The weekend brought a flurry of public statements from Silicon Valley executives denouncing President Trump's refugee and general travel ban for residents of seven majority-Muslim nations, with varying degrees of outrage and criticism. Mark Zuckerberg spoke about his "concerns,", Tim Cook invoked MLK, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, himself an immigrant from India, recalled staff from abroad and called the move a "painful" one. And while Trump tried to make peace with an industry that largely denounced his candidacy with a few exceptions at that mid-December summit at Trump Tower, six weeks later most tech industry leaders are sounding alarm bells over the immigration issue as it strikes at the heart of their global mode of doing business. Also, a large number of those employed in tech are either immigrants themselves, or the children of immigrants, and the conflation of immigration with terrorism, or the "stealing" of jobs from Americans, is an insult to most.
The New York Times posted a pair of stories, one noting that the industry's "ambivalence" toward Trump following the election had turned to anger, by and large, with so many CEOs taking to social media on Saturday and Sunday to express their outrage. Google co-founder Sergey Brin took part in the protest at SFO reportedly saying "I'm here because I'm a refugee." (Brin came to the US with his parents fleeing the Soviet Union when he was 6.) Netflix CEO Reed Hastings took to Facebook saying, "Trump's actions are hurting Netflix employees around the world, and are so un-American it pains us all. Worse, these actions will make America less safe (through hatred and loss of allies) rather than more safe."
Tesla CEO Elon Musk posted to Twitter encouraging people to read the "source material" of Trump's order, which you can do here.
Reading the source material is better than reading other people's opinions about the source material https://t.co/HKIYKbdb3g— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 30, 2017
In this post Monday on the NYT's Bits blog, tech writer Jim Kerstetter discusses the obvious trouble the entire industry is facing when travel and immigration bans suddenly change the way they do business.
While the tech industry might appreciate the lower taxes and less regulation that Mr. Trump has promised, the industry is globalist to the core. If you want to be an internet company, you’d be better be willing to operate all over the world. And if you want to compete with the likes of Google and Apple, you’d better be willing to hire engineers and salespeople from all over the planet.
The biggest shock for the industry may be yet to come: Bloomberg reports that the Trump Administration has already drafted an order that will overhaul the process of issuing H-1B work visas. While reform for the foreign work visa program is already underway, with Democrats in Congress working on their own proposal, the Trump draft order strikes a tone similar to the one in his campaign, suggesting that precious American jobs are being given away. H-1B visas are currently limited to 85,000 per year for those holding undergraduate and advanced degrees.
Per the draft obtained by Blooomberg, the order reads, "Our country’s immigration policies should be designed and implemented to serve, first and foremost, the U.S. national interest. Visa programs for foreign workers should be administered in a manner that protects the civil rights of American workers and current lawful residents, and that prioritizes the protection of American workers -- our forgotten working people -- and the jobs they hold."
Also impacted will be the worldwide science community, where many people hold dual citizenships and travel on work visas. As the SF Business Times reports, various CEOs at Bay Area biotech and scientific research firms were speaking out against Trump's executive order over the weekend, with Paul Hastings of Redwood City’s OncoMed Pharmaceuticals calling it "an insult to any person, regardless of ethnicity or religion," and CEO Jeff Huber of cancer diagnostic firm Grail Inc. writing on Medium "I am saddened and ashamed of our administration’s behavior in these actions."
Scientists fear that indefinite bans will have hugely negative impacts on academic research, which relies on collaboration between teams across the globe. Hani Goodarzi, an assistant professor at UCSF, told the Business Times, "There is no question that academics are hard hit by this ban. Between conferences, workshops and collaborations, today’s science is a global effort.” Also, because postdoctoral students from other countries often spend an average of 10 to 12 years as US residents on student visas, it often means they can be separated from their families due to travel restrictions. “Due to the visa restrictions and lengthy processing times that were already in place," Goodarzi told the paper, "scholars from these listed countries were afforded few reunions with their relatives and loved ones back home. This ban has radically aggravated the situation."
One young scientist, an Iranian national named Samira Asgari, had been studying in Switzerland and had accepted a job in Boston when Trump's executive order stranded her on a layover in Frankfurt. She tells The Verge that she was taken out of a boarding line for her Boston flight and told she wouldn't be able to go to the US for at least 120 days. Meanwhile neither she nor her boyfriend have jobs or a home because they were en route to a new home in Boston.
A petition gathering signatures from the scientific community denouncing the ban already has more than 12,000 signatures, including 37 Nobel laureates and 7,000 US faculty members.
Though protests are expected to continue for a third day today at San Francisco International Airport, a much larger protest on the immigration issue looks to be taking shape for next weekend in downtown SF, on February 4, as Hoodline reports via this Facebook event.