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FAQ: How has the tech industry opposed the travel ban executive order?

In this SearchCompliance FAQ, learn how members of the technology industry are working together to voice opposition to President Trump's travel ban executive order.

On March 6, 2017, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13780 that barred foreign nationals from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen without existing visas from seeking entry into the United States. The order, officially titled "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States," revised an earlier travel ban issued by executive order on Jan. 27.

After the State of Washington brought a lawsuit against the initial travel ban executive order before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, the court issued a temporary restraining order against the original travel ban on Feb. 3. The initial ban included Iraq among the targeted countries and, according to the White House, the revised ban was crafted to address concerns raised by Washington court.

Courts in Maryland and Hawaii have issued rulings against the revised travel ban, and the Trump administration appealed the rulings. An en banc panel of federal judges at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., is scheduled to hear the appeal of the Maryland court's ruling on May 8. Typically, the appeal would be heard by a three-judge panel, but in this case the full bench of 15 judges will conduct the hearing.

On March 15, Judge Derrick Watson of the U.S. District Court for the Ninth Circuit issued a temporary restraining order against several key parts of the ban, in response to a suit brought by the State of Hawaii. The appeal is scheduled for a hearing by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on May 15. Judge Watson changed his temporary restraining order to a preliminary injunction March 29, effectively blocking the order until the lawsuit brought by Hawaii is resolved.

This FAQ is part of SearchCompliance's IT Compliance FAQ series.

How has the tech industry responded to President Trump's travel ban executive order?

Leaders from the tech industry began speaking out against the travel ban soon after the initial executive order was signed. More than 130 of the major technology companies in the United States -- including Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft,  Mozilla, Netflix, PayPal, Adobe and HP -- signed on to an amicus curiae brief filed Feb. 5 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of the case brought by the state of Washington. 

A much smaller group of tech companies jointly filed an amicus curiae brief March 15 to support Hawaii's case against the revised ban. While this group did not include the same big names in the tech industry, it argued that the revised ban would inflict the same harm on the U.S. economy and businesses that the initial ban would.

In their Feb. 5 brief, the country's major tech companies argued that the travel ban executive order would create a "sudden shift" in the way that entry into the United States has been governed for the past half century. The travel ban also represents a significant change from "principles of fairness and predictability" and it harms businesses, innovation and growth in ways that will make it more difficult to compete in the global marketplace, the companies told the court.

Similar concerns about the travel ban's impact on the economy -- and the technology sector in particular -- have been expressed by members of Congress, state attorneys general and mayors, as well as civil liberties advocates. The states of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia jointly filed an amicus curiae brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Feb. 6. They pointed out that the ban threatens key sectors of the economy, namely technology and finance, which often have immigrants as employees.

In its Feb. 5 filing with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the tech industry stated that the travel ban would make it harder and more expensive for American companies to attract and retain talent from around the world. Sponsoring and obtaining a visa can be a long, complicated process for employers and potential employees alike, and the possibility that a recruit would be stopped unexpectedly at the U.S. border would create a disincentive to undergo such a laborious process. The travel ban would also make companies based outside the United States more attractive to potential recruits, the coalition of tech companies stated in the filing.

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What aspects of business, aside from recruiting, are affected by President Trump's travel ban executive order?

The tech industry pointed out to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that a travel ban would impair not only recruitment efforts, but everyday business as well. Travel is routinely required for conferences and meetings, as well as job rotations. These companies also regularly invite clients and customers to visit, and impairing this mobility would harm a company's ability to compete.

In the March 15 amicus curiae brief supporting the case brought by the state of Hawaii, tech companies said that the initial travel ban, which was in effect briefly before being blocked by the court, resulted in numerous business events, conferences and meetings being canceled and scores of tech company employees being detained at airports.

The tech companies claimed that just as the travel ban would discourage efforts to recruit employees to the United States, it would encourage investment and recruiting abroad. The ban would create an incentive for multinational companies to locate their operations and hire employees outside the United States, they added.

Many of the tech companies do business in countries covered by President Trump's travel ban executive order, and the companies have also raised concerns that the travel ban could lead to retaliation from those countries by making it harder to conduct business with them and negotiate deals overseas.

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How does the revised travel ban differ from the initial ban issued in January?

The Trump Administration maintains that the revised travel ban was crafted to address the concerns raised by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington when it issued a temporary restraining order against the initial ban on Feb. 3. The revised ban was scheduled to be implemented March 16 and set to last 90 days.  

The most visible difference between the initial and the revised travel bans is the removal of Iraq from the list of targeted countries. According to the White House, the travel ban was narrowed to the remaining six countries following negotiations between Iraq and the U.S. Department of State.

In its amicus brief filed Feb. 5 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the tech industry pointed out that United States could be financially harmed by President Trump's travel ban executive order. The companies specifically noted that General Electric stood to lose out on billions of dollars' worth of deals in Iraq alone, based on reports by U.S. diplomats.

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