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Trump's Immigration Ban Hits Home for Microsoft CEO

President Donald Trump's stunning executive order late Friday temporarily banning visitors with visas from seven countries entry into the United States has hit home for several prominent tech leaders, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, an immigrant from Hyderabad, India. The global turmoil created by the immigration ban is predictably taking a huge toll on the technology community, which employs many immigrants.

While the administration underscored the ban is temporary -- 120 days for all refugees and 90 days for those from earmarked countries -- it quickly wreaked havoc among thousands of travelers. A federal judge on Saturday blocked part of the order, but the move caused chaos at U.S. airports where many travelers were detained and protestors held demonstrations. It notably created uncertainty among those working for tech companies as well as IT professionals and developers working in the United States. Tech CEOs were among the most vocal to raise alarms about the move.

Nadella joined a chorus of tech CEOs condemning the president's unprecedented ban. "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," Nadella said on his LinkedIn page. "We will continue to advocate on this important topic."

Nadella also pointed to an e-mail to employees by Microsoft President Brad Smith, who noted 76 employees are citizens of the countries banned by the administration: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan. Microsoft has reached out to those employees individually, Smith noted, and encouraged those that the company isn't aware of that have citizenship in those countries and those unsure if they're affected to reach out.

"As we have in other instances and in other countries, we're committed as a company to working with all of our employees and their families," Smith stated in his e-mail, which Nadella shared in his post. "We'll make sure that we do everything we can to provide fast and effective legal advice and assistance."

Smith also underscored Microsoft's commitment to all its employees who are immigrants. "We appreciate that immigration issues are important to a great many people across Microsoft at a principled and even personal level, regardless of whether they personally are immigrants," Smith stated. "Satya has spoken of this importance on many occasions, not just to Microsoft but to himself personally. He has done so publicly as well as in the private meetings that he and I have attended with government leaders."

Both Smith and Nadella were among a parade of tech leaders who met with President Trump in New York on Dec. 15, along with Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Apple's Tim Cook, Alphabet CEO Larry Page, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, IBM's Ginny Rometty and Oracle's Safra Catz. Immigration and global trade were issues discussed during that meeting. Nadella reportedly raised the issue of immigration to Trump during the gathering, according to a Recode report, in which the Microsoft CEO emphasized much of the company's spending on R&D takes place in the U.S., which benefits from contributions from immigrants. The report indicated that Trump responded positively by saying "let's fix that," though gave no specifics or promises.

Nadella's peers also condemned Trump's order. Among them was Apple's Cook, who reportedly told employees in an e-mail that he heard from numerous people concerned about the implications of the move. "I share your concerns. It is not a policy we support," Cook wrote, as reported by BuzzFeed. "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."

Google Cofounder Sergey Brin, who's also president of its parent company Alphabet, was spotted at a demonstration protesting the move in San Francisco. "I'm here because I'm a refugee," Brin reportedly told Forbes. More than 100 Google employees were immediately impacted by the ban, according to an e-mail to employees by CEO Sundar Pichai, obtained by Bloomberg. "It's painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues," Pichai stated in the e-mail. "We've always made our view on immigration issues known publicly and will continue to do so."

The order was among a barrage of swift and controversial moves made by Trump since he was sworn in as the 45th U.S. president 10 days ago. Although the moves are in keeping with his campaign promises, which surely are pleasing to his supporters, it appears Trump is doing so with approaches that are testing the limits of presidential power. As rulings are issued, it remains to be seen what steps, if any, Congress will take. The economic consequences are uncertain, though the markets are down sharply today. Surely, that will hardly offer consolation to those who don't know what their futures hold.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 01/30/2017 at 10:26 AM


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