On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order temporarily halting the US refugee program for 120 days. The order has indefinitely suspended the intake of refugees from Syria and has blocked all people from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen from entering the US for 90 days. Reuters reports that the order affects those with green cards as well — meaning that permanent residents of the United States of America from these countries currently abroad may not be allowed to return to the country or travel outside the United States.
In the run-up to the election and now-President Trump’s win, Silicon Valley’s leaders frequently positioned themselves with their rhetoric as 2016’s new statesmen and were occasionally outspoken against Trump as a candidate. During his transition, many of Big Tech’s most prominent leaders met with Trump to discuss his economic agenda. Here’s how Silicon Valley, and some of the world’s biggest global technology companies, are reacting to the news of Trump’s measures against refugees and travellers from several Muslim-majority countries.
A source at Google told BuzzFeed News that “just under 200 people at Google affected” by Trump’s executive order “but people across the company are freaking out.” The source said that employees have emailed managers, suggesting that “if their colleagues affected by the order cannot travel for conferences or work events then they will refuse to travel in solidarity. “A lot of people are talking this weekend. Emails were flying around Friday,” the source said.
Meanwhile, Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote a memo to staff about the ban, which was 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.”
Here’s a statement by Google, issued to BuzzFeed News:
“We’re concerned 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. We’ll continue to make our views on these issues known to leaders in Washington and elsewhere.”
Apple CEO, Tim Cook wrote a memo on the ban to employees from in Washington DC, where he’s been taking meetings with top GOP lawmakers:
In my conversations with officials here in Washington this week, I’ve made it clear that Apple believes deeply in the importance of immigration — both to our company and to our nation’s future. Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do.
I’ve heard from many of you who are deeply concerned about the executive order issued yesterday restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. I share your concerns. It is not a policy we support.
Read the full memo here
Microsoft has also issued a statement:
“We share the concerns about the impact of the executive order on our employees from the listed countries, all of whom have been in the United States lawfully, and we’re actively working with them to provide legal advice and assistance.”
Saturday afternoon, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella added his own statement via 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.”
Friday night Mark Zuckerberg gently criticized Trump’s policies on his Facebook page. The Facebook CEO noted that he’s “concerned about the impact of the recent executive orders signed by President Trump,” especially the ones related to immigration restriction.
Saturday afternoon a Facebook spokesperson added a short addendum to Zuckerberg’s comment, noting: “We are assessing the impact on our workforce and determining how best to protect our people and their families from any adverse effects.”
Zuckerberg’s post, while one of the first from tech executives has been criticized for not being more direct. According to a Facebook employee of Middle Eastern descent, some FB employees are worried and some have called for the company to clarify its relationship to board member Peter Thiel.
“There are questions here that we want answered. Does Thiel support this ban? Does he think the Facebook employees who come from Iran and those other countries shouldn’t be allowed to keep working here? We deserve to know his position on this.”
Palantir — of which Thiel is a co-founder and the largest shareholder — did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the ban.
FWD.us, the organization that Zuckerberg said he would be working with to address potential fallout Trump’s immigration ban, spoke to BuzzFeed News about the executive order.
Executive Director, Todd Schulte told BuzzFeed News that FWD.us is focused on helping refugees and H1b visa holders, but the organization’s priority is the impact that Trump’s executive order will have on beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Child Arrival policy.
“We are very focused on insuring that those 750,000 Dreamers who are benefitting from DACA don’t have their protections removed. They have passed a background check, they are the most integrated parts of the undocumented community into society.” Schulte said that it’s important not to view groups of immigrants in different buckets, but noted, “There’s no better definition of what we can do to help young people succeed than a program that helped people come out of the shadows. They are working in every major company in America,” and it would be economically disastrous to end the program.
Late Saturday afternoon, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, an advisor to President Trump, tweeted that “the blanket entry ban on citizens from certain primarily Muslim countries is not the best way to address the country’s challenges.”
Musk was recently tapped to join the administration’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative. He has already been spotted in the White House.
In an email to BuzzFeed News, a Tesla spokesperson echoed Musk’s sentiments, adding that “[Tesla hopes] that this temporary action by the Administration transitions to a fair and thoughtful long-term policy.”
Saturday afternoon, Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick, sent a memo to employees and posted the text to Facebook.
He writes that, “this ban will impact many innocent people — an issue that I will raise this coming Friday when I go to Washington for President Trump’s first business advisory group meeting.”
Kalanick notes that Uber is reaching out to its drivers who are immigrants that might be affected. “We are working out a process to identify these drivers and 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. We will have more details on this in the coming days,” he says.
Full memo is here:
An Uber spokesperson told BuzzFeed News on Saturday afternoon that the company has reached out to about a dozen employees with green cards and visas who would be affected by the executive order with offers of support, including legal help.
This week, according to an internal memo obtained by Business Insider, Uber’s CTO denounced Trump, calling him “a deplorable person.” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was recently named as one of 19 executives who will be advising President Trump on economic policies.
In a Saturday email to employees Logan Green and John Zimmer, co-founders of Silicon Valley ride-hail company Lyft, said they “stand firmly against” Trump’s order.
Yesterday, Trump closed the country’s borders to refugees, immigrants, and even documented residents from around the world based on their country of origin. Banning people of a particular faith or creed, race or identity, sexuality or ethnicity, from entering the U.S. is antithetical to both Lyft’s and our nation’s core values. We stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community.
It is also not lost on us that many of our community members, their families, and friends may be impacted. We are here for you. Our HR and legal teams are working directly with those affected. We ask that each of you continue to support each other and remember how other community members have been affected.
Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppleman sent a forceful statement to employees, which BuzzFeed News received on Monday afternoon:
“I would not be here writing this if America did not welcome immigrants - especially those fleeing persecution. My grandfather, Richard Stoppelman, fled Nazi Germany and came here as a refugee. He pulled himself up by the bootstraps and eventually was able to live the American Dream.
It’s hard for me to comprehend the underlying motivation and lack of empathy that drove the President’s executive order this weekend, but know this… we will do everything in our power to help and protect our affected employees. We will continue to speak out against policies (like the immigration ban) and other actions that are discriminatory. This executive order neither reflects who we are as a country nor the will of the majority of people who live here.
Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings addressed Trump’s executive order with a forceful statement on Facebook. “Trump’s actions are hurting Netflix employees around the world, and are so un-American it pains us all,” he wrote.
Square, the payments company founded by Jack Dorsey, issued the following statement through a spokesperson:
“We are concerned about the impact the recent executive action could have on our employees and our sellers. The contributions of our immigrant-owned small businesses play an important part in our economy and demonstrate the best of this country’s values. We stand with them and anyone affected.”
Dorsey, who is also the CEO of Twitter tweeted personally that the executive order will have a real economic and humanitarian impact.
He also tweeted a link to The Internet Association, an advocacy and lobbying arm for tech companies. According to the Association:
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.
Twitter also tweeted in support of “immigrants of all religions.”
Airbnb co-founder and CEO, Brian Chesky also tweeted his disapproval of the refugee ban. “Let’s all find ways to connect people, not separate them,” he tweeted.
Amazon, which applied for 2,483 high skilled immigration visas in 2015, and 627 in 2016, declined to comment on the refugee ban to BuzzFeed News.
But in an email sent to all Amazon employees, VP of human resources Beth Galetti said: “We are committed to supporting all of our employees and anyone in their immediate family who may be impacted by this order, including assistance with legal counsel and support, and will continue to monitor any developments.”
Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian wrote a long, strongly-worded blog post on his site:
President Trump’s recent executive order is not only potentially unconstitutional, but deeply un-American. We are a nation of immigrants, after all. In the tech world, we often talk about a startup’s “unfair advantage” that allows it to beat competitors. Welcoming immigrants and refugees has been our country’s unfair advantage, and coming from an immigrant family has been mine as an entrepreneur.
Read the rest, here
On Monday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sent an all-hands note to employees telling them the company is exploring “legal options” to make clear its opposition to the order.
This executive order is one we do not support. Our public policy team in D.C. has reached out to senior administration officials to make our opposition clear. We’ve also reached out to congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle to explore legislative options. Our legal team has prepared a declaration of support for the Washington State Attorney General who will be filing suit against the order. We are working other legal options as well.
We’re a nation of immigrants whose diverse backgrounds, ideas, and points of view have helped us build and invent as a nation for over 240 years. No nation is better at harnessing the energies and talents of immigrants. It’s a distinctive competitive advantage for our country—one we should not weaken.
To our employees in the U.S. and around the world who may be directly affected by this order, I want you to know that the full extent of Amazon’s resources are behind you.
HP provided a response to BuzzFeed News Sunday afternoon:
“At HP, regardless of economic and political circumstances, part of our core values is to support our employees and their families. Our first priority is to identify the affected people we have across the globe and to determine how best to support them. We are dedicated to diversity and inclusion and have been doing business in 170 countries for over 70 years and look forward to continuing to do so.”
The Australian software company Atlassian sent a strongly issued statement on Monday afternoon from CEO, Mike Cannon-Brookes:
It continues to be a difficult social and political climate.Personally, Scott and I strongly disagree with many of the decisions made in the first week by President Trump, especially those that violate Atlassian’s values and commitment to openness, inclusion, diversity, and acceptance.I believe President Trump’s recent executive order to ban all refugees, visa and green card holders across seven countries (Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen) from entering the U.S. or traveling abroad is an affront to our personal and company values, an affront to the founding principles of the United States, and should be an affront to any loving human being.I’m an immigrant. I’m a human being. And to use an Australian-ism, “this is just #@!%ing wrong.” I believe it’s important to stand up and speak out when something is not OK. This is very clearly not OK.Many of us have friends and family members who are or could be affected in the future by this executive order, not to mention the heavy emotional toll associated with such fear and uncertainty. Know that our commitment to you is unwavering and that we will do everything possible to support you.Scott and I shaped Atlassian to mirror our own beliefs – to build a company that is open, inclusive, fair, and just. That’s what we will continue to champion for Atlassian and it’s also what we want for the world. Atlassian is a team that is open to everyone. We believe the highest impact teams are those with the most diverse perspectives. We will continue to build our teams with people who live these values, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or other personal characteristic.Whilst we can’t always predict what will happen in the future, we can always choose how we act and support each other. We all have outlets for taking action around what we believe. We can always stand up and say loudly if something is unjust, and work to make it right.Change comes from your voices (and mine). I encourage you to express them. Using your voice to advocate for others – especially those whose voice is silenced or marginalized – is the essence of playing as a team.
Also issued Sunday, a statement from Intel, which initially declined comment on Trump’s refugee ban.
“We are providing support to potentially impacted employees, all of whom are in this country lawfully. As a company co-founded by an immigrant, we continue to support lawful immigration. We will continue to provide any impacted employees with Intel’s full support.”
Dell CEO, Michael Dell (who serves on a Trump administration advisory committee) issued a statement, which BuzzFeed News received on Monday afternoon:
The annual technology conference SXSW sent a statement to BuzzFeed News Monday evening:
SXSW is alarmed by the Trump administration’s decision to ban citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
We stand against discriminatory laws and unequivocally support civil rights for all persons everywhere. Participation by speakers, artists, and filmmakers from around the world is crucial to the creative mix of ideas that makes our event meaningful.
We are working to understand how the ban will impact our participants and how we can use our voice to support those directly affected by this executive order.
And DoorDash CEO and co-founder Tony Xu posted a public statement. The, company has offered to deliver food for free to any lawyers, advocates, etc working over the weekend to support immigrants and refugees. “We’ve put the call out via Twitter and will place orders for anyone that takes us up on the offer,” the company said.
25 years ago, my family and I immigrated to America with less than $300 to our names. Today, more than ever, DoorDash stands with all people working to come to America in search of a better life.At best President Trump’s #muslimban is a misguided, blunt solution to a complicated, nuanced problem; at worst, it is a racial attack that only further divides the country. It’s already clear that this decision will not do what it intends; rather it will make life harder for millions of people, including our customers, employees, merchants, and dashers.
Late Monday night, the Wikimedia Foundation (company behind Wikipedia) emailed BuzzFeed News a link to a blog post from Executive Director, Katherine Maher:
We strongly urge the U.S. administration to withdraw the recent executive order restricting travel and immigration from certain nations, and closing the doors to many refugees.
Read the rest here.
On Twitter, tech investors and Silicon Valley personas are speaking out, some of them strongly. Prominent Twitter and Uber investor, Chris Sacca tweeted this:
On Monday afternoon, eBay provided this statement from its CEO Devin Wenig (sent to employees Sunday) to BuzzFeed News:
I believe this decision fundamentally contradicts our company’s values and America’s values.
We have employees from the named countries. Fortunately, to our knowledge, none of them are currently traveling outside of the U.S. However, we don’t yet have information about the potential impact on direct family members of those employees.
This situation is still evolving, and as of this evening a Federal judge in New York granted an immediate stay on certain aspects of the Executive Order.
In order to safeguard our employees from harm from the executive order, we are taking the following actions:
If you are from one of the above listed countries, regardless of your work status (green card or visa), we believe you should not travel outside the U.S. until further notice.
If you or your direct family members are currently traveling outside the U.S. and have concerns about returning, please reach out immediately to MyHR. In addition, because it is possible that other countries could be added to the ban, we suggest that you contact MyHR if you have questions about whether you should travel outside the U.S.
Spotify referred BuzzFeed News to a statement by the Internet Association, of which it is a member:
The internet industry is deeply concerned with the implications of President Trump’s executive order limiting immigration and movement into the United States. While this order impacts many companies outside of the tech industry, internet companies in particular thrive in the U.S. because the best and the brightest are able to create innovative products and services right here in America
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…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.
Spotify did not respond to questions about what it is advising its employees to do in light of the order.
Entrepreneur and investor Max Levchin, who cofounded PayPal (along with Thiel), tweeted that “we must not close our door to immigrants”:
Laszlo Bock, another well-known Silicon Valley veteran and former head of people ops at Google, also tweeted about his personal experience as a refugee.
The CEO and co-founder of Twilio wrote a long post on Medium on Saturday afternoon, calling the ban “UnAmerican” and offering concrete steps to take action.
Yesterday, that beacon of hope and freedom was extinguished, exactly when humanity needs it the most. Globally there are over 60,000,000 displaced people, more than any time since World War II. And today we turned our backs on them.
There is an obvious word for this, it is persecution. By instituting a religious test, we have very clearly enshrined religious discrimination in federal policy (and emboldened the “us vs. them” storyline that terror organizations propagate.)
Read the whole post here
GoFundMe’s CEO Rob Solomon wrote in a statement to BuzzFeed News that the company “believe[s] this new policy is counter to American values.”
America is a nation of immigrants, made up of folks from all walks of life, from places all around the world, who are woven into the very fabric of our communities and cities from coast to coast. Immigrants have enriched our nation and strengthened American values for generations. Immigrants are not only part of our communities—they’re critical to the success of American businesses. In fact, many employees and executives here at GoFundMe are immigrants.We oppose the new Executive Order, and we believe this new policy is counter to American values. Each and every day, we see individuals and organizations raising money on GoFundMe for refugee families who are hoping for a new start. And each and every day, we see the kindness of communities coming together to support these families in need.GoFundMe exists to give people the power to change their world. Millions of people have raised billions of dollars on our platform. As a company and platform, we do not discriminate, and most importantly we couldn’t exist without the contributions that immigrants have made to the great Silicon Valley companies that have preceded us.
On Sunday morning, Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta said that, in addition to donating $100,000 to the ACLU, the company is offering immigration counseling to employees and their families and working to expedite green card and visa applications for employees who are permanent residents of Mexico and Canada.
Sriram Krishnan, a Snapchat employee and former Facebook employee singled out the specific portion of the ban, which prevents green card holders from re-entering the country:
On Twitter, some have called for major websites and platforms to blackout their sites in protest. In January 2012, in response to the Stop Online Privacy Act, sites like Wikipedia, Tumblr and Reddit blacked out their sites in protest.
Dash, is the CEO of the New York-based software company, Fog Creek, shared on Twitter that Tech employees should use leverage to convince their executives to pressure President Trump on the order:
Y Combinator President and investor, Sam Altman penned a blog post urging Silicon Valley and the tech industry to “Take A Stand.” He writes:
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…
…At a minimum, companies should take a public stance. But talking is only somewhat effective, and employees should push their companies to figure out what actions they can take. I wish I had better ideas here, but we’re going to have a meeting on Friday at Y Combinator to discuss. I’d love to see other tech companies do the same.
In an email on Saturday afternoon, Altman also told BuzzFeed News, “We are doing some research/brainstorming this week and then meeting internally on Friday as a team about what to do.”
As some have pointed out, Altman’s company has its own ties to President Trump. Peter Thiel, a Trump transition team member is a part-time partner at Y Combinator.
On Sunday Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, another well-known tech investor, wrote a post on AVC, his widely-read blog, entitled “Make America Hate Again,” where he pledged to donate “a nice chunk of change to the ACLU” every month to help the organization “fight the institutionalized hatred, racism, and bigotry that this administration is foisting upon us.”
“I’ve kept my mouth shut about President Trump since he was elected in early November,” wrote Wilson. “I figured there were other things to focus on where I could have an impact and so I did that. But friday’s executive orders are too much for me.”
Manan Mehta, the founder of Unshackled, a VC firm that backs immigrant founders, spoke with BuzzFeed News about the ban, on Saturday afternoon. The firm has 35 founders from 15 countries, including two from Iran as well as India, China, Japan, and Australia. According to Mehta, founders inside Unshackled are on a variety of visa types or on the path to green cards.
“A lot of our founders are focused on ensuring that they can legally stay here. They’re up to speed on it,” Mehta said. “What I would advise is that, by and large, they operate with the best knowledge of the law as it evolves. If they know that it may be challenging to come back in, then they should probably not leave.”
Similarly, Chris Wright, a well-known Silicon Valley immigration lawyer told BuzzFeed News that he is currently advising clients who may be affected by the ban to stay in the United States.
“I am telling people with any connection to the designated countries to remain within the US, even if they already have visas or green cards; the events at US airports today make it clear that’s vital,” he said. “And the connection can be remote: one of my clients was born in Iran, but left as an infant and has been a Canadian citizen ever since. But that ‘connection’, until it’s properly defined by regulation or the courts, isn’t to be taken lightly.”
In a company-wide memo sent on Monday morning, CEO Bill McDermott shared the message that SAP had previously sent directly to affected employees. “[E]very single one of us, all 84,000 people of SAP, will always stand up for each other. We will protect each other’s human rights and reject any attempt to discriminate on any basis,” McDermott wrote. The memo concluded on a note of reassurance: “If you’re scared, stay strong. If you’re frustrated, stay active. If you have questions, Stefan and our entire HR team are on alert to support you. To all our nervous families wondering about your place in the world, we are always in your corner. You are exactly where you belong and we are so proud to call you neighbors, colleagues, and friends.”
BuzzFeed CEO, Jonah Peretti wrote an email to staff to address the executive order:
I wanted to reach out in light of Trump’s most recent executive order on immigration.
The United States of America is a nation of immigrants, and should continue to be a symbol of freedom in the world. Instead, the President has decided to let fear drive our government policy. Our thoughts are with the victims of this recent executive order, our employees around the world, including Muslims and their families abroad, refugees, and everyone whose lives may be turned upside down by this policy.
These changes in government policy do not change BuzzFeed’s ongoing commitment to support and respect all of our employees and our diverse audience around the world.
IBM, Palantir and Oracle did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Oracle CEO Safra Catz serves on a Trump administration advisory committee as do Palantir co-founder Peter Thiel and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty.
This post is being continually updated.
Additional reporting by Priya Anand, Caroline O’Donovan, Mat Honan, and Blake Montgomery.
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