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Apple CEO Weighs Legal Action Against Trump's Travel Ban

In the latest move, Apple is considering taking legal action against Trump's ban, joining the ever-growing list of Fortune 500 companies who protest.
Image: Google employees protest President Trump's immigration orders at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.
Google employees protest President Trump's immigration orders at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.Emily Fortuna / Twitter

Business is anything but usual for some of America's largest companies, as they question — or blatantly decry — President Trump's immigration ban.

Google, Amazon, Starbucks, and Facebook are just a few of the big names to have stepped forward and denounce Trump's executive order, which restricts the entry of refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, and indefinitely bans Syrian refugees altogether.

In the latest scuffle, Apple CEO Tim Cook told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday his company was considering taking legal action to have Trump's executive order reversed, noting that hundreds of Apple staff had been affected by the travel ban.

“More than any country in the world, this country is strong because of our immigrant background and our capacity and ability as people to welcome people from all kinds of backgrounds," Cook told the WSJ. “That’s what makes us special. We ought to pause and really think deeply through that.”

The following Fortune 500 companies have either publicly challenged or expressed concern over the order:

  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Citigroup
  • Expedia
  • Facebook
  • Ford
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Alphabet
  • Intel
  • JPMorgan Chase
  • MasterCard
  • Microsoft
  • Netflix
  • Nike
  • Procter & Gamble
  • Salesforce

Twitter, Square, Airbnb, Github, Etsy, Lyft, Uber, Tesla, and TripAdvisor have also protested the ban, as have pharmaceutical companies sych as Allergan and Perlara.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

With so many firms lending their voice to the cause, it must be asked: Is each company genuinely invested in seeing the ban dissolved because of their values — or are some brands just riding the wave of a big marketing moment?

The answer is multi-faceted: On one hand, any U.S. company speaking out against the president is taking a risk; on the other hand, it comes down to what actions these brands take beyond their statements.

"A lot of people do approve the ban, so these companies are taking a risk just by taking a stance against it," said Margaret Wolfson, founder and creative director at River + Wolf. "But there seem to be three levels involved: The first is in making a statement that brands you as a compassionate believer in American values; the second is in employers looking out for their employees so they feel protected, and the third level — the hardest of all because of the logistics it entails — is going beyond the verbal to the visceral and investing time, energy, and money."

Google, Starbucks, Lyft, and Airbnb, are among those companies putting their money where their values are, so to speak.

Related: Silicon Valley Has Visceral Reaction to Trump's Ban

"We’re concerned about the impact of this order and any proposals that could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families, or that could create barriers to bringing great talent to the United States," a Google spokesperson told NBC News. "We'll continue to make our views on these issues known to leaders in Washington and elsewhere."

To make its views not only known, but felt, Google created a $4 million crisis fund for those affected by the ban, pledging $2 million that can be matched by up to $2 million from employees to fund organizations such as the ACLU and the International Rescue Committee.

Starbucks announced it was developing plans to hire 10,000 refugees over five years in the 75 countries around the world where Starbucks operates. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment, instead referring to chairman and CEO Howard Schultz's public letter to Starbucks partners.

Lyft has pledged to donate $1 million to the ACLU over the next four years. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment beyond co-founder and CEO Logan Green's three tweets and Lyft's ACLU blog post.

Soon after the ban was issued, Airbnb announced that it would provide free temporary housing to refugees and others impacted by the ban.

"This initiative is a part of Airbnb’s longstanding commitment to addressing the needs of refugees," said an Airbnb spokesperson, citing the company's past pledge to match up to $1 million donations to UNHCR.

Also to be noted is Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos' assertion that Amazon is prepared to support a lawsuit against Trump and his administration over the order, while Twitter's Jack Dorsey released a short film about Syrian refugee and entrepreneur Yassin Tehrou.

Thinking on a Global Level

Companies campaigning against the ban may not only be looking to protect American values, but their global relationships as well.

"A lot of organizations that have and will come out against [Trump's ban] are global firms that need support in other parts of the world," said Ronald Hill, a professor of marketing and business law at Villanova School of Business. "I wouldn't be surprised if global firms coming out against it do business in areas such as Western Europe that have high Muslim populations. You have to think from a global and not just a local perspective."

Hill anticipates that more businesses will be chiming in against the ban, particularly those that have a history of prioritizing corporate social responsibility — despite the backlash they may receive.

"Some fashion companies came out in support of people with AIDS relatively early on when there was still backlash against that," said Hill. "This is a continuation of that corporate social responsibility, but it's a new, unexplored avenue."

How the Work Pays Off

While companies embark upon this new avenue, organizations such as the ACLU are prospering more than ever.

"Historically, the ACLU doesn't get much support from companies. We're often viewed as a thorn in the government's side because we challenge them on issues," Mark Wier, chief development officer at the ACLU, told NBC News. "But we are seeing some companies create formalized gifts, and hundreds of thousands of small businesses have offered to share proceeds of sales."

From last Friday, when Trump issued the immigration ban, to the following Monday, Wier says that the ACLU raised a record $35 million.

Related: Celebs and VIPs Donate to ACLU to Fight Trump

"We've never seen that kind of outpouring so quickly," said Wier, adding that the ACLU will use the funding to hire over 100 employees including litigators, advocates, and communications specialists.

"We need to power up the grid up we've already established with more force," said Wier. "Since the ACLU was able to get a stay on that executive order in federal district court, people are really seeing that it is possible to do something — and to actually win."