The order to ban citizens of seven majority-Muslim nations from entering the United States has awakened opposition across the country. Some of the most vocal critiques have come from Silicon Valley, which had previously seemed acquiescent to the election of US president Donald Trump.
However late, the American tech sector has finally found its voice. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is also founder of immigration reform lobbying group Fwd.us, was the first major tech executive to speak out on Trump’s executive order in a carefully worded statement. Google CEO Sundar Pichai soon followed suit, and by Saturday, as protests intensified around the nation, defiance from tech leaders did too.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Y Combinator president Sam Altman joined protesters at San Francisco International Airport. Venture capitalists offered to match donations to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the tens of thousands of dollars. (The organization said it has raised $10 million and signed up 150,000 new members this weekend alone.) “I hope this will be one of the defining moments where people came together against this administration,” Altman told Forbes, hours before a federal judge issued a stay on Trump’s immigration ban.
Quartz compiled a list of tech leaders who are heading the charge among the business community against Trump’s immigration ban. We’ll continue to update this story as more statements come in.
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The company has “a few” employees who may be affected by the ban. “As an immigrant, US citizen and CEO, I am deeply concerned about the impact of the recent executive order restricting entry into the United States for nationals of seven countries,” CEO Shantanu Narayen emailed staff on Jan. 29.
In a Jan. 28 post titled “Reverse #MuslimBan!” Affirm CEO and PayPal co-founder Max Levchin said his family came to the US as refugees in 1991. “We must not close our doors to refugees, and those willing to contribute to America’s success,” he wrote. “I hope that our Congress and our Judiciary…recognize this executive order for the xenophobic assault on freedom that it is, and respond.”
The company has advised employees affected by the ban to refrain from traveling abroad, and it’s working on “contingency plans” for those currently outside the US. “We are committed to supporting all of our employees,” VP of human resources Beth Galetti wrote in an email. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has yet to comment publicly on the order.
In a Jan. 28 memo, CEO Tim Cook said Apple “will do everything we can” to support affected employees. “Apple believes deeply in the importance of immigration—both to our company and to our nation’s future,” he wrote. “Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do.” Cook has been in DC meeting with top lawmakers.
On Jan. 29, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass expressed disapproval of Trump’s immigration ban on Medium. “We won’t be successful as a nation with policies like these; our economy and our security rely on being both strong and welcoming,” he wrote.
Levie, the cloud-storage company’s CEO, also encouraged people to donate to the ACLU and other groups that will fight the ban on legal grounds, and to organizations like the IRC that help refugees from Syria and other countries.
Luis von Ahn, CEO of language-learning platform Duolingo and an immigrant from Guatemala, posted on his Facebook page over the weekend that he would match any donation to the ACLU up to $10,000.
Mark Zuckerberg was the first major tech executive to speak out on the executive order, posting a short essay in defense of immigrants and refugees on Jan. 27. “The United States is a nation of immigrants, and we should be proud of that,” he wrote, noting that his own ancestors came from Germany, Austria, and Poland, and that his wife’s were refugees from China and Vietnam. “Like many of you, I’m concerned about the impact of the recent executive orders signed by President Trump.”
On Jan. 31, COO Sheryl Sandberg, who initially stayed silent on the immigration ban, added a much blunter condemnation. “The Executive Orders issued over the past week defy the heart and values that define the best of our nation,” she wrote on Facebook, alongside an image of her great-great-grandmother, who fled religious persecution in Lithuania and arrived in the US in 1889. “This harsher immigration climate is particularly unforgiving for women. Anything that pulls families apart and traumatizes kids has a huge impact on women and their children.”
Fiverr CEO Micha Kaufman, an Israeli entrepreneur based in Tel Aviv, wrote about how he’s “usually proud of this beautiful country for being one of the world’s most diverse democracies,” in a Jan. 29 Facebook post. “Today I’m not proud,” he added, “and I urge the White House to undo this mistake.”
The company has nearly 200 employees affected. Google CEO Sundar Pichai was among the first tech execs to criticize the order publicly. “We’re 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,” he emailed staff late on Jan. 27. “It’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues.”
The next day, Google co-founder and Alphabet president Sergey Brin joined protesters at San Francisco International Airport. “I’m here because I’m a refugee,” he told a reporter. Former Google hiring guru Laszlo Bock tweeted that he also came to the US as a refugee.
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has joined the Trump administration as a business policy adviser. On Jan. 30, IBM provided a statement that weakly advocated for “openness” and expressed zero alarm at Trump’s immigration ban. “As IBMers, we have learned, through era after era, that the path forward—for innovation, for prosperity, and for civil society—is the path of engagement and openness to the world,” the company said.
In late November 2016, Rometty wrote a letter to Trump suggesting ways to work with the new administration. Soon after, a senior IBM employee quit, explaining that she felt Rometty “offered the backing of IBM’s global workforce in support of his agenda,” through an open letter.
The company is donating $100,000 to the ACLU, funding “office hours” with its immigration counsel for employees and their families, and expediting H-1B visas and green cards for those currently on a TN visa. “I’m really sad and angry with what has happened over the last few days in our country,” Apoorva Mehta emailed staff on Jan. 29. “As an immigrant who grew up in one of the countries that was banned, the recent events hit really close to home.”
The ride-hailing startup pledged to donate $1 million to the ACLU over the next four years. “Banning people of a particular faith or creed, race or identity, sexuality or ethnicity, from entering the US is antithetical to both Lyft’s and our nation’s core values,” Lyft’s co-founders wrote on Jan. 29. “We stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues.” Lyft has surged in popularity in the iOS app store, according to data from analytics firm App Annie.
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Donations by Q’s employees to the ACLU are being matched by both the startup and venture-capital firm Homebrew, one of its investors. Q general counsel Abby Horrigan volunteered legal services at New York’s John F. Kennedy International airport. The office-cleaning startup is also promoting Eat Offbeat, a catering company that hires recently settled refugees as chefs, to its clients.
The company has at least 76 affected employees. “We believe that immigration laws can and should protect the public without sacrificing people’s freedom of expression or religion,” Microsoft president Brad Smith wrote in a Jan. 28 email. Satya Nadella, the company’s CEO and an immigrant himself, reposted the email on LinkedIn and said Microsoft “will continue to advocate on this important topic.”
CEO Chris Beard called Trump’s order “overly broad” and “highly disruptive” to innovation and economic growth. “The ban will have an unnecessary negative impact to the health and safety of those affected and their families, not to mention rejecting refugees fleeing persecution, terror and war,” he said in a statement.
CEO Reed Hastings, one of Silicon Valley’s most outspoken leaders, sharply criticized Trump in a Jan. 28 Facebook post. The US president’s actions are “so un-American it pains us all,” Hastings wrote. “Worse, these actions will make America less safe (through hatred and loss of allies) rather than more safe.”
CEO Ben Silberman provided a statement to TechCrunch, indicating that “we strongly support our employees from outside the US.”
The company is matching donations by Postmates employees to the ACLU and International Refugee Assistance Project. “I no longer believe it to be reasonable to remain silent,” CEO Bastian Lehmann wrote on Jan. 29. “The trade-off of these policies is obvious. In exchange for the guise of safety rooted in fear of those with different religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds we will be abandoning the diverse melting pot of culture and ideas that has made the United States prosper.”
CEO Mark Benioff quoted scripture:
Vala Afshar, another executive at the company, provided a tally of iconic companies build by immigrants:
CEO Stewart Butterfield decried the immigration ban and openly matched donations to the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, MALDEF, NAACP, and ProPublica.
“I prefer to keep politics out of the workplace, but this is not a partisan Republican vs. Democrat issue,” CEO Noah Lang wrote on Medium, in a Jan. 29 post signed “Proud American & Third Generation Holocaust Survivor.” “My entire childhood I vowed to my grandmother to Never Forget, and now it is my turn to bear witness and push against the boomerang of history.”
In a tweetstorm, founder Christian Gheorghe reflected on immigrating to the US from communist Romania:
Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and chairman of SolarCity, was a vocal critic of Trump during his campaign, but has recently appeared to warm to the US president. Musk has joined Trump’s business advisory team and tweeted Jan. 24 that former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson “has the potential to be an excellent Sec of State.”
Musk said Jan. 28 that Trump’s immigration ban was “not the best way to address the country’s challenges.” The next day, Musk shared the text of the executive order and suggested he would share specific feedback with Trump via his advisory role. The first meeting of the business advisory group is scheduled for Friday (Feb. 3).
In a Jan. 28 Medium post, co-founder Jeff Lawson urged people to donate to the ACLU and pled for Americans to find their backbone. “Our enemy is not terror, it is losing our soul while fighting terror. America is stronger than this,” he said.
As the CEO of the platform that provides Trump with immediate access to more than 20 million personal followers, Jack Dorsey is in the hot seat. Industry leaders have repeatedly asked Dorsey to remove Trump from Twitter. Dorsey signaled his disapproval of the immigration ban by retweeting updates from yesterday’s protests.
Dorsey also made public statements on behalf of Square, where he is also CEO, and Twitter. Notably, Twitter was the platform of choice for many tech leaders to voice their opinions on the immigration ban.
Like Elon Musk, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick also agreed to serve on Trump’s advisory team, a decision that has incited conflict within the company. Uber has a “dozen or so” employees and thousands of drivers affected by the immigration ban. On Jan. 28, Kalanick said Uber was “working out a process” to identify and compensate drivers barred re-entry to the US. Later that day, the company was accused of profiting off a taxi-driver-led strike at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, sparking a #DeleteUber campaign among outraged consumers.
On Jan. 29, as blowback against Uber continued, Kalanick called Trump’s ban “wrong and unjust.” He said the company’s lawyers would be on call to offer drivers legal support. He recommitted to compensating drivers for lost earnings and said Uber was creating a $3 million fund “to help drivers with immigration and translation services.”
Y Combinator president Sam Altman joined protesters (and Google’s Sergey Brin) at the San Francisco Airport on Jan. 28. “I hope this will be one of the defining moments where people came together against this administration,” he told Forbes. Just hours earlier, he published a blog post, “Time to Take a Stand.” Altman has controversially defended his decision to keep venture capitalist and Trump supporter Peter Thiel on as a partner at Y Combinator.
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Just as notable as the tech leaders who voiced their dissent were those who didn’t. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Trump advisors IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz, and Google cofounder Larry Page were notably absent from those speaking out. While Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was quick to denounce Trump for an executive order that threatens women’s health care, she has remained silent on the immigration ban. (Update: Sandberg condemned the immigration order on Jan. 31, joining a long list of tech leaders who had already done so.)
This story has been updated with more responses from the tech industry.