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Google CEO speaks out against Trump's immigration order

The company reportedly tells some employees to cut overseas trips short and return to the US, as a Trump ban on immigration from Muslim countries kicks in.

​Google CEO Sundar Pichai

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. The company is worried that some of its US-based employees may be prevented from returning to the States.

James Martin/CNET

Silicon Valley's concern about President Donald Trump's immigration policies has suddenly become real in a big way.

On Friday, Google reportedly told more than 100 employees traveling overseas to return to the US immediately to avoid getting shut out of the country by an executive order issued by Trump.

"It's painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues," Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an internal memo, according to Bloomberg.

Among other things, Trump's order, which went into immediate effect Friday night, sets a 90-day ban on people from the predominantly Muslim countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the US. The president says it's meant to protect against terrorism.

Google's response came several hours later.

The move marks what could be the beginning of a vocal resistance from Silicon Valley executives to Trump's policies. Though former President Barack Obama and Trump's Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton, were both popular figures in the technology world, tech executives did appear willing to discuss issues with the White House after Trump's win.

Google wouldn't confirm or deny the Bloomberg report or the authenticity of the memo. A company spokesperson said only that Google is "concerned about the impact of this order and any proposals that could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families."

In particular, US-based employees from those countries who happen to be overseas for work or vacation may not be allowed to re-enter the States, even if they have valid visas, Bloomberg reported. The Department of Homeland Security said Trump's order prohibits green card holders from those countries from re-entering the US, according to The New York Times.

More broadly, Google is concerned Trump's immigration policies will "create barriers to bringing great talent to the US," the spokesperson said. "We'll continue to make our views on these issues known to leaders in Washington and elsewhere."

Google's reported move comes the same day Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg criticized Trump's anti-immigration policies.

"Like many of you, I'm concerned about the impact of the recent executive orders signed by President Trump," Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post Friday. "We need to keep this country safe, but we should do that by focusing on people who actually pose a threat."

On Saturday, a Facebook spokesperson said the company was assessing the impact of Trump's order on its workforce and figuring out "how best to protect our people and their families from any adverse effects."

Tech giant Microsoft also weighed in Saturday. The company's chief legal officer, Brad Smith, sent an email to employees saying the firm had already reached out to 76 Microsoft workers who might be affected by the order and asking any workers who think they might be affected to contact the legal team for advice.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella published Smith's email on LinkedIn and wrote, "As an immigrant and as a CEO, I've both experienced and seen the positive impact that immigration has on our company, for the country, and for the world. We will continue to advocate on this important topic."

The White House didn't respond to a request for comment on the news of Google calling workers home or the company's concerns about Trump's immigration order.

First published Jan. 28, 10:45 a.m. PT.
Update, 11:48 a.m.:
Adds detail. 12:47 p.m.: Adds statement from Facebook. 1:04 p.m.: Adds comments from Microsoft. 1:23 p.m.: Adds context.

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