Tech firms recall overseas staff, decry order

Most US corporate bosses have stayed silent on President Donald Trump's immigration curbs. VIDEO: REUTERS
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaking during the presentation of new Google hardware in San Francisco, California, US, on Oct 4, 2016.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaking during the presentation of new Google hardware in San Francisco, California, US, on Oct 4, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • Leading technology companies in the United States are recalling overseas employees and sharply criticising US President Donald Trump after he signed an executive order barring for 90 days immigrants and visitors from seven Muslim nations from entering the country.

The companies warned that the action - which affects foreign-born immigrants with legal permanent residence status in the United States and also suspends the acceptance of refugees for 120 days - could impair the ability of top US companies to compete.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai late last Friday ordered scores of staff members travelling overseas to return to the United States immediately. He sent out a companywide memo that was highly critical of Mr Trump's action, saying it could prevent at least 187 foreign-born Google employees from entering the United States.

"It's painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues," wrote Mr Pichai. "We're upset 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 US."

Apple chief executive Tim Cook said in a companywide e-mail that, without immigration, Apple would not exist. The co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, was the son of a Syrian immigrant.

"I've heard from many of you who are deeply concerned about the executive order issued yesterday restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries," Mr Cook wrote. "I share your concerns. It is not a policy we support."


Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey said in a tweet that the economic impact of the ban is "real and upsetting".

Thousands of tech workers living in Silicon Valley or abroad could potentially be impacted by Mr Trump's executive order, according to Ms Zahra Billoo, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

About 250,000 Muslims are estimated to live in the Bay Area, many of whom are Arab or South Asian immigrants working at companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2017, with the headline 'Tech firms recall overseas staff, decry order'. Print Edition | Subscribe