When President Trump's Muslim-centric immigration ban kicked in and sent tech companies (not to mention the public) into a furor, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick promised to compensate drivers left stranded by the restrictions. But could he do anything else? Apparently so. The executive says Uber will establish a $3 million legal defense fund that will help drivers with immigration issues, including translation services. Kalanick is also vowing 24/7 legal help and to "urge" the White House to restore the right of US residents to travel, calling the current restrictions "unjust."
The news comes as Uber has apologized for "confusion" surrounding rides to JFK International Airport on January 28th, when masses of protestors gathered to demand the release of travelers stuck in the airport thanks to Trump's executive order. The company claims it wasn't trying to undermine a taxi strike in support of the protests when it tweeted that it had turned off surge pricing for JFK rides. It just wanted to let people know that they could get to JFK "at normal prices, especially last night," according to a spokesperson speaking to TechCrunch.
Uber's responses are an improvement on its relative silence early on, but they're not going to placate critics who've been deleting their accounts in protest. Kalanick's objection to the immigration ban has been relatively muted, and many have blamed it on his participation in Trump's policy forum -- if you believe his opponents, he doesn't want to rock the boat and risk losing political power. It's safe to say the response isn't quite as fierce as what you get from Lyft, which has vowed to donate to the ACLU and has explicitly decried Trump's policy as un-American. While the defense fund and other steps will definitely help drivers left in the lurch, it may be hard for Uber to shake the notion that it isn't helping as much as it could. Kalanick will be meeting with Trump, alongside the likes of Elon Musk, later in the week, and will be bringing up his concerns at a meeting of the White House economic advisory group this Friday.
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