After months of being back on their heels because of Republican tax cuts and growing momentum of the U.S. economy, CEOs who are opposed to President Trump’s approach toward immigration lined up this week to tee off on the controversy over the separation of children from their parents who are illegal aliens.
Their criticisms may have played some role in the President’s executive order Wednesday that overturned the policy.
CEO objectors have been led by a roster of Silicon Valley-based chiefs who also formed the core of corporate criticism beginning last year when Trump announced a temporary ban on immigration, for national-security purposes, from seven countries that are Muslim. Such a policy flouted the sensibilities of these CEOs and also threatened to make it harder for them to attract and keep the diverse, digitally adept workforces they require.
This week, the CEOs lined up to express angst and outrage at the Trump administration’s separation policy included Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Box CEO Aaron Levie, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, and BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti.
Typical of their critiques was this tweet from Levie: “The act of separating families at the border is inhumane and un-American. We cannot let this continue. We need our government to address immigration in a compassionate and scalable way now.”
Other CEOs who were critical of Trump included Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder and CEO of yogurt brand Chobani, who is an immigrant from Turkey and makes hiring and assisting immigrants a major part of his approach to his workforce.
“Separating a child from a mother or father is not political,” Ulukaya tweeted. “It is inhumane. It is against everything this country stands for. I have seen it in other parts of the world but never thought I’d see it in the land of the free.”
Also weighing in was Cisco Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins, who chairs the immigration committee at the Business Roundtable, a leading lobbying group of American CEOs. Robbins said that America “needs policies that reflect our values and do what’s right for society.”
On the other side, CEO expressions of support for the administration’s separation policy were few and far between. With the entire political and corporate universe essentially lining up against the president on this particular policy, it behooved business leaders who might agree with it to simply remain silent.
Many presumably also were wishing that President Trump would quickly reverse his stance on the separation policy so that the controversy, and political and media opposition, don’t serve as a stumbling block to an economy that continues to gear up.
United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said his airline would not take part in transporting immigrant children who have been separated from their parents.
“Based on our serious concerns about this policy and how it’s in deep conflict with our company’s values, we have contacted federal officials to inform them that they should not transport immigrant children on United aircraft who have been separated from their parents,” Munoz said in a statement Wednesday. “Our company’s shared purpose is to connect people and unite the world. This policy and its impact on thousands of children is in deep conflict with that mission and we want no part of it.”