Uber CEO challenged for connection to Pres. Trump after immigrant ban

WASHINGTON (AP) — Uber found itself in hot water on two fronts related to President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries: for allegedly exploiting a taxi protest against the ban and for CEO Travis Kalanick’s relationship with Trump.

Kalanick said in a Facebook post that the 90-day ban could hurt “thousands” of Uber drivers and he will raise his concerns directly with the president during a Friday business advisory group meeting in Washington. But the co-founder of the ride-sharing service is being criticized for agreeing to sit on the advisory panel. Twitter users are encouraging riders to #DeleteUber.

Kalanick defended his participation on Trump’s panel in his Saturday Facebook post, saying he joined out of the “belief that by speaking up and engaging we can make a difference.”

On Sunday, Kalanick said he was emailing Uber drivers telling them he would “urge the government to reinstate the right of U.S. residents to travel — whatever their country of origin — immediately.”

Uber also was criticized for charging less than it could at JFK Airport in New York City as taxi drivers had halted service for an hour on Saturday to protest the ban. The move was perceived of by some on social media as an effort to profit off the protests as more passengers would need to seek alternatives to cabs. But the company said on Twitter that it had not “meant to break the strike.”

Trump’s business advisory group was announced in December as a “strategic and policy forum” that would share its views on “how government policy impacts economic growth, job creation and productivity.” Chaired by Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of the investment firm Blackstone, its listed members also include the heads of Disney, Wal-Mart, IBM and Tesla.

Immigration policy will likely be a dominant theme at the Friday meeting for the advisory group.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk asked his 6.9 million Twitter followers on Sunday to read Trump’s order on the temporary ban and then send the entrepreneur “specific amendments” that the panel could present by consensus to the president.

Kalanick has said the company will find a way to compensate and provide legal support to Uber drivers who are stuck overseas for the next three months because they cannot return to the U.S. The company also has said it would create a $3 million legal defense fund to help drivers with immigration and translation services.

Trump aides, appearing to reverse course, said on Sunday that citizens of the banned countries who hold permanent U.S. residency “green cards” will not be barred from re-entering the country.

Rival ride-sharing company Lyft responded by saying it will donate $1 million over the next four years to the American Civil Liberties Union, which successfully requested an emergency order approved by a federal judge Saturday that temporarily bars the U.S. from deporting people from the countries subject to Trump’s travel ban.

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