How Silicon Valley is battling Trump’s immigration bans

Silicon Valley is fighting Donald Trump’s refugee and immigration bans, throwing criticism and money at the issue. But there’s always a but.

Tech CEOs galore took to Twitter and Facebook over the weekend, slamming the president’s executive order to temporarily ban refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from the United States.

“There really isn’t a clearer time when leaders and organizations must be principled on what America stands for,” Aaron Levie, chief executive of Redwood City-based startup Box, wrote in a Medium post. Levie urged people to donate to the ACLU — which is taking up the legal fight against the administration’s actions — as he did.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ statement pulled no punches, either.

“Trump’s actions are hurting Netflix employees around the world, and are so un-American it pains us all,” Hastings wrote in a post on Facebook.

But some CEOs of other high-profile tech companies are doing a balancing act.

For example, Uber’s Travis Kalanick sits on Trump’s business advisory team and has defended his decision to do so.

“Whatever the city or country — from the U.S. and Mexico to China and Malaysia — we’ve taken the view that in order to serve cities you need to give their citizens a voice, a seat at the table,” Kalanick said in a post on Facebook on Saturday, the day after Trump’s executive order on immigration. Sunday, Kalanick went as far as to call Trump’s ban “unjust” and said his company would give legal support to affected drivers trying to get back into the United States.

Uber is now facing a bigger problem, though: #DeleteUber is trending after the company kept operating while taxi drivers at JFK airport in New York staged a slowdown in support of the protests there. It was a sharp contrast to rival Lyft’s announcement that it is donating $1 million to the ACLU.

Meanwhile, Google has created a $4 million crisis fund — $2 million to start, plus $2 million to match employee contributions — to give to the American Civil Liberties Union, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, International Rescue Committee and UNHCR. CEO Sundar Pichai spoke out against the immigration restrictions and talked about its effect on nearly a couple hundred Google employees, including those who were told to rush back to the United States. Google co-founder Sergey Brin joined the protests at the San Francisco airport over the weekend.

But Google, long seen as left-leaning, is reportedly cozying up to Republicans. That includes throwing an expensive party for mostly GOP lawmakers recently, the New York Times reported. And company co-founder Larry Page and Chairman Eric Schmidt were at the Trump tech forum in December.

Apple CEO Tim Cook told employees that “Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do,” as Queenie Wong reported over the weekend. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian immigrant, a fact that also made the rounds on social media over the weekend.

Yet Politico reported that Cook had dinner with Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, last week. Cook was also present at Trump’s tech forum in December, and has explained that he has “never found being on the sideline a successful place to be.”

Y Combinator President Sam Altman published a Medium post Saturday titled “Time to take a stand” and said “we need to hear from the [tech] CEOs clearly and unequivocally.” However, Altman, who was also at the protests at SFO airport over the weekend, stuck to his position that Y Combinator won’t cut ties with Silicon Valley’s top Trump supporter, Peter Thiel.

“Purging all Trump supporters will lead to further polarization and entrenchment, and not allow people to come together and resist horrific things like this,” Altman said in a Twitter thread.

Thiel, by the way, also sits on Facebook’s board. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg criticized Trump’s executive order on immigration last week.

Thiel’s statement over the weekend, relayed by a spokesman: “Peter doesn’t support a religious test, and the administration has not imposed one.”

On to Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who also sits on Trump’s business advisory team. On Sunday, he asked the Twittersphere to look at the “source material,” meaning Trump’s executive order, and suggest amendments that he promised to take to the president’s business advisory team, which is scheduled to meet Friday.

Musk, an immigrant and clean-energy evangelist, has been feeling the heat from his ties with the Trump administration.

Just to round things off, there’s the ultimate balancing act being done by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

“Twitter is built by immigrants of all religions. We stand for and with them, always,” Dorsey’s company tweeted over the weekend. Dorsey’s tweets make it clear where he stands.

Yet, amid the calls for Twitter to dump Trump and the surveys showing a distaste for diplomacy by tweets, Twitter is where Trump himself is fighting the opposition to his executive order.

“There is nothing nice about searching for terrorists before they can enter our country,” Trump tweeted Monday. “This was a big part of my campaign. Study the world!”


Photo: Protesters on the stairs and escalators at San Francisco International Airport on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. They were protesting Donald Trump’s executive order restricting entry into the United States. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)


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    The executive order signed Friday suspends immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East, Africa ,Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran and Libya — for 90 days. None of the deadly terror attacks in this country since 911 has been carried out by anyone from these seven countries. 18 of the 19 of 911 attackers came from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, there is no Ban on any of these three countries. All of these three countries happen to be the countries that president Trump has significant business interest”. “America First” !?

  • Jake

    if those lib-tards care so much about the poor and suffering, why are they still here ? why haven’t then gone to those poor countries to feed them, help them, mate with them ? why are they occupying airports like some spoiled brat A** holes !