NewsCred CEO and Co-founder Shafqat Islam shared this letter with all employees to address the recent executive order on immigration:
Team – thank you all for your comments, letters, and debates over the last few days. I treasure all of our conversations.
This is a personal note to my wonderful, supportive, brilliant colleagues. I wanted to share my thoughts on the immigration issue in more detail and close the loop. My goal is simply to ensure we all understand each other better and can build common empathy.
I am Bangladeshi. I have been fortunate to live in many different countries and have been an immigrant twice. The first time was in Switzerland, where I met my wife and eventually got Swiss citizenship. My second experience as an immigrant was in the U.S., where I chose to come to start this business that I am so lucky to build with all of you. I now have a green card.
My parents went through a similar experience. They arrived in London in 1972 with a couple of suitcases and the immigrant dream. My father received his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and my mother taught at a public school. They endured many hardships (some which I can’t even write about) in an era fraught with racism and xenophobia. Yes, that was 40 years ago.
My cofounder Asif’s parents immigrated to the U.S. in 1974 after fighting in the Revolutionary War in Bangladesh. They both worked at Duane Reade as their first job. After very successful careers, they are incredibly active in their local community (as organizers, counselors, and politicians).
My other cofounder Iraj’s parents immigrated to Sweden. Also coming from humble backgrounds, they both eventually became some of the most well-regarded genetic scientists on the planet.
All of our parents exhibited a value that we live by at NewsCred: perseverance. Fiercely courageous, they had the will and tenacity required to endure hardships when the odds were stacked against them.
NewsCred was built by immigrants and the children of immigrants. But not just the three of us. We employ dozens of immigrants of all backgrounds and religions. Many of NewsCred’s early employees were immigrants. Kayvan Salmanpour, one of our first hires who built our sales team, currently lives in the U.S. on a green card and is from Iran, one of the seven countries on the list. Together, we all built this company that has hired hundreds of people here in the United States.
We are not just pro-immigration. We exist because of immigration.
But more than that, we as a company are guided by our values. Our path is illuminated by our morals. And our first value, compassion, is our compass. At NewsCred, we often say “it is sometimes better to be kind than right.” Coincidentally, the word “Shafqat” means “compassion” in Arabic.
This week’s executive order was not just an affront to our company’s pro-immigration stance. But it was a direct assault against our values. While protecting our national security is an important issue, broad-based immigration bans and discrimination based on religion is something we cannot tolerate. It was disrespectful to our current employees (immigrants and non-immigrants alike), and it marginalized the impact of our former employees, many of whom can no longer leave the country to see their families.
I believe this is not a political issue. This is a moral issue. We have built a wonderful culture of tolerance at NewsCred – we have members of both political parties, of every race, religion, and sexual orientation. Vigorous debate with respect is part of our culture. But as a company we will come down with intensity on anything that directly attacks our values. Even if that order comes from the President of the United States.
I have a two-year-old daughter at home, and she is by birth a U.S. citizen. That not only affords her all the rights and privileges of an American passport, but it also means that she can one day become President of this amazing country. In typical Asian dad fashion, I remind her of this every day. But even if she is President, she will still always be the daughter of immigrants. And I hope one day she will be proud of the company and the values we have all built together – every single one of us – regardless of origin.
In the immortal words of Dr. King, “we may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
Finally, thank you to everyone who joined the #immigration Slack channel and are working tirelessly to self-organize and do some amazing things for this cause.
Shafqat Islam is NewsCred’s CEO and Cofounder.