“While disappointed with today’s SCOTUS travel ban decision, we will continue to support the legal rights of our employees and their families,” said Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft, in a tweet.
“We are profoundly disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the travel ban—a policy that goes against our mission and values,” said Brian Chesky, the chief executive of Airbnb, in a statement issued with the company’s two other co-founders.
“To restrict travel based on a person’s nationality or religion is wrong,” he continued. “We believe that travel is a transformative and powerful experience, and we will continue to open doors and build bridges between cultures around the world.”
Technology companies have historically taken an outsize interest in immigration policy, including with their lobbying dollars. Many tech companies rely on H1-B visas in order to bring programmers and other specialist workers into this country.
But Stu Loeser, a consultant who advised technology companies on this issue, told me such interest didn’t drive opposition to the travel ban.
“Tech companies didn’t oppose this ban because they recruit a significant number of employees from Iran, Libya, Yemen or the other countries directly affected,” he said in an email. “They opposed it because anything designed to be a Muslim ban is inherently prejudiced—and anything that says to the world we don’t want self-starters to come here will hurt America in the short and long term.”
Technology executives may also take a personal interest in immigration policy because they themselves are immigrants. The CEOs of Alphabet (Google), Microsoft, Tesla, and Uber are immigrants. And more than half of all U.S.-based startups worth more than $1 billion were founded or co-founded by immigrants, according to a 2016 report from the National Foundation for American Policy.
These statistics have not swayed the Trump administration. And the White House is attacking programs that the technology industry does have a financial interest in. Over the past year, it has increased scrutiny of H1-B visas and moved to end an Obama-era program that allowed foreign entrepreneurs to start their company in the United States.
The entire episode should suggest to companies that a certain kind of rhetorical opposition to the president’s policies—filing an amicus brief here, issuing a strongly worded comment there—does not work. In fact, this approach seems to be failing across the board. Nearly all of corporate America opposes President Trump’s tariffs, but this has not dissuaded the president from planning a trade war with China. Nor were appeals from American corporations—including Exxon, Walmart, and the carmakers—enough to keep the United States in the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The usual tactics of corporate dissent don’t seem to be working. Now the question is: Will corporations go any further to get their way? Or will they keep issuing strong comments and amicus briefs, and otherwise stay out of President Trump’s way?