In the past few days, the leaders of several American industries have spoken out against President Trump’s controversial immigration order, which was signed by the president on Friday and which restricts immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. While it is not unusual for corporations to be politically vocal, the volume and uniformity of their complaints about the order are without recent precedent.
Mark Parker, the CEO of Nike, denounced the order in a rare memo, characterizing it as a “threat” to the company’s values. Parker’s sentiments were echoed by Mark Field and Bill Ford, the CEO and executive chairman, respectively, of the Ford Motor Company. “Respect for all people is a core value of Ford Motor Company, and we are proud of the rich diversity of our company here at home and around the world,” their statement read. “That is why we do not support this policy or any other that goes against our values as a company.”
Industry reactions to the president’s order are already inciting passions among consumers. On Monday, less than a day after #BoycottUber trended across social media platforms, #BoycottStarbucks rose in its place. It was a curious evolution. Despite publicly denouncing President Trump’s immigration ban, Uber had come under fire for seemingly undercutting a taxi-worker strike at a protest of the executive order at JFK International Airport and for the willingness of its CEO, Travis Kalanick, to continue serving on the president’s economic-advisory committee. (Lyft, Uber’s biggest domestic competitor, capitalized on the furor by donating $1 million to the ACLU, an organization actively challenging the immigration ban.) Meanwhile, Starbucks announced that it would hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years at its outlets across the globe, a move that garnered praise from some and condemnation from others who say the policy favors immigrant workers over American ones.
Even on Wall Street, where firms tend to avoid public engagements in political discourse, the president’s order inspired some murmurs of disapproval. Despite the nominations of several Goldman Sachs alumni to President Trump’s inner sanctum, Goldman Sachs’s CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, denounced the measure in another rare internal memo released over the weekend. “Being diverse is not optional,” wrote Blankfein, “It is what we must be.” Mastercard’s CEO, Ajay Banga, and Citigroup’s CEO, Mike Corbat, offered that they were “deeply concerned” and “concerned,” respectively, about the ban. JPMorgan’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, also released a subtle statement that championed the virtues of diversity.
Not surprisingly, criticism of the administration’s order ultimately found greater clout and uniformity in Silicon Valley, where a number of companies heavily recruit their employees from abroad. “We need to keep this country safe, but we should do that by focusing on people who actually pose a threat,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. Meanwhile, Quartz reported that the Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Y Combinator’s president, Sam Altman, were seen among the protesters at San Francisco International Airport over the weekend. Quartz also tallied over two dozen tech companies that registered opposition to the immigration order, including high-profile outfits like Amazon, Netflix, Salesforce, and Twitter. In addition to criticizing the president’s measure, Airbnb, the home-sharing platform, announced it would offer free housing to anyone left stranded by the executive order.
Though the contentious wrangling over immigration policy predates the administration’s executive order, over the weekend, several politicians and tech leaders once again noted that the father of Apple founder, Steve Jobs, emigrated from Syria. In a memo on Saturday, Apple’s chief, Tim Cook, became one of the first executives to denounce the ban, reiterating that “Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do.”
And while Jobs’s biography serves as a useful reference, his successors in the tech industry might offer a more compelling rationale for advocates of lenient immigration policies. According to a study released last year by the nonpartisan National Foundation for American Policy, over half of startups in the United States that are now valued at over $1 billion were founded by immigrants. Those campaigning against the president’s ban, including industry leaders, still have their work cut out for them; in a Rasmussen poll released on Monday, 57 percent of likely voters voiced their approval of the immigration order. And, even more relevant, a large number of American companies have been perfectly content to stay silent about it.