On Monday afternoon, the Attorney General for the state of Washington filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its Muslim travel and immigration ban. Unlike the challenge to the Trump administration's executive order filed by the ACLU and National Immigration Law Center over the weekend, the AG's motion to freeze the Muslim ban through a temporary restraining order must show the harm the executive order would do to Washington State in particular.
Key to making this argument stand up in court is the testimony of Washington State employers willing to take a stand. Several of the state's biggest employers rely heavily on the H-1B visa, which allow talented foreign nationals to work in the United States for three to six years. Both Amazon and Expedia, for example, have submitted declarations in support of the AG's suit, outlining how Trump's executive order is damaging their workforce and their business. Other major Washington State employers have maintained total silence.
Here's what we know so far.
Amazon employs 40,000 people in the state. In the declaration submitted with the AG's lawsuit, Amazon's senior manager of mobility and immigration Ayesha Blackwell-Hawkins explained that at least 49 of its employees were born in countries the Trump administration has targeted with its executive order. The company has reached out to these employees—and their families—to tell them to either cancel their trips to the United States if they're traveling, or to refrain from traveling outside the States if they're already here.
"The Executive Order has impacted more than just Amazon employees, dependents, and candidates," Blackwell-Hawkins wrote. "Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian director of the film, The Salesman, is similarly prohibited under the language of the Executive Order from attending the Academy Awards in Los Angeles, where his film is a nominee for Best Foreign Film. Amazon's subsidiary, Amazon Studios, is the distributor of the film."
The AP has reported that Microsoft is working with the AG's office. The AG's complaint notes that "at least 76 employees at Microsoft are citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, or Yemen and hold U.S. temporary work visas." These employees—as well as other employees with resident status or green cards—could be denied re-entry if they travel overseas or to Microsoft's Vancouver offices, according to the AG's complaint.
"Expedia believes that the Executive Order jeopardizes its corporate mission and could have a detrimental impact on its business employees, as well as the broader U.S. and global travel and tourism industry," Expedia executive vice president Robert Dzielak wrote in the declaration submitted with the AG's lawsuit.
The company estimates that it has had at least 100,000 customers with passports issued by the countries affected by the executive order since 1996, and currently has at least two employees in its Bellevue office at risk of being denied re-entry into the United States. "Expedia also has a number of employees in offices outside of the United States who are unable to travel to Expedia's U.S. headquarters or other offices in the United States for work due to the Executive Order," Dzielak wrote.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sent an open letter to employees over the weekend saying that the company "will neither stand by, nor stand silent, as the uncertainty around the new Administration's actions grows with each passing day." Schultz also committed to hiring 10,000 refugees in the next five years.
Starbucks has not yet responded to a question on whether the company is supportive of the AG's lawsuit.
REI did not say whether it was supporting the AG's lawsuit, but CEO Jerry Stritzke posted an open letter on Facebook this morning addressed to all employees.
"I’m writing you today because I’ve watched the President’s first days in office closely and I am concerned by what I’ve seen," Stritzke wrote. "Accordingly, we do not support the executive order issued by the President on Friday regarding immigration. I have reached out personally to all employees currently in the immigration process to ensure they have the support they need."
• Vulcan, Inc.
A Vulcan spokesperson told The Stranger that the company was concerned by the Trump administration's recent actions and was working to minimize the impact on employees.
The company's full statement is below:
As an organization that is committed to tackling some of the world’s hardest problems and improving the way people live, Vulcan values every one of our employees regardless of their country of origin or ethnic and religious background. We believe that a more open world – where people can share technology, ideas, and solutions to some of our shared challenges — is ultimately a better one. Like many Americans and people around the world, we are concerned by the Administration’s recent actions and are working to assess and minimize the impact of these actions on our employees and businesses.
Vulcan did not respond to a request for comment on whether the company was supporting the AG's lawsuit.
Facebook's Seattle office employs some 1,000 people, as of 2016. Facebook has not yet responded to a request for comment on the AG's lawsuit, but Mark Zuckerberg did write a public post on January 27 expressing concern about the Trump administration's latest executive orders.
Google has at least 1,900 employees in Washington State, and has recently expanded its Seattle offices to accommodate as many as 4,000. Google also has not responded to a request for comment on the AG's lawsuit, but did tell Bloomberg News that the company was concerned about the effects of the executive order.
Bloomberg News also reported that Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote a memo to employees shortly after news of the ban was made public. "It’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues," Pichai reportedly wrote. "We’ve always made our view on immigration issues known publicly and will continue to do so."
"Our CEO has spoken out against the order publicly, and has communicated with employees about his concerns," a spokesperson for Zillow told The Stranger. "We at Zillow value the diverse talent employed in Seattle’s tech industry, including at Zillow. We are paying close attention to the executive order and supporting our employees who are impacted."
My great-grandparents were refugees from Eastern Europe. America welcomed them at Ellis Island. Immigrants and refugees make America great. https://t.co/UYcCcvQLgO
— Spencer Rascoff (@spencerrascoff) January 29, 2017
• Tableau Software
On Monday, Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky sent a memo to employees informing them that the company did a review of its workforce and did not find employees that would be affected by the ban, but stood at the ready to lend support employees and their families impacted by changes in immigration policy.
"On a personal note, had my grandparents not been allowed to flee Eastern Europe between the First and Second World Wars, I might well not be here today," Selipsky wrote. "In addition, I am an immigrant to the US, and am grateful for that privilege."
We agree that we need safe borders to protect our way of life. But the answer is not to issue broad proclamations against religions or nationalities. We are strongest when we embrace and embody our national values of tolerance, collaboration, inclusion, and respect. If we want to live these values, then we need to base policy on intelligent and nuanced analysis—on data—rather than on fear. That is not a political statement, nor a partisan statement, nor a commentary on any person. It is a statement about being willing to stand up for what is right.
"Redfin opposes the executive order limiting immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries," a company spokesperson wrote in an e-mail to The Stranger. "The order's effect on employees and customers is incompatible with our company's missions and values. We are united by a culture of respect for our differences and we support the lawsuit filed by Washington's attorney general to challenge the executive order."
This morning, Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman wrote a post on his website pointing out that immigration to cities is correlated with rising (rather than declining) household wealth values in those cities.
• Washington State University
WSU has 136 undergraduate and graduate students who are citizens of the countries affected by the Trump executive order.
"The implementation of the Executive Order has already had a negative impact on students and faculty from the listed countries," WSU vice president for international programs Asif Chaudhry wrote in a declaration submitted with the AG's lawsuit. "The fact that they will not be able to travel outside of the U.S. will affect both their personal and professional lives. It will also impact WSU by limiting the scope of academic activities in which these members of the community will be able to engage."
Already, the Muslim ban has affected graduate students doing atmospheric research because they need to travel outside of the US in order to conduct field research and attend conferences, Chaudhry wrote. Another student traveling to work with WSU faculty on irrigation research was turned away in Amsterdam and had her research put on hold.
"These are only a few examples of the difficulties being faced by the WSU community as a result of the Executive Order," Chaudhry wrote. "Based on my experience in international education and research, I am concerned that the Executive Order will have a significant negative effect on the willingness of students, scholars, and faculty from other majority Muslim countries to apply to come to a US university to advance their scholarship and their academic careers."
• The University of Washington
Nearly 100 UW undergraduate and graduate students are citizens of the countries affected by the Trump administration's Muslim ban. "I believe they bring an important and unique perspective—based on their personal life stories—to the types of conversations that are at the very center of the American academic experience," Jeffrey Riedinger, UW's vice provost for global affairs, wrote in a declaration for the AG's lawsuit.
Already, one UW faculty member who is a permanent resident of the US had to cancel plans to attend a conference outside of the US, Riedinger wrote. Another teaching assistant with citizenship from one of the seven listed countries is currently traveling outside of the US and could be denied re-entry.
• Gonzaga University
Gonzaga University president Thayne McCulloh sent a note regarding the latest executive order to the university community on Monday. "Gonzaga University will support those among us who are vulnerable and who are experiencing fear and tremendous anxiety during this time: our Muslim students, immigrant families from Middle Eastern nations, and our undocumented DACA students among them," he said.
• Costco Wholesale
Nothing: "Unfortunately, we are not able to provide a response at this time," a Costco spokesperson wrote in an e-mail. "We do appreciate your interest and support of Costco Wholesale."
In an e-mailed statement from a spokesperson: "It’s not typically been Darigold’s practice to take positions on political issues, so we haven’t taken a position on this topic."
A number of employers in the state have not yet responded to my request for comment or made public statements about the Muslim ban. I'll update this post if the list changes, but so far they are:
• Alaska Air
• Expeditors International
• Saltchuk Resources
• Group Health Cooperative
Has your company sent out any internal memos about the Muslim ban? Your identity can be off the record. E-mail them to me here.