The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘Apple would not exist without immigration’: Companies at Trump’s tech summit react to his travel ban

From left, then-Vice President-elect Mike Pence, PayPal founder Peter Thiel and Apple CEO Tim Cook listen to then-President-elect Donald Trump during a meeting at Trump Tower in New York in December. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

In less than two months, technology companies went from making nice with Donald Trump at his December tech summit to confronting his travel ban.

In internal and public statements, the heads of Apple, Alphabet and Facebook have expressed concern for their employees while also criticizing Trump's executive order. Their responses have been characterized as tepid.

Many other Silicon Valley firms who did not attend Trump's tech leaders meeting have also spoken up or taken action. Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings wrote in a Facebook post that Trump's actions are “hurting Netflix employees around the world, and are so un-American it pains us all,” he wrote. “Worse, these actions will make America less safe (through hatred and loss of allies) rather than more safe..”

Lyft has pledged to donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union over the next four years, while Airbnb says it will provide free housing to those affected by the ban.

Meanwhile, Uber became the center of a political battleground Saturday even as its CEO said he will be sure to raise the issue on Friday when he and other business advisers are expected to meet with Trump.

Here is what each of the companies who had sent high-level executives to the Trump tech summit has said, either internally to their employees, in statements to the press, or on social media.


Google chief executive Sundar Pichai late on Friday ordered scores of staffers traveling overseas to return to the United States immediately. Pichai sent out a companywide memo that was highly critical of Trump's action, saying it could prevent at least 187 foreign-born Google employees from entering the United States.

“It's painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues,” Pichai wrote. “We’re upset about the impact of this order and any proposals that could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families, or that could create barriers to bringing great talent to the U.S.”

The company sent an internal email to provide guidance on travel.

“From the very beginning, Amazon has been committed to equal rights, tolerance and diversity — and we always will be. As we’ve grown the company, we’ve worked hard to attract talented people from all over the world, and we believe this is one of the things that makes Amazon great — a diverse workforce helps us build better products for customers.

“Our immediate focus is to make sure you all have the information you need to make travel decisions in the coming days and weeks.”

(Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)


Apple chief executive Tim Cook, who was in Washington to meet with Republican officials, tweeted a historic quote from President Abraham Lincoln highlighting “malice toward none” and “charity for all” during a visit to Ford's Theatre.

Cook later said in a companywide email that without immigration, Apple would not exist; the co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, was the son of a Syrian immigrant.

“I've heard from many of you who are deeply concerned about the executive order issued yesterday restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries,” Cook wrote. “I share your concerns. It is not a policy we support.”

Here is the full email:

“In my conversations with officials here in Washington this week, I've made it clear that Apple believes deeply in the importance of immigration — both to our company and to our nation's future. Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do.

I've heard from many of you who are deeply concerned about the executive order issued yesterday restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. I share your concerns. It is not a policy we support.

There are employees at Apple who are directly affected by yesterday's immigration order. Our HR, Legal and Security teams are in contact with them, and Apple will do everything we can to support them. We’re providing resources on AppleWeb for anyone with questions or concerns about immigration policies. And we have reached out to the White House to explain the negative effect on our co-workers and our company.

As I've said many times, diversity makes our team stronger. And if there’s one thing I know about the people at Apple, it’s the depth of our empathy and support for one another. It’s as important now as it’s ever been, and it will not weaken one bit. I know I can count on all of you to make sure everyone at Apple feels welcome, respected and valued.

Apple is open. Open to everyone, no matter where they come from, which language they speak, who they love or how they worship. Our employees represent the finest talent in the world, and our team hails from every corner of the globe.

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, 'We may have all come on different ships, but we are in the same boat now.'”


The company has not made a statement on the travel ban.


Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on Friday wrote in a public message that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are indebted to the United States' policy of welcomeness and inclusion.

“We should also keep our doors open to refugees and those who need help. That's who we are,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Had we turned away refugees a few decades ago, Priscilla's family wouldn't be here today.”


In an email to employees, IBM said it has contacted employees directly affected by the executive order and expressed general support for immigration.

“As [CEO] Ginni [Rometty] has often reminded us, IBM has long believed in and sought to enable the balance between the responsible flow of people, ideas, commerce and information with the needs of security, everywhere in the world. As IBMers, we have learned, through era after era, that the path forward — for innovation, for prosperity, and for civil society — is the path of engagement and openness to the world. Our company will continue to work and advocate for this.”


The company has not made a statement on the travel ban.


Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith, in a letter to staff Saturday, said that at least 76 employees will be affected by Trump's policy. The company said it has already contacted them with offers of legal assistance and has urged other employees who may be subject to the ban to contact the company as soon as possible.

“As an immigrant and as a CEO, I’ve both experienced and seen the positive impact that immigration has on our company, for the country, and for the world,” wrote Satya Nadella, Microsoft's chief executive, in a LinkedIn post. “We will continue to advocate on this important topic.”


The company has not made a statement on the travel ban.


The company has not made a statement on the travel ban.


Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the policy failed to adequately address Trump's priorities.