Google takes its immigration ban opposition to the drawing board

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the birthday of American civil rights activist Fred Korematsu, who protested the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

CREDIT: Google
CREDIT: Google

President Donald Trump’s first week in office was bookended with widespread protests. The new commander-in-chief’s executive orders banning refugees, permanent residents, and immigrants from several largely Muslim countries galvanized the tech community too, which has found both overt and subtle ways to condemn the administration’s actions.

Following Alphabet’s, Google’s parent company, decision to immediately recall nearly 200 employees potentially affected by the immigration ban days earlier, Google’s Doodle on Monday featured American civil rights activist Fred Korematsu, who protested the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Korematsu, who was born Jan. 30, 1919, resisted detainment and challenged the constitutionality of the Japanese internment in a 1944 Supreme Court case against the United States. The court ruled against him in a 6–3 decision, which was overturned in 1983.

The internment camps were authorized by Executive Order 9066 and signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in response to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Some 120,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated by the U.S. military to 10 camps spread throughout the West Coast.


While it’s unclear whether honoring Korematsu was pre-planned, the timing of Google’s Doodle strikes poignantly in the wake of Trump’s recent executive orders and the nation’s reaction to them.

In a memo to employees regarding the new policy, Google CEO Sundar Pichai characterized it as “painful” and a “personal cost” to Google employees abroad.

“We’re upset about the impact of this order and any proposals that could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families, or that could create barriers to bringing great talent to the U.S.,” he wrote. “It’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues.”

Pichai continued saying the company’s values would guide its actions in “uncertain” times.

“We wouldn’t wish this fear and uncertainty on anyone — and especially not our fellow Googlers,” Pichai wrote, and the Wall Street Journal reported. “In times of uncertainty, our values remain the best guide.”


Google’s resistance to Trump’s immigration orders was further highlighted when the company’s co-founder Sergey Brin was spotted among hundreds of protesters at the San Francisco airport Sunday.

Brin said he was protesting in his personal capacity, not as a Google representative. “I am here because I am a refugee,” the tech executive told Forbes reporter Ryan Mac.

Airport protests spread nationwide over the weekend as individuals, even with current U.S. visas or permanent residency status, were detained if they had credentials issued from one of seven countries listed in the executive order.

Additionally, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Saturday on behalf of Hameed Darweesh, a former U.S. Army translator and Iraqi refugee, challenging the constitutionality of Trump’s order — just as Korematsu did. Darweesh was released Sunday after an 18-hour detainment at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport.