Tech Companies File Legal Brief Against Trump's Immigration Order

  • More than 120 businesses sign on to friend-of-the-court filing
  • New companies including Tesla, SpaceX join effort on Monday

Tech Firms Unite Against Trump's Immigration Order

More than 120 companies, from Apple to Zynga, filed an impassioned legal brief condemning President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, stepping up the industry’s growing opposition to the policy.

The amicus brief was filed late Sunday in the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco and emphasizes the importance of immigrants in the economy and society. The companies originally planned to file the brief later this week, but accelerated efforts over the weekend after other legal challenges to the order, according to people familiar with the matter.

Airbnb, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Intel, Netflix, Snap and Uber Technologies are among the other technology companies that participated. Businesses beyond the tech industry signed on as well, including Levi Strauss & Co. and yogurt maker Chobani. On Monday, Tesla and SpaceX also joined the friend-of-the-court brief. Both companies are led by Elon Musk, who serves on Trump’s business-policy advisory council.

"Immigrants make many of the Nation’s greatest discoveries, and create some of the country’s most innovative and iconic companies," the brief states. “America has long recognized the importance of protecting ourselves against those who would do us harm. But it has done so while maintaining our fundamental commitment to welcoming immigrants—through increased background checks and other controls on people seeking to enter our country.”

On Friday, a federal judge temporarily lifted the Trump administration’s ban, freeing refugees and visa holders from seven Muslim-majority countries to enter the U.S. An appeals court declined to immediately reinstate the immigration restrictions over the weekend.

Vocal Opposition

The technology industry has been among the most vocal in opposition to Trump’s immigration policies. On Monday, other companies joining the brief included Adobe Systems Inc., HP Inc. and IAC/InterActiveCorp. Several prominent tech companies, among them International Business Machines Corp., Oracle Corp., and Palantir Technologies Inc., did not participate in the brief.

"IBM’s CEO conveyed the company’s views directly to the President and the Secretary of Homeland Security in person on Friday, including suggestions for how technology can help to promote both national security and lawful immigration," said Steve Tomasco, a spokesman for IBM. Ginny Rometty, IBM’s CEO, serves on Trump’s business advisory council along with Tesla’s Musk.

Musk has said on Twitter that he doesn’t agree with all of the administration’s actions, and that he made sure the issue was part of the discussion at a meeting with the president last week.

"At my request, the agenda for yesterday’s White House meeting went from not mentioning the travel ban to having it be first and foremost,” Musk wrote on Twitter on Feb. 4.

Oracle and Palantir representatives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Inc. didn’t participate -- at the request of the Washington State Attorney General, who filed the original case in question, the company said. That’s because Amazon is a formal witness in the initial legal action.

Open Letter

Bloomberg News reported earlier that several large tech companies, including Microsoft and Google parent Alphabet Inc., are planning to sign an open letter to Trump expressing concern about the immigration order and offering help fixing it and other policies.

"We share your goal of ensuring that our immigration system meets today’s security needs and keeps our country safe," said a draft of that letter obtained by Bloomberg News. "We are concerned, however, that your recent Executive Order will affect many visa holders who work hard here in the United States and contribute to our country’s success.”

Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick stepped down from Trump’s business advisory council last week after criticism from customers and drivers. His participation in the council, along with more than a dozen other U.S. executives, prompted blowback on social media after the controversial executive order on immigration. It snowballed into a #DeleteUber campaign that benefited rival Lyft.

“Immigration and openness to refugees is an important part of our country’s success and quite honestly to Uber’s,” Kalanick wrote in an e-mail to employees obtained by Bloomberg. “There are many ways we will continue to advocate for just change on immigration but staying on the council was going to get in the way of that. The executive order is hurting many people in communities all across America.”

— With assistance by Lucas Shaw, Spencer Soper, Eric Newcomer, Dana Hull, Shelly Hagan, and Dina Bass

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