Trump immigration order causes rift with business

Criticism of Trump's order has been most virulent in Silicon Valley.

Afp January 31, 2017
The Statue of Liberty is pictured on a sign as people march in support of immigrants and refugees in Seattle, Washington on January 29, 2017. PHOTO: AFP


Many American businesses are publicly breaking with President Donald Trump over his anti-immigration policies, saying they could damage competitiveness by limiting access to the best and brightest employees.

Criticism of Trump's order has been most virulent in Silicon Valley, where chiefs of tech firms Apple, Microsoft, Airbnb and Google were among those to blast the policy, unveiled late Friday, which prohibits people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, and includes a temporary ban on refugees.

Protests erupted at airports nationwide over the weekend, while lawsuits led to judges blocking parts of the order, which initially prevented some legal US residents from returning home.

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings called the policies "un-American." Executives outside of the technology industry have joined in pointing out the perils of the immigration policies as well, although they are more cautious about provoking the administration, which is expected to pursue favored policies such as tax cuts and regulatory relief.

Any criticism could trigger blowback from Trump, who has frequently lambasted individual companies, including Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Boeing and Lockheed.

Looking out for employees 

Company chiefs, in messages to employees, have emphasised the importance of a diverse workforce and promised to support employees.

"This is not a policy we support," Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein told employees in a recorded voice mail. "I want to assure all of you that we will work to minimise such disruption to the extent we can within the law and are focused on supporting our colleagues and their families who may be affected."

US Companies react to border clampdown. PHOTO: AFP US Companies react to border clampdown. PHOTO: AFP

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who is on a council of corporate chief executives tasked with advising Trump on job growth, promised "unwavering commitment" to staff in a statement. Goldman and JPMorgan have vast international businesses that advise and provide financing to foreign governments, multinationals and private individuals.

Boston-based General Electric, whose chief executive Jeff Immelt, also sits on a Trump business advisory board, came out against the policy. "We have many employees from the named countries and we do business all over the region," Immelt said. "We stand with them and will work with the US Administration to strive to find the balance between the need for security and the movement of law abiding people."

Last week, Iraq signed a billion-dollar deal with GE for the construction of two power plants. But the Iraqi government has criticised Trump for targeting the country in the ban, and parliament urged the government to retaliate against Americans entering the country if Washington refuses reconsider.

GM, which Trump has criticised for building cars in Mexico, sent a statement to all employees on Sunday saying a few are from countries affected by the order, and pledging to provide support to any worker who encounters difficulty while traveling.

Stressing that it welcomes individuals of all races, nationality, gender, culture or sexual orientation, GM said, "Empowering these unique perspectives keeps GM on the cutting edge of technological innovation in the fast-paced automotive industry."

And Ford, which also has sparred with Trump over its Mexican operations, criticised the immigration policy, saying the company is "proud of the rich diversity" of workers. "That is why we do not support this policy or any other that goes against our values as a company."

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Boeing, which has been a Trump target for high costs of the Air Force One presidential airplane, did not respond to AFP requests for comment.

ExxonMobil, whose former chief executive is in line to be Trump's secretary of state, also did not respond to requests for comment. ExxonMobil has projects in Yemen, one of the seven countries affected by the ban.

The US Chamber of Commerce said the policy is creating confusion for companies with employees who are legal residents or dual nationals. A Chamber spokesperson told AFP "we hope the administration can quickly clarify how these will be handled"


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