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Why do tech leaders speak out against Trump so much?

Silicon Valley CEOs have moved past cybersecurity and taxes to comment on social issues like gay rights and immigration.

 Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's post began with a simple, sad statement. 

US President Donald Trump Meets With Congressional Leaders

The tech industry has been criticizing President Trump on a range of issues.

Getty Images

"I'm heartbroken," Sandberg, one of the world's most high-profile business leaders, began. "And deeply concerned."

Sandberg's plaintive post was a response to President Donald Trump's decision Tuesday to rescind DACA, an Obama-era program designed to protect illegal immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation. The administration's plans could affect as many as 800,000 people.

The tech industry is one of America's great achievements. World leaders -- from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Chinese President Xi Jinping -- routinely stop for visits with the leaders of Google, Apple, Facebook and Intel when they travel to the US. As president, Barack Obama made frequent trips to meet with executives and even dined at their homes.  

Like any large industry, it has pushed pet political issues such as cybersecurity and tax policy. Its CEOs, though, are now looking beyond those concerns, speaking out on topics from immigration policy to the rights of women, minorities and the LGBT communities. They're doing so even as the tech sector draws criticism for being predominantly white and male.

Whether Washington likes it or not, Silicon Valley is emerging as a political power center.

Trump tried to enlist the sector's support before he was sworn in. The relationship has proved rocky, and tech executives routinely speak out against his policies.

Here's where the president and the tech industry have found themselves at odds. 

The first travel ban

Trump issued a travel ban as an executive order just two weeks into his presidency. Citing the threat of terrorist attacks, he  sought to establish "new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States." The move angered his political opponents, and protests occurred almost immediately at major airports. The ban was stalled by several US courts.

The incident also galvanized the tech industry to speak out. Executives, including leaders at Apple, Google, Facebook, Intel and Expedia, universally disagreed with the action and encouraged Trump to reconsider.

The second travel ban

Silicon Valley renewed its criticism when Trump issued a second travel ban. Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff tweeted an image of his grandfather, who came to the US as a refugee. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said barring people from the country because of where they're from was "still wrong."

The white supremacist and Nazi rally in Charlottesville

Trump's response to a deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, proved to be a breaking point for many executives. August's "Unite the Right" rally was ostensibly organized as an expression of support for a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. But it drew white supremacists and neo-Nazis who shouted anti-Semitic slogans and clashed with counter-protesters. One neo-Nazi allegedly drove his car into a crowd, killing a 32-year-old woman.

Speaking afterward, Trump blamed both sides for the violence and said there were "very fine people" among those white supremacists and neo-Nazis, sparking widespread criticism. Executives from his manufacturing and infrastructure councils resigned or condemned the president, and within days both groups had been dissolved. The incident eventually led some internet companies, including GoDaddy and Google, to cancel services to The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi site that promoted the rally.

The transgender military service ban

The tech industry spoke out again in July when Trump announced via Twitter a ban on transgender people serving in the military. Among them were Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who said, "Everyone should be able to serve their country -- no matter who they are." 

Apple CEO Tim Cook, who is gay, said, "We are indebted to all who serve. Discrimination against anyone holds everyone back."

The end to DACA

In early September, rumors began circulating that Trump was planning to end DACA, short for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, ahead of a legal challenge to the policy. The program had become a rallying point for Silicon Valley executives, who came together in several lobbying organizations to encourage immigration reform. Many tech companies, including Microsoft, are now committed to pushing Congress to act.

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