Airbnb Promises Free Housing to Refugees and Citizens Affected by U.S. Travel Ban

Donald Trump, immigration, AirBnB, Uber, Lyft, sharing economy, Google, Apple, Leon Kaye
Protests sparked at airports across the country over the weekend, including here at JFK Airport in New York City.

In a move defined more by crass politics than sound and logical policy, on Friday Donald Trump signed an executive order that banned citizens of seven majority-Muslim nations from visiting the United States for at least 90 days.

The executive order did not ban citizens from countries where Trump reportedly has business ties, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Azerbaijan. The executive order also does not apply to citizens of countries such as Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation; India, which with a population of at least 180 million Muslims; and Pakistan, the birthplace of one of the mass murderers in the December 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack that prompted Trump to propose banning Muslims from entering the U.S. in the first place.

The lack of rhyme or reason behind the ban outraged a broad cross-section of the American population. It even nudged notoriously vapid reality TV star Kim Kardashian to tweet statistics about gun violence, terrorism and their perpetrators over the weekend.

As the order went into effect, people were stopped at U.S. airports and barred from entry — even those who were vetted for visas or had valid green cards. Those detained included individuals who assisted the U.S. military abroad.

The resulting outcry has rattled markets while inspiring many technology companies to push back hard.

One of those firms, Airbnb, promised free housing to refugees and citizens who have been detained within the U.S. or were denied boarding onto American-bound airplanes abroad.

Airbnb’s policy was first made public on Saturday, when co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky sent the following tweet:

In an email released yesterday, Chesky said the company is actively looking for hosts who will house people affected by the travel ban for free. If no such hosts are available in a particular area, Airbnb says it will cover the costs of accommodating those citizens.

As for any Airbnb employees impacted by the travel ban, Chesky said the company is assisting them in any way possible.

Airbnb’s protest was echoed by other technology companies, the CEOs of which have described the temporary travel ban as one that is divisive, impedes innovation, and hurts employees who have earned their right to move to the U.S. for work and end up contributing to both society and the economy.

Google’s Sergey Brin, himself a refugee from Russia, joined protests at San Francisco International Airport over the weekend.

While Apple has not commented publicly on the ban, CEO Tim Cook emailed all employees, saying: “Apple would not exist without immigration” and “it is not a policy we support.”

On Facebook, Uber’s founder Travis Kalanick promised to start a fund that will support drivers who are not able to return to the U.S. Its largest competitor, Lyft, pledged $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) over the next few years in order to fight this executive order and any similar measures the civil rights group sees as discriminatory.

Expect a long fight, but one from which many technology companies will refuse to back down.

“Barring refugees and people who are not a threat from entering America simply because they are from a certain country is not right, and we must stand with those who are affected,” Chesky wrote in his email to Airbnb employees. “The doors to America shall remain open, and any that are locked will not be for long.”

Image credit: Voice of America/Wiki Commons

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Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

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