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2017-01-31 07:15:10
Tech Companies Fight Trump Immigration Order in Court

SEATTLE — Technology executives have for days assailed President Trump’s executive order suspending immigration from seven mostly Muslim countries, framing their arguments largely in moral terms.

On Monday, two tech companies — Amazon and Expedia — stepped up their opposition to the order with filings that were part of a lawsuit in federal court against the Trump administration, arguing that the order will hurt their businesses.

The filings represent an escalation of the technology industry’s efforts to push back on the order signed by Mr. Trump on Friday night. There was little sign of the outcry over the order diminishing throughout the industry, as employees at Google staged demonstrations in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

Amazon and Expedia made declarations supporting a lawsuit filed against the Trump administration in federal court Monday night in Seattle by Washington State’s attorney general. The lawsuit, part of a growing wave of legal challenges to the immigration ban across the country, asked the court to declare key parts of the executive order unconstitutional.

Expedia argued that the executive order hurt its ability to recruit employees from overseas, and it also could undermine the core of the company’s business as an internet travel company.

“Expedia believes that the executive order jeopardizes its corporate mission and could have a detrimental impact on its business and employees, as well as the broader U.S. and global travel and tourism industry,” Robert Dzielak, the company’s general counsel, wrote in the filing.

As of Sunday, at least a thousand Expedia customers with passports from one of the seven countries, which includes Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, have made travel plans that involve flights to, from or through the United States.

Dara Khosrowshahi, Expedia’s chief executive, was born in Iran and fled the country with his parents after the Iranian revolution in 1978. “The president’s order represents the worst of his proclivity toward rash action versus thoughtfulness,” Mr. Khosrowshahi said in a statement. “Ours is a nation of immigrants. These are our roots, this is our soul. All erased with the stroke of a pen.”

Amazon said it was aware of 49 employees out of its United States work force of 180,000 who are from one of the countries identified in the executive order, nearly all of whom hold citizenship in another country.

Seven job candidates, all of them originally from Iran but citizens of other countries, have received employment offers from Amazon. The company is considering jobs for the candidates in other countries.

In an email to Amazon employees, the chief executive, Jeff Bezos, said the company had expressed its opposition to the order to senior administration officials and congressional leaders. He said the company was exploring “other legal options as well.”

“For tech leaders, it’s a work force issue,” said Michael Schutzler, the chief executive of the Washington Technology Industry Association, a trade group representing the state’s technology companies. “We have a huge shortage of talent. We create jobs 10 times faster than the state can produce talent. Reducing our ability to recruit talent to the state essentially concedes the field to our international competitors.”

Technology companies are bracing for another executive order, expected to be signed by Mr. Trump soon, that could affect them further with changes to the system for issuing visas to foreign workers. Technology companies are big users of H-1Bs and other forms of visas for hiring engineers from overseas.

At Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., hundreds of employees crowded into a quad near the main cafeteria to protest the order. Employees carried signs like “Trump, Don’t Be Evil” and “Silicon Valley: Built by Immigrants,” while others chanted “No Ban, No Wall” into a megaphone.

It was a scene more fitting for a college campus than a gathering of employees at one of America’s most valuable companies. Google offices in other cities like Seattle, San Francisco and New York held similar rallies. Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, told employees at the rally that immigration was “core to the founding of this company.”

When the Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who attended the protests at the San Francisco airport on Saturday, was introduced, the crowd broke into chants of “Sergey, Sergey, Sergey.” Mr. Brin noted that he came to the United States as a 6-year-old refugee from the Soviet Union when nuclear tensions between the two countries were at their peak.

“Even then, the U.S. had the courage to take me and my family in as refugees,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today or have any kind of life I have today if this wasn’t a great country that stood up and spoke for liberty,” Mr. Brin added.

Soufi Esmaeilzadeh, a Google product manager who is an Iranian national with Canadian citizenship who resides in the United States with a green card, said that Google’s immigration team initially recommended that she not return home from a business trip in Switzerland after the order was signed on Friday.

“My life is in the U.S. I felt angry, scared, and honestly rejected,” she said. “I don’t feel free or at peace.”

But after the stay won by the American Civil Liberties Union, Google told her that she might have a small window to return but needed to leave immediately. Flying through Dublin, she said four immigration officers pored over her paperwork. She eventually arrived in San Francisco on Sunday.