Former United States President Barack Obama yesterday gave his backing to the global protests against the travel ban by President Donald Trump.
Citizens of seven mainly-Muslim countries have been banned from entering the United States for 90 days while refugees have been prevented in an executive order signed by Trump.
The countries affected are Libya, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan – they have all denounced the order with some of them vowing retaliation.
In his tweets yesterday, Trump blamed “big problems at airports” on the demonstrators themselves, an airline’s technical problems and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who teared up while discussing the ban. (Delta suffered technical issues Sunday evening — 48 hours after Trump signed the immigration order — that canceled about 150 flights.)
“Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning,” Trump tweeted. “Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage…..protesters and the tears of Senator Schumer.”
Business giants are uncomfortable with the ban.
Ford CEO Mark Fields and Chairman Bill Ford strongly rebuked Trump’s travel ban in a joint statement yesterday, breaking with other major automakers who have largely remained silent so far.
In the first statement released since leaving the White House, Obama’s new spokesman Kevin Lewis said: “President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country.
“Citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble, organise and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.”
Lewis added that Obama “fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”
He noted that in Obama’s farewell address to the nation earlier this month, he spoke about “the important role of citizen” not just on Election Day, but every day.
Also yesterday, dozens of U.S. diplomats around the world were set to formally criticise the immigration restrictions, according to U.S. media report.
A “dissent cable” has been drafted for senior State Department officials, ABC News and the Associated Press reported.
Draft text seen by the BBC says that the ban on nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries will not make the US safer and is un-American.
President Trump issued the restrictions on Friday.
His executive order halted the entire U.S. refugee programme for 120 days, indefinitely banned Syrian refugees and suspended all nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The list does not include Saudi Arabia, where most of the hijackers in the 9/11 attacks came from.
News of the complaint from U.S. diplomats comes amid a global chorus of condemnation of the new policies. The White House has defended the restrictions as necessary safety measures.
The statement by Ford’s CEO and chairman, said: “Respect for all people is a core value of Ford Motor Company, and we are proud of the rich diversity of our company here at home and around the world,” Fields and Bill Ford said in the joint statement.
“That is why we do not support this policy or any other that goes against our values as a company.”
The travel ban has impacted people with green cards who were previously approved to travel freely.
The fourth American automaker, electric-vehicle maker Tesla Motors, denounced the Trump immigration policy on Saturday. CEO Elon Musk has pledged to pursue a consensus among fellow Strategic and Policy Forum members on needed changes to the plan to propose to the president.
Other major automakers have not spoken but a group of other majr form’s CEOs have lashed out at the order.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein became the first major Wall Street leader to speak out against the order.
.In a voicemail to employees on Sunday, Blankfein said diversity was a hallmark of Goldman’s success, and if the temporary freeze became permanent, it could create “disruption” for the bank and its staff.
“This is not a policy we support, and I would note that it has already been challenged in federal court, and some of the order has been enjoined at least temporarily,” Blankfein said, according to a transcript seen by Reuters.
Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, wrote to employees with “deep concern and a heavy heart” about the executive order from the U.S. president two days earlier.
Schultz said he would hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years at Starbucks businesses worldwide.
“We will start this effort here in the U.S. by making the initial focus of our hiring efforts on those individuals who have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel,’’ he said.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to twitter to voice his concern.
“The blanket entry ban on citizens from certain primarily Muslim countries is not the best way to address the country’s challenges.
“Many people negatively affected by this policy are strong supporters of the U.S. They’ve done right, not wrong and don’t deserve to be rejected,’’ he added.
CEO Travis Kalanick said Uber would be supporting all of its drivers who are citizens of the countries named but who were currently stuck outside the U.S. because of the president’s “unjust immigration ban”.
And Jamie Dimon, the company chairman of America’s biggest bank JPMorgan Chase, also said that employees would be supported if they were affected.
Dimon, Kalanick and Musk are all members of Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, a group of business people called together by the president to advise him on economic policy.
The CEOs of the top three advertising holding companies also issued statements vowing to protect their employees.
“We are a talent business and we’ve long been committed to making diversity and inclusion a core part of our company’s DNA,” said Interpublic Group Chairman and CEO Michael Roth, in a statement. “We therefore remain committed to protecting our colleagues, and will provide whatever assistance is necessary to keep our employees and their families safe and a valued part of our organisation, no matter their nationality or religious beliefs.”
While IPG is based in New York City, the holding company has agencies and employees in more than 100 countries worldwide. Though Roth made no specific mention of the ban in his statement, it was issued in response to requests to address the situation.
Likewise, John Wren, CEO of Omnicom Group, issued a brief statement emphasising the company’s concern for its workforce. “Our people are our greatest asset and right now, our top priority is to protect and support employees, their families and all those otherwise affected,” Wren said.
Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, issued a somewhat more extensive statement that cited his family history and a longstanding distaste for such measures.
Regarding the effect of the ban on WPP employees, Sorrell said there had been “no immediate impact we are aware of in the first few days of the ban.”
He added that WPP is “concerned about the impact it may have on our people and their families both inside and outside the USA and on innocent people generally.
“As the grandson of Eastern European grandparents, who were admitted to the UK in the very late 19th and early 20th centuries, I have an instinctive dislike of such measures,” said Sorrell.
Though prominent industry partners such as Nike, Google, Twitter and Apple made their opposition to the travel ban public over the weekend, the major holding companies and agency leaders had remained silent until Monday morning. Individual agency leaders have still refrained from commenting on the matter publicly.
On Saturday, a U.S. federal judge issued a stay that forced the administration to release certain travelers being detained in airports. The administration itself revised the ban on Sunday to allow freer travel for U.S. residents in possession of green cards.
At the DealBook conference hosted by New York Times columnist Andrew Russ Sorkin last week, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi said she fielded questions from her employees who were “all crying” after the election. She said: “The question that they’re asking, especially those who are not white: ‘Are we safe?’ Women are asking: ‘Are we safe?’ LGBT people are asking: ‘Are we safe?’ I never thought I’d have had to answer those questions.”