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Zuckerberg challenges Trump over ‘extreme vetting’

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, has become one of the first chief executives to openly challenge President Donald Trump, criticising an executive order that pledges “extreme vetting” of immigrants and a ban on Syrian refugees.

Responding to the order on Facebook, Mr Zuckerberg wrote that the US should be proud to be a nation of immigrants and focus on excluding only people who actually pose a threat. He spoke of his European ancestors and his wife Priscilla Chan’s parents, who were refugees from China and Vietnam.

“We should also keep our doors open to refugees and those who need help. That’s who we are. Had we turned away refugees a few decades ago, Priscilla’s family wouldn’t be here today,” he wrote, in his first public criticism of the president.

Mr Zuckerberg’s criticism came as many chief executives have stayed quiet, even if they expressed fear about a Trump administration during the campaign, believing it is in their best interests to try to co-operate with the president.

Mr Trump signed an executive order on Friday that will limit immigration and refugees from some Muslim-majority countries, after promising what he dubbed “extreme vetting” on the campaign trail. He criticised state department policy for allowing the 9/11 terrorists to obtain visas.

“I’m establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America. We don’t want them here. We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas,” he said in a speech at the Pentagon.

The order bans Syrian refugees, claiming they are “detrimental” to the interests of the United States, and suspends the refugee admissions programme for all countries for 120 days. It will also suspend the issue of visas to nationals of countries where the US believes they do not provide enough information on an applicant to decide whether or not they are a security or public safety threat.

The new measures were called “harmful and hasty” by the International Rescue Committee, which provides humanitarian aid to refugees. David Miliband, IRC president, said the order would damage the US resettlement programme, which he said was the strongest and most successful in the world. “Certified by successive administrations, the US resettlement programme makes it harder to get to the United States as a refugee than any other route,” he said.

The Facebook founder has not explicitly criticised Mr Trump before, but his absence from the tech industry’s meeting with the president and his transition team in December was notable. He sent Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, instead.

Ms Sandberg, who was tipped as a contender to be in Hillary Clinton’s potential cabinet, has also begun to criticise Mr Trump’s policies, with a post on Thursday supporting the passage of the Global Health Empowerment and Rights Act. The “Her” act aims to reverse another executive order by Mr Trump, which withdraws millions in US funding from health organisations around the world if they provide counselling on all family planning options, including abortion.

“This ban is harsher and broader than past orders by past presidents, because it covers every programme that falls under global health assistance. That means it’ll hurt more people,” she said.

Via FT