Thousand of Google employees staged protests over President Donald Trumpâ€™s executive order on immigration, revealing rising tension between the technology industry and new administration.
More than two thousand employees of Google parent Alphabet Inc. participated across several offices. At Googleâ€™s Mountain View, California, headquarters, Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai and co-Founder Sergey Brin â€” both immigrants â€” spoke to the crowd, voicing concerns over Trumpâ€™s order that limits travel to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Many tech companies criticized the order, which was signed late Friday. Pichai sent a note to Google staff that day, saying 187 employees were potentially affected. Google asked those employees overseas to return immediately, pledging to help with the logistics and handle the costs.
Pichai told the assembled employees on Monday that the issue is â€œat the core of the founding of this company,â€ according to a Google employee there. â€œWe spent two hours this morning talking about all of this. There is large work that remains to be done.â€ Brin talked about his refugee past. Part of a Russian Jewish family, he emigrated to the US because of anti-Semitism in that country. Some of the Google employees affected by the immigration order also addressed the crowd. Soufi Esmaeilzadeh, a Google product manager, was one of them. An Iranian-born Canadian who has lived in the US for 15 years, she was preparing to travel from Switzerland to the US when news of the coming executive order first arrived.
She contacted Googleâ€™s internet immigration team to check if she should end her trip early. The team got back in touch and explained her dire situation. Based on the way the executive order was phrased, they advised Esmaeilzadeh not to return to the US because she might be instantly deported.
Then, at 4 a.m. Swiss time on Saturday, Googleâ€™s lawyers called Esmaeilzadeh again in Switzerland and told her to fly to San Francisco. A federal judge had temporarily blocked the executive order, allowing her to return on Sunday, she told her co-workers at Mondayâ€™s protest. Google booked her on what it deemed was the safest route, with layovers in Dublin and Boston. She got home on Sunday.
Several people at Google had raised concerns about the companyâ€™s response to Trumpâ€™s policy at a company-wide meeting on Thursday, a day before the order was signed, according to people familiar with the matter.