Feb 6th, 2017, 10:37 AM

The Battle of the Businesses

By Verónica Ayala
Paris protest agains immigration ban, Image Credit: Margarita Valldejuly
AUP students react to Airbnb, Uber, and Starbucks' actions in the wake of Trump's immigration ban.

Following Donald Trump's immigration ban on Janurary 27, which barred citizens holding passports from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, companies have been quick to publicize their reactions. Three companies in particular; Airbnb, Uber, and Starbucks made the news last week. I sat down to talk to AUP students and staff from different majors, nationalities, and ages to hear their opinions on whether these company's actions fueled solutions, or controversy.


Airbnb took action right after Trump signed his order. The CEO, Brian Chesky, tweeted that he'd give free housing to anyone who was unable to go back into the United States. According to BuzzFeed, the company said that the owners of the apartments who would like to participate would have to put in their pages "free" so that the company would know to pay for the expenses.

AUP says:

"Its not like they solved the problem but at least they gave a rooftop to people who needed it the most, that is very important."

Students all agreed on the nobility of Airbnb's response. Natalie Seelenfreund from the United States was glad to hear this news, because Airbnb is a very successful company that offered an instantaneous solution for those who found themselves trapped outside the United States. "Its not like they solved the problem but at least they gave a rooftop to people who needed it the most, that is very important." When asked if they would start using the services this company offers now more than before, Yasmine Smadi, a Lebanese/Syrian student, answered that she has always used Airbnb's services; "I used it because its cheapest and good, but now that I know this, it makes me happy and I will continue to use it if I need it."

Brice Godart also pointed out that Airbnb's super bowl add was very powerful, and that other companies should start taking similar action through advertising.

Airbnb Super Bowl Commercial 2017 (We Accept)


Uber has also been on the headlines recently; the CEO, Travis Kalanick, was in Trump's advising council. However, he stepped down after users began deleting their accounts in protest. President Trump's ban sparked instant protests at JFK airport in New York. Taxi drivers decided to strike with the people and stop working in signs of protest, Uber continued to work, taking people to and from the airport.

AUP says:

The students had different views on this case; Tristant Vincent, a franc-lebanese AUP student, argued that he didn't disagree with Uber. From his point of view, aside from the controversial support of Trump from Uber's CEO it is hard to join a protest, because it means that you have to stop working and stop earning money that you needed to feed a family.

"If you stand for nothing , what'll you'll fall for?"

As I gave this answer to another student, Leila Eliot, a New Yorker, replied, "well taxi drivers did stop working and didn't care about the money. They wanted to give a voice and to stand up against the ban." She quoted a song called Aaron Brr, Sir "If you stand for nothing , what'll you'll fall for?" Her point was that taxi drivers protests did well by paralyzing transportation, and showed those at the airport how the people from the seven countries under Trump's ban felt trapped.

"People take action to the extent they can."

I also spoke to David Biais form Amex Cafe, who gave a very compelling argument. He didn't want to agree or disagree with what happened the day of the protest at JFK. From his point of view, every person helps according to its own possibilities. Without siding with Uber or the taxi drivers, he explained that people take action to the extent they can. If Uber drivers needed to continue working or could have stopped working, that was their own business. "What we can do is act within the ranges we can, and if others don't take action as you do, you can't argue if you don't where that person is standing." 

"It would have only caused trouble for the people trapped at the airport or losing flights."

Another student, Brice Godart from Lebanon, argued that as much as it would have been powerful to stop mobilization, it would have only caused trouble for the people trapped at the airport. For him, there are other ways to work around "crazy measures" taken by political leaders. "For now, the congress is the people, and they've already acted to stop the immigration ban, there are other actions that can be taken to stop Trump's decisions."


Starbucks stood out when the CEO, Howard Schulz, said that the company would hire 10,000 refugees in a laps of five years all over the world. He declared this right after the news of the immigration ban went viral. He wrote a letter to the employees of the company, adding that he would help any employee who needs guidance "to navigate through this confusing period." He also talked about donations to Mexico to "build bridges not walls."   

AUP says:

As with Airbnb, students were glad that another multimillion dollar company offered to help people in need. Leila Eliot said that she doesn't like Starbucks and doesn't consume its coffee, but happily declared that she will start. Margarita Valldejuly, from Puerto Rico, expressed her total approval of the company's declarations and added, "I hope, because they say they will do it in a five year time, that they do, in fact, do it." For David Biais, Starbucks was smart to bring this solution to the table, because it works as a marketing strategy; Biais is amazed they will do it, but he pointed out that Starbucks' action works in their favor, because people will want to consume their coffee.      

Image Credit: Giphy

These three companies weren't the only ones to take action, Apple, Google, Tesla and others acted upon the immigration ban too. All spark an interesting conversation on companies expanding role in American politics.