The Corporate Resistance to Trump Is Hardening

Under co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky, Airbnb has made opposition to the Trump ban part of its brand.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Nearly 100 companies have signed an amicus brief in opposition to President Trump’s now-stayed immigration order. The document was submitted to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco late Sunday evening.

The list includes Apple, Google, and Microsoft, the country’s three largest companies by market capitalization, as well as most of the tech companies you will use today: Facebook, Intel, LinkedIn, Netflix, PayPal, Reddit, Twitter, Uber, and Yelp. The list also includes a handful of nontech companies, like Chobani and Levi Strauss.

The brief joins the corporations to the case filed by the attorneys general of Washington state and Minnesota, who won a nationwide block of the Trump order on Friday night from a district court in Seattle. Amazon and Expedia had already filed briefs in support of the states’ case.

The judge who halted the order, James Robart, is a Republican and George W. Bush appointee. He was derided as a “so-called judge” by the president on Saturday. Over the weekend, the appeals court refused the Trump administration’s request to immediately reinstate the ban, asking the plaintiffs to respond to the appeal by early Monday morning, and the Justice Department to file a response by Monday afternoon.

The 20-page argument, submitted by lawyers from Mayer Brown, makes the business case against the Trump order, noting the crucial role of immigrants in U.S. enterprises, including their overrepresentation among American Nobel prizewinners and patent holders. The brief also points out how the order harms U.S. companies’ competitiveness abroad, by injecting “severe uncertainty” into every level of international partnerships, from diplomacy to visas to the actual entry process at American airports.

It goes on to elaborate two reasons the order is unlawful: For discriminating on the basis of nationality, which is illegal under the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which set the modern guidelines for immigration to the U.S., and for failing to reasonably exercise discretion. Neither the scope nor the case-by-case enforcement of the order passes that test, the brief argues. (The brief does not mention Muslims.)

The brief is the latest sign of corporate opposition to Trump finding its footing. The boycott that forced Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to resign from the president’s business council has underlined the extent to which tech’s consumer-dependent companies are vulnerable to the newfound political fervor of their customers. Airbnb, for example, one petitioner on the amicus brief, is making opposition to Trump’s order part of its brand.

That is looking easier and easier: On Sunday night, for example, it was hard not to see pointed political messaging in a snatch of Woody Guthrie, sung by Lady Gaga during the halftime show, or a 3-year-old Coke commercial. (Whose “America Is Beautiful” tag line now seems to anticipate Barack Obama’s “America Is Already Great.”) It’s a sign of the times that even a corporate bromide about a white German immigrant founding a beer company is grounds for a right-wing boycott.

But what has begun in public relations, for the moment, appears to have a more substantive backbone. The amicus brief points toward a quieter, more important epiphany in American boardrooms: that stopping Trump isn’t just good PR, but good for business as well. At least until he and House Speaker Paul Ryan cut the corporate tax rate.