NEW YORK — Google, Apple and other tech giants expressed dismay over an executive order on immigration from President Donald Trump that bars nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., according to an AP report.
The U.S. tech industry relies on foreign engineers and other technical experts for a sizeable percentage of its workforce. The order bars entry to the U.S. for anyone from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days.
The move, ostensibly intended to prevent extremists from carrying out attacks in the U.S., could now also heighten tensions between the new Trump administration and one of the nation’s most economically and culturally important industries. That’s especially true if Trump goes on to revamp the industry’s temporary worker permits known as H-1B visas, as some fear.
“I share your concerns” about Trump’s immigration order, Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in a memo to employees obtained by The Associated Press. “It is not a policy we support.”
“We have reached out to the White House to explain the negative effect on our coworkers and our company,” he added.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was forcefully blunt. “Trump’s actions are hurting Netflix employees around the world, and are so un-American it pains us all,” he wrote on Facebook. “Worse, these actions will make America less safe (through hatred and loss of allies) rather than more safe.”
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg criticized the order in similar, though more carefully couched, terms Jan. 27.
Google’s Indian American CEO Sundar Pichai told employees in a note that at least 187 Google workers could be affected by Trump’s order. “We’ve always made our views on immigration known publicly and will continue to do so,” Pichai said in the memo.
In an official statement, Google said: “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 U.S.”
According to a Forbes report, more than 2,000 employees of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, walked out of work Jan. 30 to protest Trump’s immigration orders. The demonstrations and speeches from Pichai and Google cofounder Sergey Brin amounted to the strongest rebuke yet of Trump’s orders, said Forbes, as tech executives at dozens of firms blasted the president’s actions.
“This is something, there are some values, which are really near and dear to your heart,” said Pichai at Google’s main campus in Mountain View, Calif. “It’s foundational and it’s something you should never compromise on.”
Microsoft also said it is providing legal advice and assistance to its employees from the banned countries, noting they are all working in the U.S. lawfully.
The tech industry may be bracing for further immigration-related hits. Leaks of draft executive orders, still unverified, suggest that Trump might also revamp the H-1B program that lets Silicon Valley bring foreigners with technical skills to the U.S. for three to six years.
While the tech industry insists the H-1B program is vital, it has drawn fire for allegedly disadvantaging American programmers and engineers, especially given that the visas are widely used by outsourcing firms. Trump’s attorney general nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions, is a long-time critic of the program.
Venky Ganesan, a managing director at venture capitalist firm Menlo Ventures, acknowledged that the program is “not perfect” and subject to some abuse, but noted that it provides an invaluable source of skilled workers and plays a “pivotal” role in the tech industry.
“If we want to buy American and hire American, we do that best by creating companies in America,” he said. “Having the best and brightest from all over the world come and create companies in America is better than them creating companies in India, Israel or China.”
In related news, seattlepi.com reports that Microsoft’s Indian American CEO Satya Nadella, in a LinkedIn post, said, "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.”
Meanwhile, Usaonlinejournal.com reported that tech companies are joining forces with the Washington state government to fight against Trump’s recent immigration-related executive order. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit Jan. 30 against Trump’s order and now, at least three tech companies — Microsoft, Amazon, and Expedia — are joining that legal fight. A Microsoft spokesman told Reuters that the company is providing information about the effect of the order in order to “be supportive.” They also would “be happy to testify further if needed.”
—With AP reports