Tech Companies Continue to Oppose U.S. Travel Ban
Buried beneath the constant distractions, including President Donald Trump’s accusations that the former Barack Obama administration “wiretapped” his New York offices, was last week’s updated version of the controversial travel ban. Trump issued the new ban after federal courts struck down his January executive order barring visitors from seven African and Middle Eastern nations. The new ban will take effect when the clock strikes midnight EDT on Thursday in order to give airport and federal agency staff time to prepare, as well as avoid the human nightmare of citizens being held up at airports (and, for the White House, to dodge another public relations fiasco). The latest version includes four major changes. First, Iraq was removed from the list of restricted countries, a move critics said was needed to engage that country to fight the Islamic State. The indefinite ban on Syrian refugees was lifted; now they are subjected to the same 120-day waiting period for all refugees. The new ban does not allow for any religious preferences, so Christians claiming persecution would no longer have priority in attempting to enter the U.S. – which critics said risked all sorts of constitutional challenges. Green card holders and those with visas already approved, or “vetted,” are also exempt from the updated ban. Nevertheless, many in the business community, including technology companies, are still stridently opposed to the ban. One company that continues to speak out is Airbnb, which took a stand during the chaos that festered after the first travel ban was imposed in late January. The company’s CEO, Brian Chesky, immediately spoke out against the ban on Twitter: Airbnb was joined by ridesharing companies Lyft and Uber, which also made the rounds last week in condemning the ban. And in a blog post, chief legal and business officer of Mozilla, Denelle Dixon-Thayer, wrote: “It seems clear that little (if any) progress was made on the thinking behind this action.” As with other technology firms, Mozilla says any travel ban undermines trust in the U.S. immigration system, hurts the American technology industry, risks international cooperation, and is a tactic that ostensibly plays to national security fears but, in the end, only creates more division. The technology sector is also opposed to the dismantling of the H1-B visa program, which companies say is necessary to attract top talent in order to remain competitive in a global marketplace. Critics of any ban also point out that these policies do not exclude nations where Trump has, or is rumored to have, various business ties, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – the latter two being home to the terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks. Large Muslim-majority nations, such as Indonesia and Pakistan, were also left off the list. Also not included in the ban is Lebanon, which has a light Muslim majority and is also the host of many refugee camps. Meanwhile, more states are wading into the fray and by challenging the ban in court. Yesterday, California became the seventh U.S. state to file suit against the Trump administration, joining states including Washington, New York and Hawaii. Watch for the travel industry to start speaking out against the ban as summer edges closer, especially after indiscriminate vetting and even prevention of the entry of nationals from nations such as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. The silence of the past week will not last for long, especially as these companies start taking a hit on their financial statements. Newark Liberty International Airport, for example, has reportedly seen bookings decline by 7 percent since the first ban was implemented. Image credit: Ron Cogswell/Flickr Published earlier today on Triple Pundit.