President Donald Trump’s immigration ban risks weakening the innovation potential of the US technology sector by making it harder for people from diverse backgrounds to participate, the open source cloud community has warned.
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In a series of statements, published in the wake of Trump’s decision to ban individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for 90 days, tech leaders from OpenStack, Cloud Foundry and Red Hat declared the ruling out of step with its diversity commitments.
Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of open source software provider Red Hat, described the ban as inconsistent with Red Hat’s stance on diversity, before going on to describe how its commitment to hiring people from all backgrounds has benefited its business to date.
“Red Hat is strong because of the thousands of diverse voices that comprise our company. Our continued work to advance the technology industry depends greatly on our ability to attract the best and brightest talent from around the world,” he said.
Abby Kearns, executive director of open source platform-as-a-service (PaaS) Cloud Foundry, called on the organisation’s community of contributors to campaign for a full reversal of this policy, which is at direct odds with its code of conduct’s commitment to inclusiveness and diversity.
“We choose to be part of an open source community because it allows us to solve for innovation – and other problems – with the value of a diverse perspective. Diversity is our strength. It is what makes our industry – and our nation – great,” she wrote.
“The United States is a nation of immigrants. We believe migration to escape inhumane treatment is a human right. We do not believe in discriminating against people coming to the United States based on gender, race, religion and orientation.”
Furthermore, she said Cloud Foundry’s focus is on ensuring its community of open source contributors are able to attend its forthcoming events in the US without fear of being turned away.
“We believe diversity is key to strengthening our community, the project, the ecosystem and the tech industry at large. Diversity is beneficial to business, humanity and progress,” said Kearns.
Jonathan Bryce, executive director of open source cloud operating system OpenStack, echoed the thoughts and sentiments expressed by Kearns and Whitehurst in a statement of his own, in which he offered to help anyone concerned about how the ban may hinder the ability to participate in its forthcoming events.
“We’ve already heard from one community member, Mohammed Naser, who is concerned that his plans to travel from Canada to Atlanta to attend the Project Teams Gathering (PTG) may be restricted, simply because he a dual citizen of Canada and Iraq,” Bryce said in a statement.
“Blocking his travel would serve no purpose and rob the community of a valuable contributor during an important event. We believe in the power of collaboration across borders, and we will continue to carry forward our mission.”
Tech community unites to condemn Trump
The technology community, as a whole, has been quick to air its concerns about the impact of Trump’s travel ban, with the CEOs of Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook all rushing to condemn its introduction.
In an email to staff, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said America’s willingness to accept immigrants and encourage them to build a life in the country has been instrumental in the nation’s success.
“We’re a nation of immigrants whose diverse backgrounds, ideas and points of view have helped us build and invest as a nation of over 240 years. No nation is better at harnessing the energies and talents of immigrants. It is a distinctive, competitive advantage for our country – one we should not weaken,” he said.
Elsewhere in the missive, Bezos moved to assure Amazon’s staff of its fierce opposition to the travel ban, and its commitment to explore its legislative options for opposing it.
“This executive order is one we do not support. Our public policy team in [Washington DC] has reached out to senior administration officials to make our opposition clear,” Bezos continued.
“We’ve also reached out to congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle to explore legislative options. Our legal team has prepared a declaration of support for the Washington State Attorney General who will be filing suit against the order. We are working other legal options as well.”
Speaking to Computer Weekly, Clive Longbottom, analyst and founder of market watcher Quocirca, said – even if Trump does decide to backtrack on the policy – the ease with which it was introduced in the first place may put off some tech travellers of attending US-based events for some time to come.
“There will be many who will now view the US as too arbitrary a place to travel to: existing rules can be changed at the President’s whim, and they could find themselves banned from boarding at the gate, arrested on landing in the US or prevented from travelling back to where they came from. It is too risky for many, I feel,” he said.
To side-step this issue and reinforce their revulsion at the ruling, many tech firms may opt out of holding their major annual conferences in the US altogether, he added.
“It may well be that we start to see more tech events being set up outside of the US to avoid such issues, which would hit places such as Vegas, San Francisco and other large convention areas pretty hard,” Longbottom continued.
“We may see large tech companies moving whole departments of their operations outside of the US to ensure the free movement of the people they deem necessary to their ongoing viability can be maintained.
“We may even see some looking to move their HQ out of the US completely to remove themselves from what could come next,” he said. “For example, any requirement to notify centrally all employees that are non-US born.”