The Silicon Valley “resistance” to Trump is growing louder. A group of large technology companies including Google, AirBnB, Netflix had a discussion over filing a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. The meeting was called by GitHub, which makes software development tools.
According to a report, the technology sector has become the biggest corporate opponent to the immigration ban announced last week as Trump’s crackdown on H1-B visas threatens to cut-off a key labour supply.
The discussions among the tech companies come after Amazon.com and Expedia filed declarations in court on Monday supporting a lawsuit filed by the Washington state attorney general. Amazon and Expedia said Trump’s order adversely impacts their business.
A separate lawsuit challenging Trump’s order as unconstitutional was filed on Monday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Additionally, Microsoft said it would aid the Washington AG lawsuit against the Trump executive order. If the tech companies decide to file an amicus brief as a group, it is unclear which case they would weigh in on.
For those unfamiliar, amicus, or “friend of the court”, briefs are filed by parties who are not litigants in a case but want to offer arguments or information to the judge. In other words, tech companies do not want to burn all bridges with the president, but they don’t want to lose their liberal clients either by being perceived as doing nothing.
Thousands of employees of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, walked out of work Monday afternoon to protest president Trump’s orders. The demonstrations and speeches from Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Google co-founder Sergey Brin amounted to the strongest rebuke yet of Trump’s orders, which prompted sharp criticism from Silicon Valley over the weekend as tech executives at dozens of firms blasted the President’s actions.
More than 2,000 Alphabet employees from at least eight offices walked out Monday afternoon. Pichai and Brin addressed the crowd at the company’s main Mountain View, Calif. campus and were joined by Soufi Esmaeilzadeh, a product manager at Google and an Iranian-born Canadian citizen who has lived in the U.S. for the past 15 years.
“This is something, there are some values, which are really near and dear to your heart,” said Pichai. “It’s foundational and it’s something you should never compromise on. The thing we’ve been debating for the past three days is one of them.”
Google’s Sergey Brin, who was earlier seen at the San Francisco International Airport in a protest against Trump’s order, said he was outraged by the order given as he’s an immigrant and a refugee. Brin said “I came here to the U.S. at age 6 with my family from the Soviet Union, which at that time was the greatest enemy the U.S. had–maybe it still is in some form–but it was a dire period of the Cold War.” “Some of you probably remember it. And there was threat of nuclear annihilation. And even then the U.S. had the courage to take me and my family in as refugees,” Brin added.
Brin pointed out it’s important the debate is not framed as liberal vs republican and so forth. “It’s a debate about fundamental values and thoughtful policy-making and many of the other things, I think, that are apparently not universally adored but I think the vast majority of our country and legislators support,” he insisted.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai, from the beginning, has taken a stern stand against the immigration order. He criticised Trump’s controversial order, saying it will create ‘barriers’ in bringing good talent to the United States of America. In an email to his staff, Pichai said the ban will affect at least 187 Google employees worldwide and that they are pained to see the personal impact of this executive order.
Alphabet’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt has been terrified over Trump’s executive order. He apparently told an audience of Google employees that the Trump administration is “going to do these evil things as they’ve done in the immigration area and perhaps some others,” as reported by BuzzFeed news.
Google is funding an initial $2 million for the fund that will go toward the American Civil Liberties Union, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the International Rescue Committee and the U.N. Refugee Agency. The fund will be matched with up to $2 million in donations from employees. Google said in a statement that it’s concerned about the impact Trump’s order will have on the company’s employees and their families. Company executives are also donating separately to the effort.
Here’s a look at some of the tweets by CEOs from the Silicon Valley.
Aron Levie, CEO of the business collaborations company, called the ban “wrong” in strong terms. He also shared a post on medium on his thoughts.
Just a tweet from CEO Drew Houston, but it counts.
Brian Chesky, CEO of the popular home-sharing service, condemned the immigration ban, calling for his company to “stand with those who are affected” — and then he went one step further, offering free housing to “anyone not allowed in the USA.”