Nearly 100 companies filed an amicus brief stating their opposition to President Trump’s immigration ban on Feb. 5. Zendesk intends to join those companies in a court filing this afternoon, sources tell TechCrunch.
The software company plans to sign on to the amicus brief via a filing this afternoon in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where the Trump administration is appealing a temporary restraining order against the immigration ban. Zendesk’s general counsel John Geschke announced the decision to Zendesk employees today after fielding questions from employees about why the company had not initially signed on to the brief, a source with knowledge of the situation told TechCrunch. It’s not clear if Zendesk intended to join but missed the deadline for the filing, or if the company made the decision after the brief was announced last night.
Apple, Facebook, Google, and 94 other companies argued in the brief that Trump’s executive order is illegal and will have negative impacts on American businesses. The brief highlighted the contributions of immigrants to the technology industry and claimed that barring immigrants from certain countries would prevent tech companies from recruiting the very best employees.
“Skilled individuals will not wish to immigrate to the country if they may be cut off without warning from their spouses, grandparents, relatives, and friends — they will not pull up roots, incur significant economic risk, and subject their family to considerable uncertainty to immigrate to the United States in the face of this instability,” the brief states.
Zendesk released a public statement against the immigration order on Jan. 31, saying the company was “monitoring the implications” of the executive order. “We believe this executive order is flawed and is bad for both our people and our business,” the statement said. “Zendesk is committed to supporting our employees who are affected by this executive order.”
However, some employees wanted to see more direct action from Zendesk’s leadership, a source said, and several emailed CEO Mikkel Svane asking what additional action the company might take.
Immigration is part of Zendesk’s corporate story: Svane and his co-founders, Morten Primdahl and Alexander Aghassipour, founded the company in Copenhagen in 2007 before relocating to San Francisco in 2009. In an internal statement to employees last week, Svane reflected on the international history of his company but seemed hesitant to strongly oppose the immigration order, citing the many other policies he could oppose in countries where Zendesk operates.
“We have employees and operations all over the world, including places where abortion is a criminal offense, where homosexuality is outlawed, or where government sanctioned kill patrols exists. I think we as a company should make clear what our values and convictions are. But I don’t think we can make it our mission to oppose all local governments that have different standards,” Svane wrote in an internal message to employees reviewed by TechCrunch. Svane also called on employees to examine issues closer to home, like homelessness and crime in the Bay Area.
Svane’s thinking appears to have changed since his internal letter. The shift is similar to what other industry executives have undergone in recent weeks — industry leaders met with Trump in December and appeared ready to work with him, but began speaking out after his Jan. 27 immigration order.
Zendesk isn’t the only company to take a stronger stance against the immigration order after feedback from employees. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down from a Trump advisory committee after employees and users objected to his role there. Kalanick announced a legal fund for drivers affected by the immigration ban, and Uber signed on to the amicus brief.