American tech CEOs have attempted to present a united front to Donald Trump opposing his controversial travel ban, re-opening a deep rift between the president and some of America’s largest and most successful enterprises.
The CEOs of 127 companies including Apple, Google-owner Alphabet, Facebook and Microsoft joined forces to sign a “friend-of-the-court” brief that was lodged late Sunday with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. In the brief, the leaders argued that preventing people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. violated the Constitution and would significantly harm local business.
The controversial executive order, which was introduced with little warning and caused chaos at airports across America and overseas, was temporarily lifted Friday following a court ruling in Seattle. The federal government has appealed the decision, while continuing to argue the order is necessary to protect citizens from terrorist attacks.
Among the CEOs’ gripes was a fear that imposing immigration restrictions would encourage talented people to move to countries other than the U.S., blunting the country’s competitive edge.
“Highly skilled immigrants will be more interested in working abroad, in places where they and their colleagues can travel freely and with assurance that their immigration status will not suddenly be revoked,” the brief said. “Multinational companies will have strong incentives to base operations outside the United States or to move or hire employees and make investments abroad.”
The CEO group notably includes Tesla’s Elon Musk, who sits on Trump’s 18-member economic advisory council. Notably absent, though, was another council member, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. Dell’s Michael Dell, who sits on Trump’s manufacturing council, was also not involved.
Rometty stood out from other tech CEOs when Trump was elected in November. Instead of reacting coldly, she wrote to the now president congratulating him on his victory and suggesting specific ways in which IBM could help the government. IBM and Dell both currently perform a significant amount of contract work for government agencies.
The filing of the brief comes after Trump in December extended an olive branch to tech CEOs including Apple’s Tim Cook, Google’s Larry Page and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella by inviting them to Trump Tower in New York for a summit. Defying the president’s wishes has proven to be a risky business for CEOs, given his penchant for singling out individual leaders for attack. Perhaps, by presenting a united front, the tech CEOs are hoping to find safety in numbers.
Other companies involved with the brief include Twitter, E-bay, Netflix, Uber and a few non-tech companies, including Levis Strauss & Co and yogurt company Chobani.