Starbucks, Airbnb pledge support for migrants after Trump ban

AFP , Monday 30 Jan 2017

People walk past a Starbucks outlet in New York June 29, 2010. (REUTERS)

US President Donald Trump's border clampdown has stirred Starbucks and Airbnb to help those affected by the temporary immigration ban -- pledging to hire more refugees and provide accommodation.

Trump's measures suspend the arrival of all refugees for at least 120 days, Syrian refugees indefinitely and bars citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for three months, affecting many companies' plans.

With lives plunged in chaos, Starbucks said it planned to take on 10,000 refugees worldwide over the next five years in response to Trump's decree.

"I write to you today with deep concern, a heavy heart and a resolute promise," Starbucks chairman and chief executive Howard Schultz said in a letter to employees posted on the company's website Sunday.

"We are living in an unprecedented time, one in which we are witness to the conscience of our country, and the promise of the American Dream, being called into question."

Schultz, a Democratic Party supporter, said his company had been in touch with employees affected by the Republican president's executive order signed Friday.

The CEO said the refugee hires would be fleeing war, persecution and discrimination in the 75 countries where the company operates -- with a particular focus on those who "have served with US troops as interpreters and support personnel," alluding to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Airbnb said it would offer free accommodation "to refugees and anyone not allowed in the US."

"Open doors brings all of US together," tweeted company CEO Brian Chesky, asking those stranded by Trump's ban to contact him for a place to stay. "Closing doors further divides US."

"Not allowing countries or refugees into America is not right, and we must stand with those who are affected."



The company will utilise its disaster response program, which connects hosts willing to offer their space to displaced people.

Some 80 percent of the online rental platform's listings are outside of the United States. Airbnb also has measures in place to ensure housing for those in areas where no hosts are providing free shelter.

Schultz of Starbucks also defended Mexico, which Trump has said will have to pay for a wall along its long and porous border with the United States to deter immigrants, perhaps by imposing a 20 percent tariff on Mexican imports.

"Building bridges, not walls, with Mexico," he wrote, voicing support for the country that has provided Starbucks with coffee for three decades and where nearly 600 Starbucks coffee shops employ 7,000 people.

"We stand ready to help and support our Mexican customers, partners and their families as they navigate what impact proposed trade sanctions, immigration restrictions and taxes might have on their business and their trust of Americans.

"But we will continue to invest in this critically important market all the same."

Other companies also expressed solidarity and pledged hard cash. Lyft, a US ridesharing company, said it would donate $1-million to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has issued lawsuits against Trump's measures.

The company's competitor Uber -- which had come under fire on social media for continuing to operate during a New York taxi strike against the immigration ban -- said it was committed to assisting drivers affected by the restrictions.

After a number of Silicon Valley bosses at the weekend slammed Trump's sweeping immigration crackdown, several East Coast executives pledged their support to employees.

General Electric has "many employees from the named countries and we do business all over the region," said CEO Jeffrey Immelt.

"We stand with them and will work with the U.S. Administration to strive to find the balance between the need for security and the movement of law abiding people."

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who is on a council of corporate bosses tasked with advising Trump on job growth, promised "unwavering commitment" to staff in a statement.

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