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Uber and Lyft Made Big Promises During Trump’s 2017 Travel Ban. Did They Deliver?

June 12, 2019, 5:17 PM UTC

In 2017, Uber and Lyft reacted to President Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim countries by pledging millions of dollars to support impacted immigrants. Two years later, both companies say they have delivered on their promises.

The ride-hailing companies’ offers came after President Trump, citing national security concerns, signed an executive order in banning foreign nationals from seven Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days. The ban also suspended Syrian refugees from entering the country, and denied entry for other refugees for 120 days.

Two days after Trump’s announcement, Lyft promised to donate $1 million over four years to the American Civil Liberties Union, which was working to fight the ban and aid those affected. Meanwhile, Uber said it would create a $3 million fund for legal defense and translation services for its affected drivers, help compensate drivers for lost earnings, and provide around-the-clock legal support for drivers trying to re-enter the U.S.

Lyft’s money helped the ACLU with more than 200 legal actions, including lawsuits involving family separation, voting rights, and women’s issues, according to the ACLU. The donation, among the largest the ACLU received during that time, has also prompted the ACLU to create a division that handles corporate donations.

“Lyft’s donation was one of the most public contributions from a company,” said Danielle Silber, ACLU’s director of strategic partnerships. “It really did mark what felt like a shift in companies wanting to take a stand.”

Lyft has also made the ACLU a recipient of a program in which riders are invited to donate to charity by rounding their fares up to the nearest dollar. The program has raised $3 million in less than two years.

Lyft has also worked with the ACLU to provide voters with rides to the polls during local elections and signed legal statements supporting some of the cases led by the ACLU. For example, Lyft signed a document in 2017 advocating for businesses to serve all people after a Denver baker refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple, who the ACLU represented.

Uber’s financial pledge came after it caught flak for its response to taxi drivers striking at JFK International Airport, in protest of the Trump Administration’s travel ban. Uber said it would continue providing service to the airport and disable surge pricing for those rides, prompting public outrage and the creation of the #DeleteUber campaign on Twitter.

A day later, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick spoke out against the ban, calling it “unjust”, and announced that the company would support drivers with the $3 million fund.

An Uber spokesperson said that Uber has accomplished all it set out to do with its donations, including funding 65 attorneys who provided more than 500 legal consultations to drivers. Uber also paid for the flights of drivers or drivers’ families to return to their U.S. homes from overseas, the company said.

Uber also used a portion of its $3 million donation in 2017 to help drivers or family members with legal assistance in response to the Trump Administration’s plans to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The program had let immigrants brought to the U.S. as children stay in the country and be eligible for work permits.

Uber declined to provide details about how many drivers it helped or how much of its money went to offset drivers’ lost earnings from being unable to work for Uber during the travel ban.

Since the travel ban went into effect, it has been challenged several times in court and was ultimately revised. As it stands, immigrants from five Muslim-majority countries are banned from entering the U.S. unless they get approval for specific situations, like needing medical treatment or to handle business dealings. Legislation challenging the ban has been introduced in Congress, but it has not been voted on.

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