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Immigration groups ask Fortune 500 CEOs to blacklist Trump aides

"They should not be allowed to seek refuge in your boardrooms or corner offices," according to the open letter signed by 41 groups

Bloomberg  |  Washington 

The cloud of the Russia investigation has hung over US President Donald Trump since before he took office, though he has denied any illicit connection to Moscow (Photo: Reuters)
Donald Trump

Immigration and civil rights groups are urging companies not to hire senior Trump administration officials who were involved in planning, carrying out or defending the separation of migrant children from their parents.

“They should not be allowed to seek refuge in your boardrooms or corner offices,” according to the open letter signed by 41 groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Allowing them to step off of the revolving door and into your welcoming arms should be a non starter.”

The letter, which is being released on Friday, will be sent to chief executive officers of all companies, according to organisers. The approach marks a shift in strategy by opponents of President Donald Trump’s policies that resulted in migrant children being separated from their undocumented parents on the US-Mexico border. The letter singles out 30 current and former officials including John Kelly, the former White House chief of staff, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Also on the list are lesser known officials such as former Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, Deputy Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Robert Perez, and Ronald Vitiello, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The groups signing the letter, which include the National Immigration Law Center, RAICES and America’s Voice, called on companies to “make it clear that you will not hire for employment, contract for consulting, or seat on your boards” anyone involved in Trump’s family separation policy.

The letter’s release is timed to the April 6 anniversary of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s announcement of the “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement policy that led to the separation of more than 2,000 migrant children from their parents over the course of less than two months. Trump announced an end to the policy in June.

Newspaper Ad

The groups say they’ve purchased an ad in Sunday’s that will say: “Attention Corporate America: Don’t let hate into your boardroom.” It will feature a photograph of a red baseball cap, modeled after Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” headgear, on a boardroom table that reads instead, “Put Kids In Cages.”

The letter is a warning shot to “corporate America that bringing these people on, allowing them to seek refuge in their offices or at their boardroom tables is simply not going to fly with the American people,” said Karl Frisch, a spokesman for Restore Public Trust, a public-interest group with Democratic ties that organized the campaign.

Frisch said companies should expect a public outcry if they hire officials who played a role in family separations. He said that happened after CNN announced earlier this year that it had hired former Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur as a political editor. After a public backlash her role was instead deemed political commentator. Isgur is among those targeted in the letter.

Companies “need to think twice about what that will mean for their brand to be associating with somebody who is responsible for one of the most horrific policies this administration put forward and that speaks volumes,” Frisch said. “Do they want to be famous for this?”

Lobbying Firms

The immigration and civil rights groups say in their letter that companies should make clear that they won’t work with or support lobbying firms, think tanks, political committees and candidates that hire the Trump officials who played a role in family separations.

Kelly and Sessions, who both left the administration in late 2018, haven’t taken full-time jobs but have been listed by the Worldwide Speakers Group, an agency that arranges paid speaking appearances for a range of well-known people. The immigration and civil rights groups plan to track who hires the two men to speak.

An earlier effort to hold a company accountable for its involvement in the family separation policy came in June, when more than 650 employees asked Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff to reconsider the software company’s business ties with US Customs and Border Protection. Benioff declined to do so and offered RAICES, one of the groups that signed the letter, a $250,000 contribution that it rejected.

First Published: Fri, April 05 2019. 23:23 IST