About 500 Silicon Valley workers and labor and immigrant rights activists rallied outside Palo Alto City Hall Tuesday afternoon in a demonstration intended to call on the most powerful players in the tech world to support low-earning service workers.
Tech executives and tech-industry service workers, including a janitor at Facebook, took turns speaking out in opposition to statements by the Trump administration attacking immigrants and Muslims.
Dilawar Syed, president of San Bruno-based software company Freshdesk, spoke about his own more than decade-long immigration experience, aided by a student visa and then a “specialty occupation” H-1B visa.
“It’s an amazing honor for me, as an immigrant entrepreneur, that we are now helping create jobs for Americans of every color, every background, every creed,” Syed said.
“That is the story of tech, folks. That is the story of Silicon Valley, and that is the story of America,” Syed said. “And we should do everything in our power that we do not let that ever be changed.” Though the rally was organized as a joint effort between labor unions including United Farm Workers and the South Bay Labor Council, much of the protest focused on immigrant rights under the Trump administration.
Demonstrators held signs reading “Love to tweet? Thank an immigrant techie!” and “All six 2016 Nobel prizewinners were immigrants.”
Facebook janitor Maria Gonzalez addressed demonstrators in Spanish, calling for major tech companies like Facebook, Google and Apple to institute “sanctuary campuses” to protect immigrant workers.
Working Partnerships USA executive director Derecka Mehrens cited that 20 percent of all employment in the region is connected to the tech sector.
While the prosperity generated by Silicon Valley has contributed to unaffordability, the tech sector has the potential to be a “tremendous force for good,” Mehrens said.
Hipmunk co-founder Adam Goldstein said:
“What does it say about our national character to choose to solve the problem of forgetting some by forgetting others? … How can we choose to forget those who come here seeking opportunity to build a better America with their mind or their hands? How can we choose to forgot those who are fleeing war and terror?”