PALM BEACH, United States (AFP) – Dozens of tech companies and two former US secretaries of state savaged Donald Trump’s travel ban in court filings posted on Monday (Feb 6), while the president remained defiant in the face of a high-stakes legal battle.
It was the latest chapter in a saga which began on Jan 27, when Trump issued a blanket ban on all refugees, and travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Silicon Valley giants such as Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter filed a legal brief late on Sunday in support of a lawsuit against the travel ban, which was suspended by a federal judge on Friday.
The 97 companies which signed onto the brief, most of them from the US tech industry which heavily employs immigrants, charged that the ban “inflicts significant harm on American business, innovation, and growth,” according to a copy of the document published Monday by US media outlets.
A group of prominent Democrats including former secretaries of state John Kerry and Madeleine Albright joined their voices to the criticism on Monday, calling for a federal appeals court to continue blocking the ban which they argued harms national security.
Trump, who spent the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida, has unleashed a string of fiery tweets defending his policy and attacking the Seattle judge who blocked his travel ban.
“Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!” he wrote.
“I have instructed Homeland Security to check people coming into our country VERY CAREFULLY. The courts are making the job very difficult!”
The appeals court over the weekend ruled against immediately reinstating the ban, a decision that Vice President Mike Pence called “frustrating.”
“We will move very quickly,” he told Fox News on Sunday. “We are going to win the arguments because we will take the steps necessary to protect the country, which the president of the United States has the authority to do.”
Trump’s executive order slapped a blanket ban on entry for nationals of the seven countries for 90 days and barred all refugees for 120 days. Refugees from Syria were blocked indefinitely.
The Trump administration has appealed the suspension of the ban to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, saying the halt was causing “irreparable harm” to the American public.
The appeals court has asked both the state of Washington, which filed the suit challenging the travel ban, and the Trump administration to file more documents bolstering their arguments, before it decides how to proceed.
The 97 companies speaking out against the travel ban said it harms recruiting and retention of talent, threatens business operations, and hampers the firms’ ability to attract investment to the United States.
Other tech companies that are part of the coalition include AirBnb, Dropbox, eBay, Intel, Kickstarter, LinkedIn, Lyft, Mozilla, Netflix, PayPal, Uber and Yelp.
Kerry and Albright in their court filing called for the appeals court to continue blocking the travel ban, arguing that Trump’s order was “ill-conceived, poorly implemented and ill-explained.” “We view the order as one that ultimately undermines the national security of the United States, rather than making us safer,” they said.
“Reinstating the executive order would wreak havoc on innocent lives and deeply held American values.”
Specifically, the Democrats said Trump’s travel ban could endanger US troops in the field and disrupt counter-terrorism cooperation.
It also feeds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group propaganda that the United States is at war with Islam, they said.
The brief was filed by Kerry, Albright and several top aides to ex-president Barack Obama. Among them were national security advisor Susan Rice, CIA chief and defence secretary Leon Panetta, and homeland security chief Janet Napolitano.
With the travel ban suspended as of Friday, travellers from the targeted countries holding valid visas have begun arriving on American soil.
In New York, 33-year-old Sudanese doctor Kamal Fadlalla rejoiced – after a week blocked in his home country, he was back in the Big Apple with friends and colleagues.
“It feels great,” Fadlalla told AFP on Sunday at John F. Kennedy International Airport. “It was a tough week actually.”
Iranian graduate student Sara Yarjani, who was initially deported under Trump’s order, arrived in Los Angeles.
“I am so grateful to all the lawyers and others that helped me,” she said tearfully.
The State Department has said visa holders from the seven countries are allowed to travel to the US as long as their documents have not been “physically cancelled.”
The restrictions fuelled weekend protests at home and abroad – from London and Hong Kong to Washington and Palm Beach, where Trump spent the weekend.