Business Titans Can Overturn Trump's Travel Ban

Convershaken Staff
February 1, 2017

Donald Trump has sparked protests across America and enraged millions with his blatantly unconstitutional, arbitrary and poorly executed immigration ban. Given the US president's business background and his focus on jobs and economic growth, businesses may have the best chance of convincing him to scrap the policy.

The week after his inauguration, Trump signed an executive order to suspend America’s refugee programme for 120 days, bar Syrian refugees indefinitely, and block Syrian, Libyan, Iraqi, Iranian, Yemeni, Sudanese and Somalian immigrants from entering the US for 90 days. He implemented the policy with almost no warning, creating chaos at airports.

A 5-year-old boy arriving from Iran was reportedly handcuffed and detained for hours by himself. A 75-year-old Iraqi mother and green-card holder was barred from flying home to the US and died soon after. And a pair of Sudanese brothers were coerced into giving up their green cards under threat of a five-year ban from entering the US, then deported. Only later did Trump's staff clarify that green-card holders are exempted from the ban.

Some of the nation's top executives have denounced the ban as un-American and harmful to their employees and operations. Apple chief Tim Cook said, "More than any country in the world, this country is strong because of our immigrant background and our capacity and ability as people to welcome people from all kinds of backgrounds”. He added that Apple founder Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian immigrant, and “Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do".

Similarly, Google founder Sergey Brin framed the ban as a betrayal of American values. "I came here to the US at age six with my family from the Soviet Union," he said to a crowd of protestors at San Francisco International Airport. "There was the threat of nuclear annihilation. And even then the US had the courage to take me and my family in as refugees."

The bosses of companies such as General Motors, JP Morgan and 21st Century Fox have pledged to support affected employees and their families. Executives at Goldman Sachs, General Electric, Facebook, Netflix and other multinationals have taken a step further and decried the ban. The heads of Uber and Tesla, who sit on the president's economic advisory board, have vowed to share their concerns with him. And others - including Airbnb, Amazon, Expedia, Microsoft, Starbucks, Lyft and Uber - have taken steps to challenge the ban, minimise its effects and support those affected.

Many executives have kept their heads down. Telecommunications companies have remained silent, reports Recode, perhaps because of several proposed industry mergers that require government approval. The New Yorker contacted the 10 largest US-based contractors to the federal government, and nine either declined to comment on the ban or failed to respond.

Now that several blue-chip US companies have denounced the ban, others are likely to break cover in the coming days. Corporate America will play a vital role in overturning the ban. Trump has dismissed mainstream media outlets such as CNN as '"fake news" and the "opposition party", weakening their ability to contest his policies and hold him accountable. He's also downplayed the ire of protestors by stating his ban doesn't target Muslims, pointing out the targeted countries were taken from a list of terror-prone nations compiled by President Obama, and claiming his predecessor introduced similar measures.

Trump's pride, obstinance and fear of appearing weak could mean that nothing can convince him to back down. But if the nation's largest employers decry the ban as detrimental to economic and employment growth - two of his administration's flagship goals - he may have second thoughts about it. He has also taken time to meet business executives such as Tim Cook and appointed several of them as advisors, suggesting he values their opinions and may heed their advice. And given his background in business, he may be more likely to respond to financial and economic arguments than moral, geopolitical or constitutional ones. 

America's most influential business executives have the president's ear; shouting and stamping their feet could be the nation's best shot at lifting the immigration ban.