The New York-based company employs 300 refugees at its big yogurt plant in Twin Falls. Founder Hamdi Ulukaya called the issue “very personal to me” in a letter to employees, assuring them his company would support any affected by President Donald Trump’s executive order.
Now, Chobani is among 97 businesses that filed a brief Sunday with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing Trump’s order — temporarily blocking citizens of seven Muslim nations from entering the United States, as well as putting refugee in-migration on hold for four months — “inflicts significant harm on American business, innovation and growth.”
The order “threatens companies’ ability to attract talent, business and investment to the United States,” the brief states.
Other companies in the filing include Twitter, Wikimedia, Spotify, PayPal, Microsoft, Google and Facebook.
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“As an immigrant who came to this country looking for opportunity, it’s very difficult to think about and imagine what millions of people around the world must be feeling right now. America has always been a symbol of hope, tolerance and diversity — and these are values we must work very hard to uphold,” Ulukaya wrote in his letter shortly after Trump signed the executive order.
Ulukaya said he directed the company’s legal and human resources teams to explore whether any employees or their family members would be affected by the order and to provide “whatever assistance they need.”
“We’ll have their backs every day and every step of the way,” he said.
The businesses’ filing was part of a late-night legal flurry that saw the state of Hawaii, national security experts and a host of other interested parties support the challenge brought by the states of Minnesota and Washington. Hawaii, in seeking to become part of the challenge as an intervenor, contended the executive order harmed the state in multiple ways.
“It halted tourism from the banned countries, and chilled tourism from many more, threatening one of the pillars of the state’s economy,” the state’s brief says. “It prevented a number of Hawaii’s residents from traveling abroad. It required Hawaii to participate in discrimination against members of the Muslim faith.”
Prepared by former Obama administration acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal and others, Hawaii’s brief was one of a number filed electronically with the 9th Circuit starting late Sunday night and lasting through early Monday morning.
Ten former top national security and foreign policy experts, including several who’d worked for the CIA or the National Security Agency, joined a statement to the appeals court in which they said they were “unaware of any specific threat that would justify the travel ban established by the executive order.”
Other brief-filers ranged from a Maryland-based refugee advocacy organization called HIAS, which said it wanted to “edify the court about the needless difficulties and dangers that President Trump’s executive order has caused,” to Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which together declared that the order was “motivated by religious animus.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has separately challenged the executive order on the East Coast, likewise contended in its amicus brief that the order is “motivated by bias against Muslims, as confirmed by the president’s own public statements, as well as the absence of any rational justification for the categorical exclusion of individuals from the seven identified nations.”
Hundreds of law professors weighed in, as well.
As early as Monday, a panel of the 9th Circuit will decide whether to overturn a Seattle-based trial judge and put Trump’s controversial order back into effect.