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Why tech companies are uniting to fight Trump’s immigration ban

Matt Kapko | Feb. 15, 2017
The Trump administration’s immigration ban has galvanized unparalleled opposition from tech leaders. However, many businesses that focus on the enterprise are still standing on the sidelines.

Legal filing is a potent form of protest against immigration ban

The legal brief, which was initially filed on Super Bowl Sunday and amended with more signatures the following day, is the tech industry’s “protest to banning talent from countries where untapped, highly desired, affordable expertise is blossoming,” says Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter Group. “Mr. Trump’s incredibly ignorant ban on human beings who reside in different parts of the world impacts scale and expansion of innovative companies not just in Silicon Valley, but in every technology hotspot around the United States of America.”

Many of today’s largest tech firms were created by immigrants or offspring of immigrants, so immigration is a part of the DNA of many of these organizations, according to Vincent Raynauld, assistant professor in communication studies at Emerson College in Boston. “One of the reasons why the United States has been able to stay ahead of the game when it comes to technology is immigration,” he says.

“A lot of tech companies are not necessarily in agreement with Trump’s policies, but I think immigration hit them to the core because… their ability to attract a qualified and competent workforce relies heavily on immigration,” Raynauld says. “It was the perfect issue to get in the arena and try to push back against some of Trump’s policies.”

The history of many tech companies, operating dimensions of their organization and the public perception of their businesses are all key considerations to understand why companies support, oppose or remain neutral on the immigration executive order, according to Raynauld. Highly-skilled business sectors like technology are heavily dependent on immigration, but some members of the corporate world are less dependent on talent from other countries, he says.

“These leading technology companies had no choice but to voice opposition as a matter of future-proofing,” Solis says. “Talent in the U.S. is already thin and that means companies bid against one another for limited resources. The underlying move here is one that’s bigger than work. You have the world’s leading technology companies that are pushing business and society forward, in some cases, faster than some can handle. This very brief symbolizes the great American divide between those competing or trying to compete for the future and those who believe the ship toward innovation is moving too fast and they would like to get off at the next port.”

Trump and public opinion force tech companies to respond

Trump has effectively dragged many technology companies into the political arena at a time when much of their customer base is expecting tech leaders to be increasingly political, according to Raynauld. “I haven’t seen tech companies get so riled up. There’s been some rumblings in previous administrations, but it’s such a unifying response to a policy that’s been introduced by a president that’s only two-and-a-half weeks in,” he says. “The expectations are changing because of this new generation of citizens.”


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