms:

Thereafter, he urged followers to read the immigration order and let him know specific amendments. He then stated he would seek advisory council consensus and present it to Trump himself.