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Silicon Valley's Visceral Reaction to Trump's Immigration Ban

A look at how tech companies are fighting back, pledging funds and advocacy in response to Trump’s new refugee restrictions.
Sergey Brin At a Google HQ Conference
Google co-founder Sergey Brin looks on during a news conference at Google headquarters on September 25, 2012 in Mountain View, California.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

When President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning people from seven countries from entering the United States, the news cut deep in Silicon Valley.

Over the weekend, reactions began pouring in from tech leaders, some of whom are immigrants or shared the story of parents and grandparents who were once welcomed into the United States.

Related: Silicon Valley Leaders Slam Trump Refugee Restrictions, Offer Employees Legal Aid

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield was one of the first to strongly rebuke Trump's executive order, saying the action "seems gratuitously … evil."

An estimated 37.4 percent of Silicon Valley employees are foreign born, according to the 2016 Silicon Valley Index released by think tank Joint Venture.

Those employees come from all over the world, so it appears Trump's immigration ban could impact a small number of those who were traveling outside the country or had plans to travel.

Companies including Microsoft, Facebook, and Google have pledged support for employees impacted by the travel ban.

Uber, which was under fire over allegations it capitalized on an airport taxi protest in New York City, said the ban could impact "thousands" of Uber drivers who "take long breaks to go back home to see their extended family," according to an internal memo. The company pledged to compensate drivers impacted by the ban for the next three months.

For their part, Uber competitor Lyft said it plans to donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union over the next four years.

Airbnb took it one step further by offering free housing to anyone impacted by Trump's executive order.

For some, the ban was especially personal.

Google co-founder and Alphabet president, Sergey Brin, who immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union, was photographed with protesters at San Francisco International Airport over the weekend.

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian tweeted that his mother was undocumented. "No mom, no @reddit," he wrote.

Butterfield shared how his grandfather was able to come to the United States after he was sponsored by an older sister. The rest of the family wasn't as fortunate, he said.

A Facebook page called "Tech Against Trump" is asking employees of tech companies to demand a stronger public response from their leadership, rebuking Trump's policies.

The idea is for workers to walk off the job on March 14 at 12 p.m. and peacefully protest.

Brad Taylor, a software engineer at Optimizely, told NBC News he decided to start the page on Friday after he was disheartened to read an article about Uber CEO Travis Kalanick advising Trump. Hours later, the executive order seen around the world happened and the page started getting more attention.

"Immigration is very important to the tech community, with H1-B visas [for highly skilled workers]; and many of the founders and co-founders in Silicon Valley are immigrants," Taylor said. "I think that touched a nerve. It was very heartfelt to see the tech community stand up this weekend. I think we can do more as a unified front."