Since Donald Trump announced his controversial immigration order, titans of the US tech industry have been coming forward in defence of refugees and immigration. Google co-founder Sergey Brin has spoken of how he and his family were accepted into the US as Russian refugees, while Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a long post that “the United States is a nation of immigrants, and we should be proud of that”.
Now Zuckerberg’s right-hand woman, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, has joined the chorus of voices slamming Trump’s travel ban – and highlighted how women are likely to be particularly affected.
Sandberg shared her own family’s story in an emotional post on (what else) Facebook.
“My great-great-grandmother, Chana Bassa, left her home in Vilnius, Lithuania, to escape persecution,” she wrote. “She arrived on Ellis Island in June 1889.
“If Chana had not taken that difficult journey, I would not be here today – my family would almost certainly have perished in the concentration camps of World War II.
“Her courage – and the fact that this country welcomed her – created my family’s future.”
Trump signed an executive order on Friday night to block refugees from entering the US for 120 days. Immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations (Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Iran and Somalia) has also been blocked for three months.
As a result of the ban, everyone from traumatised Syrian refugees to US green card holders and British MPs have found themselves unable to enter the country. The Guardian reports that at least 109 people were detained at airports, while heartbreaking stories abound of parents being separated from their young children.
Watch: What are Trump’s policies and how will they affect women?
Sandberg, who has written extensively about women in business and recently donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood, has faced criticism for not speaking out against Trump vociferously enough until now. She met with the then President-elect in December (alongside the rest of Silicon Valley’s elite), and did not take part in the Women’s March on Washington. Neither did she comment on it publicly, a silence which was deemed as hypocritical by some.
In her most recent post on Facebook, however, the author of Lean In wrote that Trump’s executive orders “defy the heart and values that define the best of our nation… This is not how it should be in America”.
She also pointed out that women will face specific struggles as a result of the travel ban.
“Something that hasn’t gotten enough attention is how this harsher immigration climate is particularly unforgiving for women,” she wrote, adding: “Latina workers have been described as the “perfect victims” of sexual abuse; they are disproportionately more likely to be sexually assaulted at work.
“Undocumented women rarely contact local law enforcement about crimes like rape or domestic abuse, because they fear being deported if they do.
“Young women caught in refugee status are highly vulnerable to violence and exploitation and also often lose the chance at an education.”
When she hears about people being turned away from the US because they are fleeing violence or seeking better lives for their families, Sandberg said, she is reminded of her own ancestry.
“I can’t help but think of the girls and young women whose dreams and futures and safety hang in the balance – young women like my great-great-grandmother Chana.”
She concluded: “How we treat some of the most vulnerable people on the planet says a lot about who we are. That history is something we must remember and honour now.”
Last weekend saw chaos at American airports as hundreds of protestors gathered to demonstrate their anger at the travel ban, which has been described by Democratic senators as an “illegal, unconstitutional [and] un-American” act.
Images: Rex Features