Advocates to Tech Companies: Do More to Oppose Trump’s Agenda

“Those who enable Trump and his bigoted agenda are no better than him,” Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, said in a statement.

Following the #DeleteUber social media campaign, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down from Trump’s business advisory council. Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Ninety-seven tech companies on Sunday jointly filed papers in court opposing President Trump’s controversial travel ban, calling the executive order “unlawful, discriminatory and arbitrary and saying that it would hurt their businesses” according to NPR.

The amicus brief states that it is “a significant departure from the principles of fairness and predictability” that have governed the U.S. immigration system for more than 50 years, and that it makes it more difficult for U.S. companies to attract and retain some of the world’s best talent. 

The legal action comes on the heels of other corporate resistance to Trump, with pledges from companies like Google and Lyft to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Almost 1,000 Twitter employees made a $1.59 million donation to the ACLU, which kicked off a multi-pronged plan ahead of the president’s inauguration demanding government accountability and transparency; defending reproductive rights; and protecting immigrant, LGBT, and core civil rights. More recently, the civil liberties organization filed a class action lawsuit challenging Trump’s travel ban.

The ACLU is one of many groups working to protect the rights of refugees and immigrants in light of Trump’s order.

As companies across the nation continue to criticize President Trump’s executive orders, civil rights advocates have urged business leaders to do more to show their resistance to the Trump administration and its anti-immigrant agenda.

Following the #DeleteUber social media campaign, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down from Trump’s business advisory council. However, advocacy groups Muslim Advocates and Color of Change are demanding that the 18 other CEOs who sit on Trump’s business council resign their positions. Although some of the chief executives have expressed criticism of the White House’s immigration actions, none have stepped down other than Kalanick.

“Those who enable Trump and his bigoted agenda are no better than him,” Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, said in a statement. “We won’t mince words: Any CEO who stays on this council is placing access to power over people’s lives; they are putting money over this country’s future. In this moment in our nation, we will not forgot those who remained silent and we will hold special contempt for those who used their access and power for profit.” 

“Being a member of this council is an endorsement of bigotry,” said Farhana Khera, president and executive director of Muslim Advocates in a statement. “Writing a statement isn’t enough when the President is attempting to criminalize an entire religion. If these companies want to be on the right side of history and the right side of their customers, they’ll step down from this council immediately.”

For his part, Kalanick said in an email to Uber employees after announcing his resignation from the council, “Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the President or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that.” He added that there “are many ways [Uber] will continue to advocate for just change on immigration but staying on the council was going to get in the way of that.”

Soon after the November election, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital rights nonprofit, urged tech company leaders to demand strong encryption and data protection, oppose surveillance, and defend against attacks on free speech and internet freedom.

As Rewire previously reported, there are already state and federal systems in place that could hasten mass deportation efforts if used against immigrant communities—from the post 9/11 National Security Entry-Exit Registration System that registered and tracked “mostly Arabs and Muslims,” to inter-agency gang databases that currently make it easy to track and deport suspected undocumented gang members.

In addition, there is a history of surveillance of civil rights activists in the United States. To push back, civil rights groups last week launched the Stop Trump Intelligence Program, also called TrumpIntelPro, “to stop police from illegally surveilling and bullying vulnerable civilians — including Muslim-Americans, immigrants, and protesters,”reported Carimah Townes at ThinkProgress on Tuesday. Previously, advocates have sued federal agencies for not releasing documents on their surveillance of Black Lives Matter protests and activists, and Democrats have pressured the Federal Communications Commission on its disproportionate use of surveillance technology in communities of color.

As Trump has positioned himself a champion of “law and order,” and criticized Apple for standing up for strong encryption, “tech companies need to be even more vigilant in fighting for their users in the courts,” an EFF article by Andrew Crocker and Amul Kalia stated.

The EFF staff suggested that companies stand up for customers by pushing back against broad and unlawful requests for information, fighting unconstitutional gag orders, resisting demands for encryption backdoors, and limiting what information they collect.

Wrote Crocker and Kalia, “The political climate may present tech companies with plenty of opportunities to fight for their users in the courts, and we hope they’ll be ready.”