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Tech Companies Unite Against Trump Administration's Immigration Ban


I'm Robert Siegel with All Tech Considered.


SIEGEL: Nearly 100 technology companies have signed on to a legal brief challenging President Trump's executive order restricting immigration. The companies include Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, Uber and Lyft. The brief filed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals claims the order is discriminatory and will harm American businesses, as NPR's Aarti Shahani reports.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: Companies that are often at odds - suing each other, divided on policy - have joined together, 97 signers in total. And here's a little bit of the backstory on the amicus brief.

AARON LEVIE: It got kicked off last weekend by a number of leading technology firms, and then throughout the week, many, many more joined in.

SHAHANI: That's Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, a cloud storage company that joined in. Two weekends ago when President Trump's new executive order went clumsily into effect, technology leaders in Silicon Valley began talking to each other about the industry response. Levie says his company didn't have workers turned away at airports, but he does employ people from the seven predominantly-Muslim countries listed in the order. And even if he didn't, he says he doesn't like that the order came out of nowhere.

LEVIE: If you look at how hastily this was put together and how little judgment there seems to have been, I think that creates a lot of concern for anybody that we don't know what the next similar orders might be in the future.

SHAHANI: The largest tech companies declined interview requests today, saying the brief speaks for itself. But in fact, employees at the same companies tell NPR the companies don't want to risk being singled out and attacked by the president on Twitter.

The uncertainty created by the Trump administration has rocked Silicon Valley. Right before the president took office, as Levie explains, tech leaders didn't think he was actually going to follow through on campaign promises to curtail immigration. What he and others thought was...

LEVIE: Even in the worst case scenario, you know, Trump's rhetoric would actually align with ultimate policy or action, and that it would - you know, meant to really kind of stir up his base and ultimately get elected.

SHAHANI: The business leaders argue to the 9th Circuit that Trump's order is a sudden shift that inflicts substantial harm on U.S. companies, and that it puts too much discretion to decide who gets to enter the country in the hands of the government. While the order says there can be case-by-case exceptions, it doesn't lay out the criteria for issuing exceptions. And leaders argue the move gives multinationals a new, significant incentive to set up shop abroad outside the U.S. Aarti Shahani, NPR News, San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Aarti Shahani is a correspondent for NPR. Based in Silicon Valley, she covers the biggest companies on earth. She is also an author. Her first book, Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares (out Oct. 1, 2019), is about the extreme ups and downs her family encountered as immigrants in the U.S. Before journalism, Shahani was a community organizer in her native New York City, helping prisoners and families facing deportation. Even if it looks like she keeps changing careers, she's always doing the same thing: telling stories that matter.