Silicon Valley is ‘freaking out’ over chaos caused by Trump’s immigration ban

30 Jan 2017

Protesters at the Women’s March following Donald Trump’s inauguration. Image: Christopher Penler/Shutterstock

The divide between Silicon Valley and the Trump administration has become an enormous chasm as the executive order temporarily banning immigration from certain countries has resulted in legal chaos for tech employees.

It has been just over a week since Donald Trump took office in the White House, but in that time he has created quite a stir within the scientific community with a number of US environmental agencies issuing ‘gag orders’ on the release of climate information.

Now, Silicon Valley is reacting with anger following Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven countries for a period of at least 90 days or, in Syria’s case, indefinitely.

Google, Apple and Microsoft make stance clear

Since the ban was announced, almost all of the major tech CEOs have come out against it, not only for what they see as an affront to American ideals, but one that could seriously harm thousands of their employees.

In Google’s case, a source who spoke with BuzzFeed said that 200 of the tech giant’s employees were affected by the ban implemented on Friday, stating that people across the company are “freaking out”.

The suggestion was, the person said, that if some of Google’s employees could not travel outside the country for fear of not returning, their colleagues would also refuse to travel in solidarity.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has also weighed in on the issue, sending a memo to staff saying the company “believes deeply in the importance of immigration”.

“There are employees at Apple who are directly affected by yesterday’s immigration order,” he said. “Our HR, legal and security teams are in contact with them, and Apple will do everything we can to support them.”

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella also offered his thoughts on LinkedIn, making it clear what his stance on the matter was.

“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 offers measured response

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg issued what could be described as a measured response, taking the time to both openly criticise the immigration ban and commend Trump on other promises he has made.

“Had we turned away refugees a few decades ago, Priscilla’s family wouldn’t be here today,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post, before going on to say that he was pleased Trump had promised to help the country’s ‘Dreamers’ – the name for children born in the US to illegal immigrants.

Yet, speaking with Buzzfeed, one Facebook employee of Middle Eastern descent criticised Zuckerberg for not being more critical of the ban, particularly since Facebook currently has Peter Thiel – an adviser to Trump – on the company’s board.

Those with possible influence on the president

Another person with access to the president’s ear is Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who recently attended a meeting at the White House with other major industry players.

In a Twitter post, Musk made his feelings on the matter quite clear.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appears to be another staunch critic of the ban going so far as to say it will have a “humanitarian and economic impact” on the US.

Airbnb offers housing

Meanwhile, one of the first CEOs to actively offer a solution to the crisis is Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky, claiming on Facebook that the company will cover the costs of staying at hosts’ properties in the event that someone finds themselves unable to travel to the US.

“Not allowing countries or refugees into America is not right, and we must stand with those who are affected,” Chesky said.

“Airbnb is providing free housing to refugees and anyone else who needs it in the event they are denied the ability to board a US-bound flight and are not in your city/country of residence. We have 3m homes, so we can definitely find people a place to stay.”

One minor victory for Silicon Valley – and, more importantly, for those affected by the ban – is that the Department of Homeland Security has since rescinded its ban on entry for green card holders, stating “the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest”.

Protesters at the Women’s March following Donald Trump’s inauguration. Image: Christopher Penler/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic