The new US president Donald Trump has started acting upon his pre-elections promises very fast. Through an executive order that may seem quite random to many, Muslims from 7 countries have been banned entry into the US. The 7 countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. You may be affected even if you hold dual citizenship or even if you have a permanent US residence status, or even if you have a valid US work Visa.
The Syrian refugees are no longer allowed entry. Incidentally, the worst countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are off the list, but that’s another issue.
So how is the world of technology responding to the US immigration ban? Most of the technology companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook rely heavily upon an immigrant workforce. I’m not sure if this is correct or not, they say that 30% of the Microsoft workforce is of Indian origin (although Indians particularly are not a target of the recent immigration ban). There is a natural sense of panic and resistance among the tech companies against this ban that many consider arbitrary and ill-organised. Many believe that the ban is going to have no positive impact on the number of terrorist attacks happening inside America.
Most of the technology companies depend heavily on immigrant workers. All the immigrant workers are not necessarily from the countries included in the immigration ban but it is disturbing for the people working in the technology companies that some of their colleagues may have to leave the country or may not be allowed to come back because they belong to these 6-7 countries, or even more if the ban is expanded. Immigration ban, many in the technology industry say, is against the spirit of openness and inclusiveness.
Technology companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook also depend on immigrant people working on work visas. After the new laws come into force, the processing of these work visas – what they are calling these days vetting – is going to become very stringent and time-consuming activity. These companies will have to prove that the talent that they are importing from other countries actually doesn’t exist in the US.
LinkedIn, the social networking website for professionals, has a program called Welcome Talent. The program helps refugees get internship opportunities in their host companies to improve their job prospects. This Venture Beat update says that the program was running in Sweden and Canada. Whether it is related to the recent immigration ban in the US or not, isn’t very clear, but LinkedIn has introduced the program in the US too.
According to Meg Garlinghouse, the head of social good at LinkedIn,
While we can’t control policies around entry of refugees into countries, we can lead with opportunity and help newly settled refugees find economic livelihood. Indeed, our country was built in large part by the work of immigrants and their descendants – and like our foremothers and forefathers, refugees are seeking that same opportunity to contribute.
This is one of the more constructive responses to the recent policies, whether you agree with them or not.
The #DeleteUber hashtag started when people thought that the company was in cahoots with Donald Trump’s policies. The service was also seen dropping its surge prices when taxi operators, mostly immigrants, refused to take passengers from the JFK airport, showing solidarity with the people protesting over there. The problem began with this tweet from the company:
Surge pricing has been turned off at #JFK Airport. This may result in longer wait times. Please be patient.
— Uber NYC (@Uber_NYC) January 29, 2017
Although it was meant to help out people stuck at the airport, it was seen as an attempt to break the strike and hence, the outrage against the company.
Major companies like Google, Tesla, Twitter, Apple and Facebook have already made it known that they don’t agree with the recent immigration ban.
Steve Job’s father was from Syria.
The parents of Tinder founder Sean Rad originally came from Iran. These days he is in Australia but he insists that CEOs of technology companies must speak up strongly against the recent immigration ban.
Many technology companies have decided to come together and file an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit challenging the immigration ban. This meeting is being facilitated by GitHub, the software programming code repository.
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, in his message to his staff, said that Apple would not exist without immigration.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai in a memo said 187 foreign-born Google employees were impacted with this order. The company has also issued an advisory to its existing employees not to travel abroad.
Thousands of Google employees, according to this Nextweb link, staged a walkout protesting the US immigration ban for 7 Muslim countries.
Mark Zuckerberg cited examples of his wife and mother-in-law and that of his own grandparents and great grandparents. His wife is from China and her great grandparents were refugees from Vietnam. His own grandparents and great grandparents were immigrants from Germany, Austria and Poland.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that this is not the right way to address the problem. Many people negatively affected by the ban are strong US supporters and the ban shouldn’t be implemented unilaterally.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin joined the protesters at the San Francisco airport. His own parents were refugees from Russia.
Airbnb is offering free housing to anyone displaced by the immigration ban.
The Netflix CEO in a Facebook post said that the recent ban on immigrants was hurting Netflix employees all over the world.
Amazon, although hasn’t issued a condemnation against the US immigration ban, has advised its employees not to travel abroad in case they get stuck there.
Google has started a $ 4 million fund to help refugees from the countries included in the immigration ban list.
Viber, the VoIP service, is offering free calling the countries that have been banned.
Someone on Twitter suggested to me that all this condemnation against the immigration ban is more economical and less ethical and principle-based. The person on Twitter gave me the example of Jews being banned in 16 Muslim countries. Not a single voice of protest from these technology giants. Because the Jews banned in Muslim countries does not have an effect on these technology companies.