HomeIndian AmericanKal Penn, Silicon Valley Raising Funds for Refugees, ACLU

Kal Penn, Silicon Valley Raising Funds for Refugees, ACLU

Kal Penn with President Obama
Kal Penn was on President Obama’s staff.

It appears that U.S. courts will be one of the battlegrounds where immigrant rights advocates and Silicon Valley giants will fight against the immigration orders shot out of the White House.

The growing outrage against Donald Trump’s Executive Order that bans immigrants from seven predominately Muslim countries, has helped the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) raise over $24 million since the order was signed last Friday.

That’s according to Anthony Romero, the executive director of the civil liberties group. Romero told Yahoo News that in addition to the $24 million, more than 150,000 new members have joined the organization.


“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Romero told Yahoo News. “People are fired up and want to be engaged. What we’ve seen is an unprecedented public reaction to the challenges of the Trump administration.”


Many celebrities and Silicon Valley luminaries encouraged their social media followers to support the civil rights group. The ACLU was one of the organizations that filed a complaint in a New York City court that resulted in a stay on parts of the Executive Order.


The same outrage that fueled the ACLU spike in donations was seen in Kal Penn’s fundraising effort for Syrian refugees. Indian American actor Penn started his online fundraising after a person on Twitter told him that he does not belong in America.


Penn, best known for his role in Harold and Kumar, also served as a public engagement adviser to former president Barack Obama. He shared the image of the racist tweet with a fundraising page link which was created under the name “Donating to Syrian refugees in the name of the dude who said I don’t belong in America.”

“We are better than the hateful people who tell us we don’t belong in our own country, that America can’t be a beacon of freedom and hope for refugees from around the world. We will turn their bigotry, along with the President’s, into love,” he wrote on the page.


Penn’s initiative soon went viral on social media and people began to donate under their own names and some on behalf of Steven Bannon, Melania Trump, Kellyanne Conway and the President Trump himself.

Soon after the initial target of $250,000 was reached within 24 hours, Penn posted a thank you message on the page saying, “Beautiful people – You just raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for refugees in less than 24 hours!”


Early this morning (Jan. 31), the amount had surpassed $750,000. “This is such a testament to how proud we are of our beautiful country and how fired up we are to #resist our new president’s dangerous policies with solidarity and love. Thank you! The donor page remains open, so keep it up!”


Google has created a crisis fund that could raise up to $4 million for four immigrant rights organizations.

Google has confirmed a USA Today report that it is funding an initial $2 million for the fund that can be matched with up to $2 million in donations from employees. The money will go toward the American Civil Liberties Union, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the International Rescue Committee and the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

Company executives are also donating separately to the effort.

Google says in a statement that it’s concerned about the impact President Donald Trump’s order to temporarily suspend immigration from seven Muslim majority nations will have on the company’s employees and their families.

Sundar Pichalm
Google CEO Sundar Pichal

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, an Indian American, wrote a memo to staff about the ban, which was obtained by Bloomberg.

“It’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues,” Pichai wrote. “We’ve always made our view on immigration issues known publicly and will continue to do so.”“We’re concerned 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 US. We’ll continue to make our views on these issues known to leaders in Washington and elsewhere.”


“The ACLU took Trump to court. Let’s stand with them. Reply with donation receipts from today and I’ll match to $25,000,” venture capitalist Chris Sacca tweeted on Saturday. As replies poured in, Sacca doubled and tripled his match offer, then said he was “matching my own match and giving $150,000.”

Other tech companies have offered support as well. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said on Twitter that the company will provide “free housing to refugees and anyone not allowed in the U.S.,” and ride-sharing service Lyft announced it would donate $1 million to the ACLU over the next four years.


Other major companies that took positions against the ban included Microsoft, Apple, Uber and Tesla.

Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella added his own statement via LinkedIn:

“As an immigrant and as a CEO, I’ve both experienced and seen the positive impact that immigration has on our company, for the country, and for the world. We will continue to advocate on this important topic.”

Ed Diokno writes a blog :Views From The Edge: news and analysis from an Asian American perspective.


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