GAYETI SINGH | 3 FEBRUARY, 2017
NEW DELHI: The protests against United States President Donald Trump’s recent executive order banning refugees as well as citizens of seven Muslim countries from entry to the country have prompted Travis Kalanick, the chief executive of Uber, to step down from the President’s economic advisory group.
Kalanick announced his resignation as the group is due to meet Friday, following criticism from staff and the public, including petitions asking people to delete the ride-sharing app from their phones.
Explaining his decision in a memo to staff, Kalanick said that "joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the president or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that.” "Earlier today I spoke briefly with the president about the immigration executive order and its issues for our community," he added.
"The implicit assumption that Uber (or I) was somehow endorsing the Administration's agenda has created a perception-reality gap between who people think we are, and who we actually are,” the memo continues.
Kalanick’s decision to step down was supported by the Independent Drivers Guild which represents Uber drivers in New York. "This is an important show of solidarity with the immigrant drivers who helped build Uber and number over 40,000 in New York City alone," said the group's founder, Jim Conigliaro. "We are heartened that Uber has listened to the drivers and the community on this important issue that is so integral to the promise of the American dream."
Uber, along with several tech companies, has come under criticism since President Trump’s election, and more recently, following the executive order that is widely dubbed as the ‘immigration ban.’
A #DeleteUber campaign was started online, as criticism mounted that the app was employing the surge pricing feature as demonstrators gathered at various airports in the country in protest of the ban. Kalanick received additional flak for his role in the economic advisory board, with the pressure quickly mounting.
In addition to Kalanick’s resignation and clarification, Uber responded saying that its intention was not to profit off the strike, and that it would be implementing ways for people to reach the airports without paying higher pricing. The company later further added that a $3 million fund was being set up to help those affected by the ban -- which may include assistance for Uber’s own drivers, many of whom are immigrants.
Although consumer pressure was successful in forcing Kalanick to step down from Trump’s economic advisory board, another well-known tech CEO, namely Tesla’s Elon Musk, said that he would remain part of the board and attend its upcoming meet on Friday.
Musk, however, said that his decision to do so was not reflective of support for Trump’s recent policies. Advisory councils simply provide advice and attending does not mean that I agree with actions by the Administration," he said. "I and others will express our objections to the recent executive order on immigration and offer suggestions for changes to the policy."
Earlier, Musk had taken to Twitter to express his disagreement with the ban. "The blanket entry ban on citizens from certain primarily Muslim countries is not the best way to address the country’s challenges," he said, adding that "many people negatively affected by this policy are strong supporters of the U.S. They've done right, not wrong & don't deserve to be rejected."
The tech industry’s response at large to President Trump’s recent orders has been a subject of public and media attention. Several CEOs have spoken out against the immigration ban.
Amazon’s chief executive Jeff Bezos pledged the company’s full legal resources to fight the ban. In an email to employees sent on Monday afternoon, Bezos said that Amazon would be putting its legal and lobbying efforts behind the fight against the ban, saying “we reached out to congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle to explore legislative options. Our legal team has prepared a declaration of support for the Washington state attorney general who will be filing suit against the order. We are working other legal options as well.”
A few days earlier, the company in a statement said that “from the very beginning, Amazon has been committed to equal rights, tolerance and diversity – and we always will be.”
After Amazon’s public backing of legal action against the order, other companies followed suit. Travel service Expedia, whose chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, is an Iranian immigrant, is reportedly backing the plan. Additionally, Reuters reports that Microsoft is also working with the state, providing information about the order’s impact “in order to be supportive.”
In the day following the implementation of the order, Netflix Inc Chief Executive Reed Hastings called it "a sad week" and added that "it is time to link arms together to protect American values of freedom and opportunity."
Apple CEO Tim Cook told employees that Trump's order was "not a policy we support" and promised to help affected employees. "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," Cook wrote. Apple co founder Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian immigrant.
Airbnb moved to provide free housing to anyone not allowed into the United States. Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky said that "not allowing countries or refugees into America is not right and we must stand with those who are affected."
"We're concerned 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.," Google said in a statement. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the move affects at least 187 of the Internet giant's staff.
"As a company, Microsoft believes in a strong and balanced high-skilled immigration system," Microsoft Corp President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said in a company-wide email "we believe in the importance of protecting legitimate and law-abiding refugees whose very lives may be at stake in immigration proceedings."
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said he was “concerned” about the order and reiterated his support for immigrants. “Like many of you, I'm concerned about the impact of the recent executive orders signed by President Trump. We need to keep this country safe, but we should do that by focusing on people who actually pose a threat. Expanding the focus of law enforcement beyond people who are real threats would make all Americans less safe by diverting resources, while millions of undocumented folks who don't pose a threat will live in fear of deportation. We should also keep our doors open to refugees and those who need help. That's who we are. Had we turned away refugees a few decades ago, Priscilla's family wouldn't be here today,” Zuckerberg said in a public Facebook post.
Internet Association President and CEO Michael Beckerman drew a link between the internet industry and immigrants, saying that "while this order impacts many companies outside of the tech industry, Internet companies in particular thrive in the U.S. because the best and the brightest are able to create innovative products and services right here in America.” "While we support President Trump’s efforts to grow our economy and allow ‘people of great talent’ to come into the U.S., the executive order signed yesterday has troubling consequences."
Additionally, reports suggest that some of the biggest names in technology — thought to include Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet, Apple, Facebook, and Uber — have composed a joint letter addressed to President Trump in opposition to the ban.
A draft of the letter, posted to tech website Recode, states the following (note: it’s authenticity has not been independently verified by The Citizen):
"Dear President Trump,
Since the country's birth, America has been the land of opportunity - welcoming newcomers and giving them the chance to build families, careers, and businesses in the United States. We are a nation made stronger by immigrants. As entrepreneurs and business leaders, our ability to grow our companies and create jobs depends on the contributions of immigrants from all backgrounds.
We share your goal of ensuring that our immigration system meets today's security needs and keeps our country safe. We are concerned, however, that your recent executive order will affect many visa holders who work hard here in the United States and contribute to our country's success. In a global economy, it is critical that we continue to attract the best and brightest from around the world. We welcome the changes your administration has made in recent days in how the Department of Homeland Security will implement the executive order, and we stand ready to help your administration identify other opportunities to ensure that our employees can travel with predictability and without undue delay.
Our nation's compassion is a part of what makes it exceptional, and we are committed to helping your administration identify approaches for thorough screening without a blanket suspension of admissions under the U.S. Refugee Admissions program. While security and vetting procedures can and should always be subject to continuous evaluation and improvement, a blanket suspension is not the right approach.
Similarly, we stand ready to identify ways of helping to achieve your stated goal of bringing clarity to the future of the 750,000 Dreamers in this country under the protections of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in a way "that will make people happy and proud." Removing these protections by barring renewals would effectively end the program and eliminate the ability for these Dreamers to work and live without the fear of deportation.
The business community shares your commitment to growing the American economy and expanding job creation across the country. We hire both thousands of Americans and some of the most talented people from abroad, who work together to help our companies succeed and expand our overall employment. As you contemplate changes to the nation's complex and interconnected immigration policies, whether business and employment-based visas, refugees, or DACA, we hope that you will use us as a resource to help achieve immigration policies that both support the work of American businesses and reflect American values."