Wired‘s Davey Alba argues that the high concentration of immigrants, even refugees, in Silicon Valley made a hostile reaction to the Trump presidency very likely even before the announced border control policies.
Any thought that Silicon Valley might work with President Trump ended when the tech industry took a decisive stand against his Muslim ban. It simply had no other choice.
The condemnation has been swift and nearly unanimous. Today, Google employees worldwide walked off the job to protest the ban; CEO Sundar Pichai and co-founder Sergey Brin came out to support them. Over the weekend, big tech companies, venture capitalists, and even CEOs like Elon Musk and Travis Kalanick who are advising Trump denounced the draconian policy. It was a rare moment of unanimity for Silicon Valley, which is almost by definition a globalized industry built by, and welcoming toward, immigrants. Opposition to Trump’s immigration crackdown isn’t just political. It’s personal.
“No nation is better at harnessing the energies and talents of immigrants,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wrote today in a note to employees detailing the company’s opposition to the ban. “It’s a distinctive competitive advantage for our country—one we should not weaken.”
Many see the ban as an existential threat. Of the 274,000 skilled-worker visas, known as H-1B visas, the US issued in 2013, 65 percent went to people in computer-related jobs. More than that, though, the ban goes to the heart of the Valley’s culture, which emphasizes inclusion and globalism. It’s the stuff of legend. Steve Jobs was the son of Syrian immigrants, and Brin’s parents fled the Soviet Union when he was a child. As he told a reporter during a protest at San Francisco International Airport, “I’m a refugee.”
Sabba Nazhand, enterprise sales director at the web-based event planning platform Social Tables, says many people feel the ban personally. Even people who aren’t immigrants work alongside them and consider them friends. “It hit home,” says Nazhand, who was born in Iran. Whatever the external political considerations of tech companies might be, tech employees have had to come to terms with the reality of the immigration ban in ways that radiate outward, even at big companies.