Immigration ban strains Trump relations with Silicon Valley

By Laurie Bennett

January 30, 2017 at 9:06am

Seven weeks ago, the president-elect made nice with the titans of tech, sitting down with them at Trump Tower and pledging government support.

“This is a truly amazing group of people,” he told them. “I’m here to help you folks do well.”

Afterward, Oracle CEO Safra Catz gave a thumbs up and Jeff Bezos of Amazon issued a statement calling the get-together “very productive.”

The tone has changed dramatically in recent days, as tech leaders denounce the administration’s ban on immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Google announced Friday that it would raise $4 million to help people affected by the order. Google cofounder Sergey Brin, a Russian immigrant, attended a demonstation Saturday at San Francisco International Airport.

Company CEO Sundar Pichai said President Trump’s order affected almost 200 Google employees. In a company-wide email, he called them back to the U.S.

“It’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues,” Pichai wrote. “We’re upset 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 U.S.”

Executives of Microsoft, Apple and other tech companies have also criticized Trump’s actions. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky offered free housing to anyone stranded by Trump’s order.

“Trump’s actions are hurting Netflix employees around the world, and are so un-American it pains us all,” Netflix CEO and founder Reed Hastings said on Facebook. “It is time to link arms together to protect American values of freedom and opportunity.”

Major tech companies are not only global enterprises; they pull talent from around the world. A 2011 report from the Partnership for a New American Economy found that 45 percent of Fortune 500 tech companies were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants.

Among the most well known: Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian immigrant. Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, is a French-born Iranian.

Omidyar, in a slew of outraged tweets over the weekend, described Trump’s action as “simple bigotry.”

Related story: One segment of the tech industry - telecommunications - has stayed mum about Trump’s immigration ban. See story on recode.

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