For several years, Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls who Code—a non-profit that has trained 40,000 girls to do just that—has been perhaps the nation’s fiercest advocate for STEM education and closing the tech sector’s gender gap. Her mission to build “the largest pipeline of future female engineers in the United States” has yielded results (a crop of computer science majors, corporate partnerships) and accolades (a Shorty Award honor, a place on Fortune’s World’s Greatest Leaders list in 2016).
Now, Saujani, who trained as a lawyer, ran for Congress, and worked briefly as a public advocate, is taking on another cause—countering the actions of President Trump.
In an op-ed published Friday on CNBC, Saujani called on fellow citizens to “stand up and fight for an America that welcomes young doers and dreamers”—and against the executive orders Trump issued last Friday evening, effectively banning refugees and citizens of seven “terror-prone” nations for at least 90 days.
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That makes her one on a long list of tech CEOs who have spoken out against the immigration ban this week, but for Saujani, the matter is unusually personal. Saujani’s parents were refugees. They were granted political asylum in the U.S. after being expelled, along with all other persons of Indian descent, from Uganda in 1973. The mass expulsion, ordered by a newly empowered Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, was done in the name of his “Uganda First” policies. Saujani sees parallels between that ugly moment in Uganda, 40 years ago, and America today.
“Just like then, people today are being told that closing our borders and closing our hearts to those struggling and striving abroad is the only way,” she writes. While she notes Trump’s vision offers a “seductive simplicity,” particularly at a time when the world seems to be changing faster than ever before, she holds herself up as evidence that accepting refugees and immigrants is in America’s best interest.
“My pursuit of public service only exists because this nation gave my parents political asylum and a shot at a new life,” she says. “My journey, as the daughter of refugees, shows what refugees and the children of refugees can create for all Americans …we must always remember that we create far greater opportunity for all Americans when we enable the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of people globally to take root here.”