161 tech companies ask Supreme Court to strike down Trump travel ban

By Giuseppe Macri

InsideSources.com

While often rivals in business, Google, Facebook, and Amazon are among 161 tech companies collectively asking the Supreme Court to strike down the Trump administration’s second travel ban. The companies range from sharing economy businesses Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb, to the entertainment giant Netflix, to the internet provider Verizon, to music streamers Pandora and Spotify.

The companies, including most of Silicon Valley’s most prominent tech giants, filed an amicus “friend of the court” briefing with the nation’s highest court Monday asking justices to strike down Trump’s second attempt at the ban on immigrants from Syria, Libya, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan.

Companies’ legal brief to justices — who will hear oral arguments on the ban in October — describe the executive order as “a significant shift in the rules governing entry into the United States,” and one that is “inflicting substantial harm on American companies, their employees, and the entire economy.”

“It hinders the ability of American companies to attract talented employees; increases costs imposed on business; makes it more difficult for American firms to compete in the international marketplace; and gives global enterprises a new, significant incentive to build operations—and hire new employees—outside the United States,” the filing reads.

Beyond hurting tech companies, many of whom rely on the H-1B visa program for high-skilled workers to recruit foreign immigrants with tech talent, the group says the ban exceeds Trump’s legal authority.

“To bar a class of aliens from the United States, the president must reasonably determine that their entry would be detrimental to the Nation, and then craft an order that reasonably addresses any threat that those individuals might pose,” they argue.

According to the companies, Trump’s ban “falls far short of these requirements” because it “neither explains why the targeted individuals’ entry would be detrimental to the United States nor imposes reasonable restrictions.”

Instead, the White House order uses “vague words of national security,” the group says, while “overrid[ing] those standards without any explanation, let alone sufficient justification.”

“Congress in 1965 prohibited discrimination in immigration decisions on the basis of national origin precisely so that the nation would not shut its doors to immigrants based on where they come from,” the brief reads, “but the order does just that. It would turn the clock back and restore the national-origins system that Congress expressly abolished.”

A significant portion of the tech companies’ argument against the ban uses one of Trump’s favorite talking points against him — that federal regulation, in this case Trump’s own, hurts the U.S.’s global economic competitiveness. In addition to throwing a roadblock between Silicon Valley and talented foreign-born workers, they say the ban makes it harder to “send their employees abroad, to grow their operations, and, fundamentally, to compete in the global economy.”

“[The companies] believe that the order will therefore stifle the nation’s economic growth and global competitiveness,” the group told the court.

Trump’s first travel ban enacted in January included Iraq and took effect immediately, causing chaos at airports and confusion among Customs and Border Protection. That executive order was put on hold a week later by a federal judge in Washington state, and a San Francisco federal appeals court declined to lift a restraining order in February.

The Trump administration’s second version of the travel ban removed Iraq from the list of barred countries, gave more notice to border enforcement agencies, removed a permanent ban on Syrian refugees, exempted legal permanent residents, and removed language favoring Christian immigrants.

Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland put a hold on the ban before taking effect in March. The administration appealed the Fourth and Ninth U.S. Circuit Court challenges to the Supreme Court, which unanimously allowed a limited version of the ban to take effect. Justices agreed the ban could only impact refugees and immigrants lacking a “bona fide” relationship to an individual or entity (such as a job) in the U.S.

In September, a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the Trump administration from denying entry to extended family including grandparents, aunts, uncles (it previously tried to argue bona fide relationships only included parents, siblings, fiancés, step-family and in-laws) and bans on immigrants in the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and those with arrangements made by U.S. resettlement programs.

The Supreme Court moved in again last week to bolster the Trump administration’s case, relieving the Ninth Circuit restrictions on refugees in resettlement programs.

Justices are scheduled to hear oral arguments on Oct. 10.