clock menu more-arrow no yes

Why tech is leading corporate America's fight against Trump's immigration order

Apple Holds Event To Announce New Products Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images

Some of the nation’s largest technology companies, including Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Intel, Uber, and Airbnb, have filed a legal brief blasting President Donald Trump’s controversial legal order. The companies want the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court to continue blocking key portions of the order while the courts consider its legality.

The brief argues that Trump’s order is “inflicting substantial harm on U.S. companies. It hinders the ability of American companies to attract great talent, increases costs imposed on business, makes it more difficult for American firms to compete in the international marketplace, and gives global enterprises a new, significant incentive to build operations — and hire new employees — outside the United States.”

Technology companies have been corporate America’s strongest Trump critics ever since Trump unveiled his immigration order 10 days ago. Last week, a coalition of 400 technology companies with ties to New York signed an open letter condemning the immigration policy.

“The diversity of our employees is what makes our organization so great,” said Jon Oringer, CEO of Shutterstock, which signed Monday’s amicus brief, in an interview last week. “We depend on people from different parts of the world, different cultures, to help us every day to achieve our goals.”

Trump’s immigration order is bad for technology companies

The decision to file the brief partly reflects the cosmopolitan outlook and left-leaning politics of many technology companies. But it also reflects the big practical problems the order is creating for American technology companies.

The internet is a global network, and as a consequence, technology companies tend to be global as well. They have employees and customers around the world, and they compete with international competitors.

“The marketplace for today’s businesses is global,” the brief argues. And the immigration order is making it more difficult for American technology companies to succeed in this global market.

Trump’s order, the companies say, makes it “far more difficult and expensive for U.S. companies to hire some of the world’s best talent. Businesses and employees have little incentive to go through the laborious process of sponsoring or obtaining a visa, and relocating to the United States, if an employee may be unexpectedly halted at the border.”

“Companies routinely send employees across borders for conferences, meetings, or job rotations, and invite customers, clients, or users from abroad,” they point out. “Global mobility is critical to businesses whose customers, suppliers, users, and workforces are spread all around the world.”

The Trump administration might hope that restriction immigration will cause more high-tech jobs to go to native-born Americans. But the brief points out another possibility: that companies could shift more of their workforce overseas so they never have to deal with an increasingly restrictive and dysfunctional immigration system.

The brief points to an increasingly strained relationship between Silicon Valley and the White House. A few weeks ago, technology executives trekked to Trump Tower for a polite if awkward meeting with the president-elect. They hoped that Trump would focus on business priorities like tax reform and leave disruptive immigration policies on the back burner. Instead, Trump has chosen to prioritize immigration, and technology companies are fighting back.