How top tech CEOs responded to Trump's immigration order

Steven Loeb · January 30, 2017 · Short URL:

Mark Zuckerberg, Stewart Butterfield, Aaron Levie and Sam Altman all blasted Trump's executive order

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Donald Trump has been President for a little over a week now, and it's been a whirlwind of activity in that short amount of time, with executive orders, protests and Tweets. So many Tweets.

On Friday, the President caused the biggest controversy yet by signing an executive order, which placed restrictions on immigration, specifically from countries in the Middle East. It stopped any refugee from entering the country for 120 days; banned any refugees from Syria from entering the country indefinitely; and banned citizens from seven countries, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen, from entering the U.S. at all for 90 days.

As a result, even people from those countries who have green cards and visas, meaning they're allowed to enter the country, were being detained at airports all over the country, causing mass protests and demonstrations. 

Many in the tech world also spoke out again Trump's actions. The two sides had clashed on the issue of immigration during the campaign and a numbr of top CEOs issued statements, and took direct action, in opposition to the order over the weekend. 

Here's how some of the top names reacted:

  • Mark Zuckerberg

In a note on Facebook, the company's CEO framed the issue in personal terms, speaking about his family, and his wife's, and how they are both the product of immigration.

"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," Zuckerberg said.

"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 real threats would make all Americans less safe by diverting resources, while millions of undocumented folks who don't pose a threat will live in fear of deportation."

Zuckerberg had previously spoken out against Trump's proposal of a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the United States. He is also one of the driving forces behind Fwd.US, a PAC that supports immigration reform. 

  • Jack Dorsey

Dorsey, who is CEO of both Twitter and Square, issued a very short statement (it couldn't be more than 140 characters, after all) but he also linked to a much longer release from the Internet Association.

“While we support President Trump’s efforts to grow our economy and allow ‘people of great talent’ to come into the U.S., the executive order signed yesterday has troubling consequences. Internet Association member companies – along with companies in many other industries – include legal immigrant employees who are covered by these recent executive orders and will not be able to return back to their jobs and families in the U.S," it said.

"Their work benefits our economy and creates jobs here in the United States. We maintain our support for immigration reform and will work with Congress and the Trump Administration on this important issue for families and our economy."

  • Stewart Butterfield

The Slack CEO also took to Twitter to blast Trump. Instead of a short statement, though, he put out no less than 14 Tweets about the subject.

Butterfield was also among those who agreed to match donations to the ACLU

  • Brian Chesky

The Airbnb CEO declared, in a post on Facebook, that, "Not allowing countries or refugees into America is not right, and we must stand with those who are affected."

He also announced that his company would be providing free housing to "refugees and anyone else who needs it in the event they are denied the ability to board a US-bound flight and are not in your city/country of residence."

  • Logan Green

On Twitter, Green, who is CEO of Lyft, denounced Trump's order on Twitter on Friday

On Saturday, the company announced that it was donating $1 million to the ACLU.

  • Travis Kalanick

Uber seemed to take the most heat of any company, partially due to the fact that Kalanick joined Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum in December.

In an email to his employees, posted on Facebook, Kalanick stopped short of denouncing Trump's executive order.

"I understand that many people internally and externally may not agree with that decision, and that’s OK. It's the magic of living in America that people are free to disagree. But whatever your view please know that I’ve always believed in principled confrontation and just change; and have never shied away (maybe to my detriment) from fighting for what’s right," he said.

Kalanick did address the issue of Uber drivers who might be affected by the ban and promised to "compensate them pro bono during the next three months to help mitigate some of the financial stress and complications with supporting their families and putting food on the table."

After #DeleteUber began to trend, Kalanick took to Facebook again on Sunday, this time with stronger language, calling the ban "unjust," while also detailing more concrete measures to help drivers.

That includes providing 24/7 legal support, compensating the drivers for their lost earnings and creating a $3 million legal defense fund to help them with immigration and translation services.

Most importantly, Kalanick promised to use his position in the Trump administration to, "Urge the government to reinstate the right of U.S. residents to travel - whatever their country of origin - immediately."

  • Elon Musk

Musk is also on the President's Strategic and Policy Forum, and, like Kalanick, was more measured in his response than other CEOs, calling it "not the best way to address the country’s challenges."

Also like Kalanick, he promised to use his position to bring concerns to the President.

  • Tim Cook

In a memo published by Buzzfeed, Cook called the ban "not a policy we support." He also alluded to the fact that Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian immigrant.

"As I’ve said many times, diversity makes our team stronger. And if there’s one thing I know about the people at Apple, it’s the depth of our empathy and support for one another. It’s as important now as it’s ever been, and it will not weaken one bit. I know I can count on all of you to make sure everyone at Apple feels welcome, respected and valued," he wrote.

"Apple is open. Open to everyone, no matter where they come from, which language they speak, who they love or how they worship. Our employees represent the finest talent in the world, and our team hails from every corner of the globe."

Cook also said that he had reached out to the White House to express his concerns. 

  • Satya Nadella

In a post on LinkedIn, the Microsoft CEO discussed his own experience as an immigrant.

"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," he said.

He also shared a memo from Brad Smith, Microsoft’s chief legal officer, in which the company offered legal advice and assistance to its employees and their families. 

"As a company, Microsoft believes in a strong and balanced high-skilled immigration system. We also believe in broader immigration opportunities, like the protections for talented and law-abiding young people under the Deferred Access for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program, often called 'Dreamers'. We believe that immigration laws can and should protect the public without sacrificing people’s freedom of expression or religion. And we believe in the importance of protecting legitimate and law-abiding refugees whose very lives may be at stake in immigration proceedings."

  • Sam Altman

In a blog post, Altman used some of the harshest language in regards to Trump and his policies, going after him for a number of different things in addition to his stance on immigration. 

"This administration has already shown that they are not particularly impressed by the first amendment, and that they are interested in other anti-immigrant action.  So we must object, or our inaction will send a message that the administration can continue to take away our rights," he wrote. 

Altman also called on tech leaders to be more vocal in their opposition.

"The tech community is powerful.  Large tech companies in particular have enormous power and are held in high regard.  We need to hear from the CEOs clearly and unequivocally.  Although there is some business risk in doing so, there is strength in numbers—if everyone does it early this coming week, we will all make each other stronger."

  • Reed Hastings

"Trump's actions are hurting Netflix employees around the world, and are so un-American it pains us all. Worse, these actions will make America less safe (through hatred and loss of allies) rather than more safe," the Netflix CEO wrote on Facebook.

"A very sad week, and more to come with the lives of over 600,000 Dreamers here in a America under imminent threat. It is time to link arms together to protect American values of freedom and opportunity."

  • Aaron Levie

The CEO of Box blasted the ban on Twitter.

He also announced he was donating to the ACLU.

  • Sundar Pichai

The CEO of Google took the step of actually calling his overseas employees back to the United States, according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg

"It’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues," Pichai wrote. "We’ve always made our view on immigration issues known publicly and will continue to do so."

(Image source: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

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