U.S. tech titans lead legal brief against Trump travel ban

People hold protest signs during Friday prayers to show solidarity with the Muslim community at the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles
People hold protest signs during Friday prayers to show solidarity with the Muslim community at the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles, California, U.S. February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian

February 7, 2017

By Mica Rosenberg and Dan Levine

(Reuters) – More than 100 companies, including most of high-tech’s biggest names, joined a legal brief opposing President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban, arguing that it would give companies strong incentives to move jobs outside the United States.

The companies – including Apple Inc <AAPL.O>, Google Inc <GOOGL.O> and Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O> – banded together late on Sunday to file a “friend-of-the-court” brief with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

They argued that the executive order temporarily banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and all refugees “inflicts significant harm on American business.”

Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc <TSLA.O> and SpaceX were among other companies signing onto the brief on Monday, raising the number of signatories to 127.

Musk is among the few tech executives on Trump’s business advisory council. He has been forced to defend his participation in recent days, particularly since Uber Technologies Inc’s [UBER.UL] chief executive, Travis Kalanick, quit the group on Thursday following the travel ban.

The new Republican president’s Jan. 27 executive order sparked protests and chaos at U.S. and overseas airports in the weekend that followed. Trump has defended the ban as necessary to ensure tougher vetting of people coming into the United States and better protect the country from the threat of terror attacks.

On Friday, U.S District Judge James Robart in Seattle, ruling on a lawsuit challenging the order filed by Washington state and Minnesota, temporarily lifted the ban. The federal government appealed the decision, which was heavily criticized by Trump.

In their brief, the companies argued that the order created uncertainty for companies depending on talent from overseas and global business travel to innovate and create jobs in the United States.

“Highly skilled immigrants will be more interested in working abroad, in places where they and their colleagues can travel freely and with assurance that their immigration status will not suddenly be revoked,” the brief said. “Multinational companies will have strong incentives … to base operations outside the United States or to move or hire employees and make investments abroad.”

“Ultimately, American workers and the economy will suffer as a result,” the companies argued.

A major theme of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign was bringing back jobs he said had been moved to other countries.

Responding to the lawsuit, the federal government argued in legal filings that the president was exercising his constitutional authority to control U.S. borders and that the law allows him to suspend the entry of any class of foreigners who “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

Companies that initially joined the brief included Facebook Inc <FB.O>, Twitter Inc <TWTR.N>, Intel Corp <INTC.O>, eBay Inc <EBAY.O>, Netflix Inc <NFLX.O> and Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL], as well as non-tech corporations such as Levi Strauss & Co [LEVST.UL] and Chobani Llc.

The brief hailed the contributions inclusive immigration policies have made to the American economy. It said that immigrants or their children have founded more than 200 of the companies on the Fortune 500 list.

Trump’s agenda on immigration, trade, cyber security, tax reform and other issues has caused deep consternation in the tech industry. Before the travel ban, most companies said they wanted to work with him and avoided any direct confrontations.

But the immigration restrictions provoked a broad backlash in Silicon Valley, where foreign-born nationals are an integral part of the tech economy. There have been peaceful protests at Google and Facebook. Uber was the target of a boycott, and scrambled to reassure its many immigrant drivers that it was on their side.

Partly because of pressure from their rank-and-file, big tech companies have separated themselves from much of corporate America in directly confronting Trump policies. Only a handful of non-tech companies joined the friend-of-the-court brief, though some of the lawyers involved said that was mainly because the group came together very quickly through personal contacts.

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York, Dan Levine, Stephen Nellis, Kristina Cooke in San Francisco.; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Jonathan Oatis)

  • Linnie

    First thing, Monetary damage is not “irreparable damage”; therefore, not excuse for restraining order. Second, if you permit companies to sue for policy decisions, you open Pandora’s box and get chaos. I am switching my buying to HP, no more Apple, just bought new HP computer phone. Consumer companies need to stay out of politics!

  • A0

    The days of Steve Jobs is exposed. Cheap foriegn labor with the need to psiphon very large sums of American customers dollars while pretending corporate greed only happens to rich Republicans

  • 58TheBuge58

    These dirtbag companies are globalist scum who care nothing about America.

  • jim

    First question I would ask each of these companies is to let us know how many illegal aliens they have hired from the middle east countries on pause. The I would ask them to disclose how many legal aliens they have employed from those countries. I suspect that both of these numbers is an extremely small percentage!

    • Jonquil

      Supposedly Microsoft alone employees about 5,000 STEM workers who are in the US on H1b visas.
      That’s 5,000 US citizens who bothered getting tech degrees who are not working those jobs. The tech companies claim they can’t find enough workers, which they rationalize by writing ridiculously specific job descriptions, which they then find workers overseas to fill.
      Highly skilled tech job wages are stagnant, and working conditions have worsened.

  • Hater

    Suck it techies! No more imported cheap labor for you. Hire American, pay the price and say bye-bye to your billion dollar annual profits!

  • Worried

    please Judge, dont take our illegals and refugees, we need the cheap labor, or we have to pay Americans a decent wage.

  • Susan

    My bestfriend’s son needs a job in this field, Penn grad. Why not hire him than an immigrant?

  • EL PHUPPHY

    A legal brief presents a legal argument based on the law, not because Trump’s actions could send jobs elsewhere. That is not a legal brief, that is a liberal whining, trying to find a sympathetic judge.

    • SlowpokeSA

      LOL! A fabricated issue in search of a protest!

  • Kelley

    Looks like some companies are desperate for cheap labor… The CEO’s yearly bonus is in jeopardy.

  • akpapa

    The Constitutionality of Trumps EO was not argued in the TRO. The District Court Judge appears to be arguing for ‘relief’ on behalf of Multinational Corps., over National Security concerns.

    Bring back our Constitutional Rule of Law, not ‘Rule of The Mob’ and ‘tyranny of the UN-elected’.

  • Scott

    Pepper Spray and Fire hoses would fix this. These people shouldn’t be here.

  • mattwm

    There is no legal avenue for anyone to take in this matter. The president has the right to bar any immigrant from coming into the country if he thinks they could be dangerous to the country.

  • jlsharks1

    “Refugees are welcome here” That is a foreigner speaking on behalf of America. What the #$% Send them back

  • Clinicaleducator1

    Trump has full authority to do this thanks to a bill put into law by a Democrat-controlled Congress, House and Senate, and signed by a Democrat president in 1952.

    8 U.S. Code § 1182 – Inadmissible aliens

    (f) Suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by President

    Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate. Whenever the Attorney General finds that a commercial airline has failed to comply with regulations of the Attorney General relating to requirements of airlines for the detection of fraudulent documents used by passengers traveling to the United States (including the training of personnel in such detection), the Attorney General may suspend the entry of some or all aliens transported to the United States by such airline.

    People can stand on their heads en masse and it won’t change the law. The only way this law can be changed is congressionally and that won’t happen because the votes aren’t there.

  • erospawn

    So you’re telling me, that these Tech companies have hired so many people from these Terrorist countries they are hurting? BUt you’re also telling me that hiring refugees over Americans is also far more important.. We have 15 million children hungry and in need in this country and we’re placing them on the bottom of the priorities list? how pathetic.

    • SlowpokeSA

      Yes. They cop to upwards of 37%

    • Cesar Figueroa

      you have to remember, these 7 countries are the bastion of engineering, computer programming, and Science, this is where the future begins, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
      liberals keep proving to themselves how utterly ignorant they are.

  • Glenda Hammer

    Fire Americans and give their jobs to H1 Visa foreigners who will work for less money, so Bill Gates and other billionaire CEO’s can hoard more billions of dollars. Gates went before Congress and told them he needs more H1 Visa workers, because Americans aren’t smart enough to work for him. American college students are going into massive debt, just so they can be called to dumb to work for Gates.

    • mattwm

      I agree with the premise of your statement, however, “hoard more billions of dollars” doesn’t make sense. If people make money, they deserve to keep it and/or spend it as they see fit. They create the wealth, it is theirs to do with as they want.

      • 58TheBuge58

        Not when they violate US law.

  • Dens

    These leftist “tech” Company ‘leaders’ and left wing judicial activists masquerading as ‘judges’ really don’t care about the safety and well being of the citizens of this Country. What they do care about is forcing acceptance of their personal globalist world views upon us all. One of the ultimate goals of their idea of utopia is the elimination of Nation States such as America. They see a homogenized, dumbed down, thinned out, easily controlled, mixed race world population with no National or family ties all marching in lock step to a tune selected and played by the Marx School Of Thought marching band. This by the way is the same ‘band’ that so delighted the ears of the likes of Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro.

  • Widl Man

    Wow, all these west coast, liberal, tech companies are hurting because the executive order against travel is biting into their profits for hiring cheap labor from abroad and stuffing a batch o them into one bedroom apartments. Oh my, woe is me the liberal high tech companies are suffering now….Trump put a stop tho their over zealous need to have more money!

    Hey, liberal high tech companies ..>>>> STFU and hire American workers-like VETs, homeless people that can do the job .

  • Fred Freud

    Those companies were founded by LEGAL immigrants, like my German grandfather, who came here to build a new life, loved America and became a loyal law abiding American.
    No one has said anything about keeping immigrants of that sort out of the USA.
    I will be limiting or ending my use of all the tech companies in this article. They are being purposely disingenuous about this issue. I can only conclude they have an agenda more important to them than America’s safety.

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