Boston Business Journal, 2/22/17

A number of prominent players in Boston tech have co-signed an open letter urging Gov. Charlie Baker to do more to counter President Donald Trump‘s immigration policies, calling Trump’s recent executive order “bad for business, bad for science, bad for education, and bad for Massachusetts.”

The Alliance for Business Leadership, a progressive business group based in Boston, co-wrote the letter with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

The letter first applauds Baker for speaking out against an executive order Trump signed in late January banning refugees and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries. In early February, Baker sent a six-page letter to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly detailing the “significant” impact the ban would have on Massachusetts’ business and education communities.

But the Alliance for Business Leadership letter goes on to urge Baker to “continue to raise your voice to speak out against the Trump administration’s Muslim ban, both publicly and behind the scenes” and to support a Massachusetts bill that would prevent state and local officials from helping the federal government establish a Muslim registry or surveil people based on their political speech.

The letter reads:

As business and civil society leaders, we worry about the executive order’s impact on the Massachusetts economy, and more broadly, about the future of civil rights and civil liberties under the current federal administration.
Our state boasts the highest number of technology workers per capita in the United States in no small part because Massachusetts is a wonderful place to live. Freedom is a key reason why so many people come here to work, have children, and raise families—among them the thousands of immigrants who come to the United States seeking a better life, and in turn enrich our communities, businesses, and economy with their creativity, culture, and intellect.

Prominent figures who signed the letter include Joshua Boger, the founder and former CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: VRTX); Jeff Bussgang, a general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners; Joichi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab; Jody Rose, the executive director of the New England Venture Capital Association; and Paul Sagan, the director and former CEO of AkamaiTechnologies (Nasdaq: AKAM).

Baker’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

Bussgang, who has been active on immigration issues in the tech community, previously criticized Baker during a panel discussion about immigration hosted by law firm Goodwin several days after Trump issued his executive order, and before Baker sent his letter to the Department of Homeland Security.

“I think a few of our local leaders have been outstanding on this issue” Bussgang said during the Jan. 30 panel, mentioning Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Seth Moulton and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. “I don’t think Charlie Baker has been outstanding.”

Trump’s executive order banning travel from Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Libya was put on hold by the federal court system, but the administration is expected to release a new order in the coming days. The Massachusetts tech community has also been closely monitoring rumored changes to the H-1B visa program, which allows companies to hire talented foreign workers.