Pearson chief executive John Fallon has branded Donald Trump's travel ban policy "deeply worrying" in a rare political comment from the usually non-partisan education company.
In a company-wide email, Fallon condemned the order for creating "uncertainty and confusion about the status of millions of US green card holders, foreign employees of businesses, and foreign students", and offered "all possible assistance" to affected employees, although he added Pearson was still determining the impact of the policy on staff.
Trump's order made over the weekend bars all Syrian refugees indefinitely from entering the US and for the next 120 days restricts travel to and from the US for citizens of Muslim countries Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen on any visa category.
Fallon emphasised the company's values of "diversity, freedom and opportunity for all" in his email and said the publisher would continue its work to help refugees.
"At this uncertain time, it is also important to state, unambiguously, how important the values of diversity, freedom and opportunity for all are to Pearson and the education communities we work with in America, and globally," Fallon wrote. "In particular, one of the virtues of America’s great colleges and universities is that they attract students from around the world, regardless of nationality or religion.
"Pearson has never taken partisan political positions, and we respect the rights of governments around the world to determine their own laws, but for all of us who care about the American education system, the implications of this particular policy are deeply worrying."
He added: "It also reinforces the importance of our work to support and help refugees. Whether it’s our partnership between the assessment business and Microsoft, or our work with Save the Children to help refugees continue learning, we will continue to do all we can to help people who have fled the most difficult circumstances to achieve their dreams."
Fallon has recently been under fire for the education publisher's falling profits, particuarly in the US.
Other global companies have spoken out on the travel ban in defence of their employees. Amazon's chief executive Jeff Bezos said he planned to fund a legal challenge against the US president's travel ban, reassuring staff "the full extent of Amazon's resources are behind you". US publishers Penguin Random House and Hachette Book Group have meanwhile offered to pay half their employees’ membership fees to PEN America, according to Publishers Weekly, following perceived threats from Trump's policies to freedom of speech.
A spokesperson for PEN International told The Bookseller the organisation was "appalled" by recent developments, calling the travel ban "discriminatory" and "legally questionable", as well as "divisive and cruel" because it was "in effect, a ban on Muslim immigrants".
Salil Tripathi, chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison committee, expressed particular concern for checks reportedly being made to travellers' social media accounts on entry to the US, which he said "suggests an ideological test being imposed with a view to exclude or monitor those with a critical view of the US".
"This is of particular concern for an organisation of writers as such vague provisions could be used to block individuals critical of the US and result in the censorship of legitimate criticism of the administration," said Tripathi. "As an organisation which works to protect writers at risk, we are profoundly concerned about the impact of the ban on many refugees who are writers and, in particular, translators, who were due to be resettled in the United States. Many have faced targeted persecution as a result of their work in the defence of freedom of expression. This ban leave these writers and translators at a heightened vulnerability to persecution."
He added: "For nearly 100 years PEN has fought to dispel hatreds between peoples and oppose ideological discrimination. We actively oppose this divisive and cruel ban. The US should look at its constitution and its founding principles as well as the refuge it has offered to a generation of writers and artists over history. It will show how this move is against international law, is legally questionable, and morally wrong."
PEN America has set up an alert for any writer or artist denied entry to the US due the Trump immigration ban, which can be found here.
Meanwhile, thousands in London and other cities across the UK rallied in response to Penguin author and columnist Owen Jones' call for an emergency protest outside Downing Street yesterday evening (30th January), including Orion fiction publishing director Clare Hey, bestselling Picador author of The Muse Jessie Burton and her agent Juliet Mushens, among others from the literary community.