Trump's travel ban is 'unlawful,' tech giants tell court

Nearly 100 businesses have jointly signed a legal brief that argues the immigrant restriction will harm the US economy.

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US President Donald Trump has been in office only two weeks, but he's already rubbing the nation's tech companies the wrong way.

Apple, Google and Microsoft are among 97 businesses, nearly all in the tech industry, that banded together Sunday to file a legal brief against Trump's immigration ban.

The executive order, which prohibits citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US for 90 days, "is inflicting substantial harm on U.S. companies," according to the filing.

The brief is the latest ripple effect from the ban, which has sparked protests across the nation and swift reaction from the tech industry. Many of the companies voice their opposition to the order when it was announced just over a week ago, with senior figures at many companies, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, denouncing the order. Public reaction caused Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, which is one of the companies to sign the brief, to resign from Trump's economic advisory council. Now those same companies, and many more, are putting their words into action by taking a stand in the legal battle over the ban.

SpaceX and Tesla, both led by Elon Musk, joined the amicus on Monday. Musk has said he intends to remain on the president's advisory council.

The timing of the filing is significant. The Trump administration and the ban's opponents have until Monday to provide legal arguments for and against the ban after it was blocked by a temporary restraining order issued by a federal judge in Seattle on Friday. The judge's ruling means that key parts of the travel ban cannot currently be implemented nationwide.

The court has scheduled oral arguments (PDF) for 3 p.m. PT on Tuesday.

The technology companies' amicus brief, which is a legal document filed by an interested third party, declares the executive order to be "unlawful." The companies filed it to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Over the weekend, Trump appealed to the circuit court, seeking an end to the legal obstruction to the ban. But the court upheld the Seattle judge's decision temporarily, saying it would evaluate matters further after it gathered more information.

The court will consider the tech companies' brief as it considers Trump's plea to end further legal action.

Why tech objects

The tech companies' 18-page argument centers on the premise that America is "a nation of immigrants." The filing says, "The Order represents a significant departure from the principles of fairness and predictability that have governed the immigration system of the United States for more than fifty years."

As well as objecting to the ban as a matter of principle, the companies outlined in detail the economic ramifications of enforcing the executive order.

The ban prevents tech companies from attracting talent, increases business costs and makes competing in the global marketplace more difficult, the companies said in the filing. It also gives them incentive to build new operations and hire more employees outside the US, the companies said.

That final point may hit a nerve with Trump, who made a point during his election campaign to promise that American companies -- including those in Silicon Valley -- would move more of their operations into the country and create more jobs for US citizens. Last year, he criticized Apple for manufacturing many of its products abroad, and last week he tweeted he would happily welcome Samsung into the US.

A Twitter spokesman and Google spokeswoman said their respective companies did not have anything to add outside of the brief itself. A Microsoft spokeswoman pointed back to a blog post published by the company's president and chief legal officer Brad Smith, last week.

The White House and a number of companies, including Apple, Facebook and Uber, did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

First published Feb. 6, 4:45 a.m. PT.
Update, 4:04 p.m. PT: Adds Tesla, SpaceX have joined the filing.

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