An uneasy Silicon Valley denounces Trump immigration ban

Silicon Valley heads have slammed US President Donald Trump's temporary ban on refugees and many Muslims from entering the United States, fearing it could prevent them from accessing a global reservoir of talent.

The sweeping immigration crackdown moved many tech bosses to criticize measures that could impact sector employees.

"Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do," said Tim Cook in a memo to staff obtained by AFP.

The company's founder Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian immigrant.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings called the president's first week in office "very sad," saying in a Facebook post that "Trump's actions are hurting Netflix employees around the world, and are so un-American it pains us all."

"It is time to link arms together to protect American values of freedom and opportunity."

Nearly 200 Google employees are directly impacted by the measures, according to an internal memo from CEO Sundar Pichai.

"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," said the head of the internet giant.

Trump's hardline executive order, signed Friday, suspends the arrival of refugees for at least 120 days, and for the next three months bars visas for travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

'Best and the brightest'

Immigration law specialist Ava Benach—who told AFP she has been flooded with calls from clients—said those already in the US should stay put, and those abroad risk being blocked from boarding aircraft.

"I would advise against leaving the US because I don't believe that they will be able to return," she said.

As resistance to the temporary immigration restrictions mount, a US federal judge on Saturday ordered authorities to stop deporting refugees and other travelers stuck at US airports.

US District Judge Ann Donnelly's decision to issue a temporary stay—which stopped short of ruling on the constitutionality of Trump's order—came after dozens of people were detained at US airports following Trump's actions.

"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, for the world" said Microsoft head Satya Nadella, who is of Indian descent.

The company had warned Thursday that immigration restrictions could impact its ability to fill research and development positions.

Globalization has been a boon for Silicon Valley, which employs a significant population of foreign engineers. Some 250,000 Muslims live in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"Internet companies in particular thrive in the US because the best and the brightest are able to create innovative products and services right here in America," said Michael Beckerman, the head of a leading industry lobby group.

Trump met last month with a handful of America's most powerful tech executives—a bid to mend fences with a largely pro-Democrat industry.

No announcements were made following the summit, however.

In the short term, many tech companies are offering legal assistance to staffers impacted by the executive order.

"We are assessing the impact on our workforce and determining how best to protect our people and their families from any adverse effects," a Facebook spokesperson told AFP.

Chris Sacca, a major financial backer of the sector, vowed to donate $150,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization that has hit the executive order with legal challenges.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick vowed to raise the issue at a meeting next week of Trump's business advisory council, which the executive is a part of.

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Jan 29, 2017
fearing it could prevent them from accessing a global reservoir of talent.

The "bottom line" is the only thing they are concerned with. The big corporations used to train Americans to fill the vacancies in the their work force. But they found it cheaper to import labor then train Americans, Their discovery and innovations are putting a lot of us out of work(Uber, Robotics, AI etc.). And that is fine and the natural order of things. But they should be socially responsible enough to train those people and other Americans to fill their job vacancies.

Instead they play on our unrest to try and stir sympathy for their cause. Or perhaps they are saying we are all just plain to dumb to learn new skills.

Feb 06, 2017
I agree, rderkis. The H1B program has been abused to the point that now it's sole use is the termination of higher-cost American workers for greatly cheaper foreign workers. I hope Trump gets it shut down completely.

Feb 06, 2017
Have any of you worked in high tech fields?

I think your remoteness from the actual problem may affect your feelings about it.

Feb 06, 2017
I was born here and have worked my whole life in technology. Since the mid 1990s, I've witnessed hundreds of fellow engineers and technicians displaced by cheap disposable, foreign labor. In fact government and corporations have gone from training American people for jobs to requiring higher degrees for the same positions. That way they can clam there's no qualified American for the job. Stop all immigration to the USA and start training American people.

Feb 06, 2017
Stop all immigration to the USA and start training American people.

It doesn't work that way. If you stop immigration now and start training americans you'll have a decade before you get any that can fill these openings (i.e. you'll just see the tech sector in the US collapse)

Education has been systematically defunded in the US since the Reagan era (it doesn't show results immediately, so it isn't relevant to politicians with limited terms). To get qualified people you have to start early. You can't just add on a few college courses and expect that to produce highly qualified people tomorrow.

Start investing in education and the rest will follow on its own in due time.

You reap what you sow.

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