Tech firms call work­ers home, de­cry en­try ban

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY BRIAN FUNG AND TRACY JAN

The coun­try’s lead­ing tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies are re­call­ing over­seas em­ploy­ees and sharply crit­i­ciz­ing Pres­i­dent Trump af­ter he signed an ex­ec­u­tive order Fri­day bar­ring for 90 days im­mi­grants and vis­i­tors from seven Mus­lim coun­tries from en­ter­ing the United States.

The com­pa­nies warned that the ac­tion — which af­fects even those with le­gal-per­ma­nent-res­i­dent sta­tus in the United States and in­cludes sus­pend­ing the ac­cep­tance of refugees for 120 days — could im­pair the abil­ity of top U.S. com­pa­nies to com­pete glob­ally.

Google chief ex­ec­u­tive Sundar Pichai late Fri­day or­dered scores of staffers trav­el­ing over­seas to return to the United States im­me­di­ately. Pichai is­sued a com­pa­ny­wide memo that was highly crit­i­cal of Trump’s ac­tion, say­ing it could pre­vent at least 187 for­eign­born Google em­ploy­ees from en­ter­ing the United States.

“It’s painful to see the per­sonal cost of this ex­ec­u­tive order on our

col­leagues,” Pichai wrote. “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 U.S.”

Thou­sands of tech­nol­ogy work­ers liv­ing in Sil­i­con Val­ley or abroad could be af­fected by Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive order, ac­cord­ing to Zahra Bil­loo, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the San Fran­cisco Ba­yarea of­fice of the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions.

About 250,000 Mus­lims are es­ti­mated to live in the Bay Area, many of whom are Arab or South Asian im­mi­grants work­ing at com­pa­nies such as Google, Face­book, Twitter and Mi­crosoft.

“This is just where it starts. What hap­pens when they add Pak­istan? Or a gulf coun­try? In­done­sia and Malaysia?” said Bil­loo, a civil rights at­tor­ney. “By tar­get­ing im­mi­grants in this way, Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive order not only di­rectly im­pacts cer­tain work­ers, their fam­i­lies and these com­pa­nies, they also im­pact co-work­ers be­cause peo­ple from other Mus­lim­ma­jor­ity coun­tries could be next.”

The pol­icy won’t af­fect just tech­nol­ogy work­ers; it could also harm thou­sands of part-time drivers for ride-hail­ing ser­vices re­lied on by many Amer­i­cans, said Uber chief ex­ec­u­tive Travis Kalan­ick in a com­pa­ny­wide email. Kalan­ick added that he will be sure to raise the is­sue Fri­day when he and a num­ber of other busi­ness ad­vis­ers are ex­pected to meet with Trump.

“This ban will im­pact many in­no­cent peo­ple,” wrote Kalan­ick, who in De­cem­ber ac­cepted a po­si­tion on Trump’s eco­nomic ad­vi­sory team.

In ad­di­tion to block­ing trav­el­ers from Iraq, Iran, So­ma­lia, Su­dan, Syria, Libya and Ye­men, the re­stric­tions on for­eign en­try also ap­ply to those who hold dual na­tion­al­ity. A per­son born in one of the seven coun­tries but also hold­ing a pass­port from a coun­try such as Bri­tain could be barred from the United States.

Mi­crosoft gen­eral coun­sel Brad Smith, in a let­ter to staffers Saturday, said that at least 76 em­ploy­ees will be af­fected by Trump’s pol­icy. The com­pany said it has con­tacted those in­di­vid­u­als with of­fers of le­gal as­sis­tance, and it urged other em­ploy­ees who may be sub­ject to the ban to con­tact the com­pany as soon as pos­si­ble.

Satya Nadella, Mi­crosoft’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, wrote in a LinkedIn post: “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.”

Face­book chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Zucker­berg on Fri­day wrote in a pub­lic mes­sage that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are in­debted to the tra­di­tional U.S. pol­icy of be­ing wel­com­ing and in­clu­sive.

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

Sim­i­lar sentiments were ex­pressed across the tech in­dus­try. Ap­ple chief ex­ec­u­tive Tim Cook, who was in Wash­ing­ton to meet with Re­pub­li­can of­fi­cials, tweeted a quote from Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln high­light­ing “mal­ice to­ward none” and “char­ity for all” dur­ing a visit to Ford’s The­atre.

Cook later said in a com­pa­ny­wide email that with­out im­mi­gra­tion, Ap­ple would not ex­ist; the co-founder of Ap­ple, Steve Jobs, was the son of a Syr­ian im­mi­grant.

“I’ve heard from many of you who are deeply con­cerned about the ex­ec­u­tive order is­sued yes­ter­day re­strict­ing im­mi­gra­tion from seven Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries,” Cook wrote. “I share your con­cerns. It is not a pol­icy we sup­port.”

Mean­while, a ma­jor trade group rep­re­sent­ing firms such as Ama­zon, Net­flix, Mi­crosoft and LinkedIn said Saturday that Trump’s de­ci­sion had “trou­bling con­se­quences” for Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­nies that de­pend on tal­ent from over­seas.

“The in­ter­net in­dus­try is deeply con­cerned with the im­pli­ca­tions of Pres­i­dent Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive order lim­it­ing im­mi­gra­tion and move­ment into the United States,” Michael Beck­er­man, pres­i­dent of the In­ter­net Association, said in a state­ment.

Trump’s at­ti­tude to­ward Mus­lims’ en­ter­ing the coun­try raises ten­sions be­tween the White House and Sil­i­con Val­ley. Aside from Pay­Pal co-founder Peter Thiel, who has been closely ad­vis­ing Trump, much of the tech in­dus­try had sup­ported Hil­lary Clin­ton for pres­i­dent. In open let­ters and other pub­lic state­ments dur­ing the cam­paign, tech ex­ec­u­tives and work­ers ob­jected to Trump’s anti-Mus­lim state­ments, and some signed onto a com­mit­ment not to help de­sign his pro­posed Mus­lim reg­istry.

Trump’s ac­tion against trav­el­ers from the Mid­dle East ob­li­gates tech com­pa­nies to take a stand, Sam Alt­man, pres­i­dent of the in­flu­en­tial start-up ac­cel­er­a­tor Y Com­bi­na­tor, said in a blog post Saturday.

“The prece­dent of in­val­i­dat­ing al­ready-is­sued visas and green cards should be ex­tremely trou­bling for im­mi­grants of any coun­try or for any­one who thinks their con­tri­bu­tions to the US are im­por­tant,” Alt­man wrote in his blog post.

For many in Sil­i­con Val­ley, Trump’s order crossed “a red line,” ac­cord­ing to Hunter Walk, a part­ner at the San Fran­cisco-based ven­ture cap­i­tal firm Home­brew VC.

“For those of us who’ve al­ready been vo­cal . . . [it’s] mov­ing peo­ple from say­ing ‘fo­cus on midterm elec­tions’ to ap­ply di­rect pres­sure to our in­dus­try’s CEOs and our politi­cians to take a stand,” Walk said.

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