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Silicon Valley tech companies argue in court filing against immigration ban

By Marisa Kendall The Mercury News

SAN FRANCISCO – Stepping up their fight against the president’s immigration ban, some of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies – Apple, Google, Facebook and others – have filed a legal brief claiming the executive order “inflicts significant harm on American businesses.”

“The Order represents a significant departure from the principles of fairness and predictability that have governed the immigration system of the United States for more than fifty years – and the Order inflicts significant harm on American business, innovation, and growth as a result,” according to the Sunday filing, which was signed by nearly 100 companies. “The Order makes it more difficult and expensive for U.S. companies to recruit, hire, and retain some of the world’s best employees. It disrupts ongoing business operations. And it threatens companies’ ability to attract talent, business, and investment to the United States.”

The immigration ban President Donald Trump signed last month, which barred citizens of Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria from entering the country for 90 days, is on hold following an order from a federal judge in Seattle. The administration has appealed that order and now is gearing up for what is likely to be a contentious fight in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Many Silicon Valley tech executives spoke out against the ban last week in tweets, blog posts and letters to their employees. In filing the brief, they took their opposition one step further by jumping into the legal battle.

The filing is a request by the tech companies for the court to consider their amicus brief – a document typically filed in an appellate case by non-parties who have a strong interest in the case.

The Department of Justice declined to comment Monday.

The tech companies argue the order is illegal because it discriminates on the basis of nationality, and it is overly broad in its reach. They also claim the order is written in a way that indicates the immigration ban could be lengthened and expanded to include people from other countries based on unspecified criteria.

“The Order says that its purpose is to ‘prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals,’” the brief states. “But the ban it imposes applies to millions of individuals who could not plausibly be foreign terrorists: hundreds of thousands of students, employees, and family members of citizens who have already been admitted to the United States; thousands of visa-holders who have already passed the Nation’s rigorous screening process; and countless peaceful individuals residing or born in the targeted countries.”

The order already has had adverse effects on American business, as employees of several major companies were ensnared by the ban, the tech companies’ lawyers wrote. That instability will make it more difficult and more expensive to hire talent from abroad, they argue – and make it more attractive for companies to set up shop overseas – as employees will not want to go through the hardship of obtaining visas and relocating their lives if there is a chance they will be stopped at the U.S. border, or prevented from returning to their homeland.

The United States is a “nation of immigrants,” and nearly half of Americans have a grandparent born somewhere else, lawyers for the tech companies wrote. They describe immigrants as the founders of huge companies and small businesses, Nobel prize winners and patent holders responsible for inventing everything from alternating current to the hot dog. Immigrants or their children founded more than 200 companies on the Fortune 500 list – including Apple and Ford – companies that generate an annual revenue of $4.2 trillion and employ millions of Americans, they wrote.

“Immigrants make many of the Nation’s greatest discoveries,” the brief states, “and create some of the country’s most innovative and iconic companies. Immigrants are among our leading entrepreneurs, politicians, artists, and philanthropists.”

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