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Tech leaders slam Trump's "gratuitously evil" refugee ban

A day after President Trump enacted sweeping immigration and refugee bans, technology industry leaders sharply criticized the orders and moved to protect employees who are foreign nationals and had been working in the U.S. legally.

Signed Friday, the orders included a three-month travel ban for nationals of the Muslim-majority countries of Syria, Iran, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Sudan, even those with valid visas or green cards. In addition, a four-month ban was imposed on all refugee resettlement into the U.S., as well as an indefinite ban on settlement of Syrian refugees.


Among the leaders of Silicon Valley, the loudest criticism thus far has come from Google CEO Sundar Pichai; Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey; Stewart Butterfield (who runs the office software maker Slack); Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson; and Box CEO Aaron Levie.

In a memo to employees, Pichai wrote that 100 Google employees are affected by the order, and that “it is painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues.” Butterfield tweeted that much of what Trump has done so far “seems gratuitously… evil.” Dickerson, Dorsey, and Levie also used Twitter to condemn the ban. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella did the same on LinkedIn.

Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in an email to employees on Saturday — obtained by VICE News — that “Apple believes deeply in the importance of immigration.” Cook said that a number of Apple employees were directly impacted by the executive order, and that the company’s HR, legal, and security teams are in contact with them.

“Apple is open. Open to everyone, no matter where they come from, which language they speak, who they love or how they worship,” Cook said in his email.

The Apple CEO, who has been in Washington this week speaking to government officials, made a thinly veiled criticism of the refugee ban by posting a tweet with a photo of an Abraham Lincoln quote.

Other executives, including a number of those who are openly working with President Trump’s administration, have given more measured responses.


Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who serves on Trump’s Strategic Advisory Council alongside SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, said in a memo later published on Facebook that the ban “will impact many innocent people” and that he’ll tell it to Trump in person when the Council meets Friday. A representative for Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a Friday Facebook post, Mark Zuckerberg took a similarly tempered tone, writing that he was “concerned” by Trump’s executive order. In a separate statement from the company provided to VICE News, a Facebook spokesperson said that “we are assessing the impact on our workforce and determining how best to protect our people and their families from any adverse effects.”

Brian Chesky, Airbnb founder and CEO, sounded even more conciliatory, tweeting that the U.S. needs to find a way to work together. Sam Altman, the boss of the startup incubator Y Combinator, wrote a blog post condemning Trump’s order, though he shied away from criticizing those who are working with Trump’s administration.

One of Y Combinator’s partners, billionaire investor and Facebook board member Peter Thiel, is a confidant of Trump and his top Silicon Valley advisor. Altman tweeted that neither he nor Y Combinator plans to cut ties with Thiel because he does not think “that deciding to get rid of all founders/employees who voted for someone is much better than a Muslim ban.”

Amazon, whose CEO Jeff Bezos initially congratulated President Trump on his election victory and said he’d give him an “open mind,” did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Bezos owns The Washington Post, which Trump singled out along with the New York Times on Twitter Saturday as “dishonest,” “false,” and “fake news.”

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in his own Facebook post that Trump’s order has made America “less safe.” “Trump’s actions are hurting Netflix employees around the world, and are so un-American it pains us all,” Hastings wrote.