Tech stance against immigration ban aims to protect employees

Nearly 100 tech companies oppose President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration

The 97 tech firms who have joined forces to oppose President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration say they are looking to protect their employees as well as their business interests.

"The order makes it more difficult and expensive for U.S. companies to recruit, hire, and retain some of the world's best employees," the court brief reads. "It disrupts ongoing business operations. And it threatens companies' ability to attract talent, business, and investment to the United States."

The list of firms who signed onto the friend-of-the-court brief includes Airbnb, Apple, Facebook, GitHub, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter and Yelp. The move comes in response to the executive order signed on Jan. 27 that temporarily bars citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, as well as all refugees, from entering the United States.

The Trump administration has said the ban is only temporary and was designed to protect the nation from terrorist attacks. It has been placed on hold while lawsuits against it work their way through several courts.

The 97 companies contend that it would be bad for business.

"Immigrants are among our leading entrepreneurs, politicians, artists, and philanthropists," the companies said. "Immigrants or their children founded more than 200 of the companies on the Fortune 500 list, including Apple, Kraft, Ford, General Electric, AT&T, Google, McDonald's, Boeing, and Disney. ...Collectively, these companies generate annual revenue of $4.2 trillion, and employ millions of Americans."

The move echoes protests that have erupted around the world about the ban.

On Friday, James L. Robart, a U.S. federal judge who presides in Washington state, halted Trump's immigration ban by granting a temporary restraining order against it. That ruling has been appealed by the Trump administration.

After Robart temporarily blocked the travel ban, Trump took to Twitter to complain about the move and to disparage the judge. "The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!," the president tweeted just hours after Robart made his ruling.

Industry analysts say the companies could face similar criticism from Trump, but likely feel the need to defend themselves and their employees.

"There could also be backlash if they did not participate, especially if a large number of other companies did," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "I think this was a principled stand, but it is also a sound business move. All the populations these companies deal with are diverse - employees, prospective employees, customers, and partners. The U.S. being, and being seen as, hostile to refugees, immigrants, and people from other countries would impede their businesses."

Judith Hurwitz, an analyst with Hurwitz & Associates, said many companies, particularly international businesses, may be feeling the strain of what the immigration ban could mean to them.

"One of the consequences is that companies may decide not to locate their companies in the United States because they are afraid that they will not be able to hire the right people they need," she said. "Technology companies often have unique personnel requirements and have to be able to find the right people no matter where they live. These employees need visas and green cards."

While Gottheil isn't sure how much effect the brief will have, he did say it could help sway public opinion.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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