An organization representing more than 500 companies in the Massachusetts tech sector is calling for local tech leaders to help it build a case against President Donald Trump’s immigration ban in a new federal lawsuit. The call is happening as more Boston tech companies speak out against the ban in part because of how it impacts their ability to find the right talent.
MassTLC, one of the organizations to voice early opposition to the ban, sent an email to members on Tuesday night saying that the group is supporting Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s participation in a federal lawsuit challenging Trump executive order. Signed last Friday, the order bars the entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely, as well as the entry of all refugees and citizens from seven majority Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Sudan and Syria — for 120 days. Trump has defended the order, saying it’s meant to protect the country against terrorism threats.
“It is morally and ethically beneath our American values.”
In the email, MassTLC CEO Tom Hopcroft said he’s asking local tech leaders to provide detailed statements on how the executive order is impacting their companies, ranging from questions on how many employees are affected, to any revenue losses that have been incurred as a result. The organization is also looking to find out if the order is harming “institutional strategic planning in developing international business and international sources of talent” and whether any employees or business affiliates have been unable to enter the country.
Hopcroft said to send statements to Healey’s office at email@example.com by end of business on Thursday.
Speaking on behalf of MassTLC and the tech community, Carbonite CEO Mohamad Ali was quoted in the email as saying, “we believe this executive order is detrimental to our state and our country.” He added: “It is morally and ethically beneath our American values. America is a nation of compassion and we do not turn our backs on those in need, and seeking refuge.”
Ali also said the executive order is “damaging to businesses and innovation efforts, economic growth and job creation,” pointing to some of the top companies in the U.S. that have been led by first- or second-generation immigrants. That includes the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, whose father was Syrian, and PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, who was born in India.
The federal lawsuit supported by Healey, who has the full backing of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, is challenging the constitutionality of the immigration ban and seeks to bring it to a halt through a preliminary judgment. The lawsuit was originally brought forth by two University of Massachusetts Dartmouth professors from Iran who are green-card holders and were detained at Logan International Airport Saturday night.
“Massachusetts is a global community and we all benefit from the shared experiences of our partners from around the world to support our economy and educational institutions to make our state the best place to live, work and raise a family,” Baker said in a statement. “The recent executive order puts this at risk, will not improve our security, and the lack of guidance associated with such an abrupt and overwhelming decision is problematic for all involved.”
A growing number of local business and tech leaders have spoken out against the ban or voiced their concerns, including GE CEO Jeff Immelt, Flybridge Capital Partners General Partner Jeff Bussgang, Boston Chamber CEO Jim Rooney, LogMeIn CEO Bill Wagner, New England Venture Capital Executive Director Jody Rose and Kayak co-founder Paul English.
“People are worried and I think a big part of that is they are worried what’s going to happen next.”
In an interview with BostInno earlier this week, Ali of Carbonite said America’s economy is increasingly becoming more dependent on a company’s ability to hire the right talent and that many of those skilled workers are immigrants. According to recent research commissioned by MassTLC provided to BostInno by Hopcroft, about a quarter of workers in the Massachusetts tech sector are foreign-born.
Ali said some of his employees have been impacted by the executive order, though none of them were trapped overseas or at airport — something that has happened to hundreds of people so far. He said one of his employees is a green card holder from Canada whose parents are from Iran and that she’s uncertain as to whether employees would view her as Canadian or Iranian. After Ali’s comments, the White House tweaked the order to not include green card holders.
Regardless, the haphazard way in which the order came together has created concern for Ali and others about how else their businesses could be impacted by the Trump administration. “People are worried and I think a big part of that is they are worried what’s going to happen next,” Ali said.