Large technology firms including Apple, Google and Microsoft signed a brief in a US court in support of a legal action against the recent presidential order banning travel for nationals from seven countries, the most outspoken move against the policy as yet by the tech sector.
The amicus brief formally expresses the support of the 97 firms for a lawsuit by the state of Washington against the travel ban, which also suspends the US’ refugee programme.
That lawsuit led a US judge to temporarily lift the presidential order late last week, and over the weekend an appeals court declined to immediately reinstate the order.
The brief states that the order causes immediate financial damage to US companies, disrupting their current operations and making it “more difficult and expensive for US companies to recruit, hire, and retain some of the world’s best employees”.
That is particularly true of the US’ IT sector, which relies heavily on highly skilled labour from abroad employed via work visas.
The brief also argued the order departs from the “principles of fairness and predictability” that have governed the US’ immigration policy since the second world war.
“America has long recognised the importance of protecting ourselves against those who would do us harm,” the brief states. “But it has done so while maintaining our fundamental commitment to welcoming immigrants — through increased background checks and other controls on people seeking to enter our country.”
Tech companies signing the brief include Airbnb, Facebook, Intel, Snap, Twitter, Netflix, Uber, Spotify and Kickstarter, while companies outside the sector including Levi Strauss and yogurt maker Chobani also backed it.
Tesla, whose chief executive Elon Musk has said he prefers to work with the administration on improving its policies, did not sign, nor did Amazon, which had already backed the state’s lawsuit.
The companies had originally planned to file the brief later this week, but accelerated efforts over the weekend and filed it late on Sunday, according to reports.
Microsoft, Google parent Alphabet and other large IT companies are planning to send an open letter to US president Trump offering to help formulate immigration policies that protect the country’s security while avoiding disruption to the economy, according to people familiar with the matter.
“We share your goal of ensuring that our immigration system meets today’s security needs and keeps our country safe,” said a draft of the letter, a copy of which was seen by Silicon UK. “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.”
US IT companies had initially voiced concern about the immigration order, but said the move was so unprecedented that it was not immediately clear how they should respond.
Some of Trump’s other initial moves have been welcomed by some large players in the IT industry, including its opposition to network neutrality and its plans to remove some of the regulations brought in under the previous administration.
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