Starbucks (SBUX) CEO Howard Schultz sought Sunday to reassure employees anguished about President Donald Trump‘s immigration ban, and said the coffee chain would look to hire 10,000 refugees in its stores worldwide, including some who have helped the U.S. military.
“I write to you today with deep concern, a heavy heart and a resolute promise,” Schultz wrote in a letter to all Starbucks employees. “We are living in an unprecedented time, one in which we are witness to the conscience of our country, and the promise of the American Dream, being called into question.”
Trump’s executive order, issued on Friday and later blocked in part by federal judges, prohibits citizens from Muslim-majority Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya from entering the United States for at least 90 days. The order bans refugees from Syria indefinitely. The ban — which Trump has defended as not being a “Muslim ban” despite his own support for such a policy during his campaign and his explicit statements favoring Christian refugees in recent days — created chaos at airports worldwide this weekend, was been met by protests around the U.S., and criticized by a number of American lawmakers. Even people holding valid green cards allowing permanent U.S. residence have been ensnared by the edict, though top Trump administration officials said Sunday that the ban would not apply to them.
Schultz on a number of occasions last year called for more civility in the election campaign, which he once likened to a circus, and has warned employees several times that the current political environment in the U.S. would test Americans. In November, Schultz proclaimed himself “stunned” by Trump’s election win. He has rarely shied away from weighing in on political debates, trying to prompt Americans to debate race relations two years ago, and a few years earlier, asking gun owners not to bring weapons into Starbucks stores.
Schultz, who last month announced he would step down as CEO but stay on as executive chairman, said the company has been in direct contact with employees affected by the immigration ban.
Starbucks will redouble its efforts to hire people fleeing war, violence, persecution and discrimination, he said, and hire 10,000 refugees worldwide in the next five years. In the United States, those efforts would begin with workers who have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel in a number of countries.
The CEO also said Starbucks is reimbursing employees who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program (also known as the “Dreamers” program) for the fee they have to pay every other year to be part of it. DACA, enacted in 2012, gives 750,000 unauthorized immigrants who came into the U.S. as children work permits and temporary residency. Trump said he would jettison it during his campaign but appeared to soften his stance after the election, leaving the program’s future uncertain.
Starbucks will also continue to invest in Mexico, where Starbucks has 600 stores and 7,000 employees, Schultz said, expressing support for a country with which Trump has sparred over his intention to have a wall built between the two countries and make Mexico pay for it.
“We are all obligated to ensure our elected officials hear from us individually and collectively. Starbucks is doing its part,” Schultz said. He added that Starbucks wanted to serve its customers anywhere, whether “that neighborhood is in a Red State or a Blue State; a Christian country or a Muslim country; a divided nation or a united nation.”