US government suing SpaceX for hiring Americans
The US Department of Justice has sued SpaceX for allegedly discriminating against asylum seekers and refugees in the firm’s hiring process. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has previously claimed that national security laws forbid him from hiring foreigners.
"The lawsuit alleges that, from at least September 2018 to May 2022, SpaceX routinely discouraged asylees and refugees from applying and refused to hire or consider them, because of their citizenship status, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act," the Justice Department said in a press release on Thursday.
According to the lawsuit, SpaceX’s job postings have erroneously claimed for years that only US citizens or lawful permanent residents – often referred to as “green card holders” – could apply, as rocket technology is protected by the State Department’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) laws.
As of Thursday, a SpaceX job listing for a Propulsion Technician warns applicants that they “must be a US citizen, lawful permanent resident of the US, protected individual,” or able to receive a waiver from the State Department to be eligible to apply.
In a 2016 press conference, Musk said that while he would like to hire talent from abroad, the State Department restrictions prevent him from doing so.
The lawsuit argues that refugees and asylum seekers are entitled to the same employment rights as US citizens, under the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. This sweeping law did away with the prior US system of preferential admission, which explicitly favored immigrants from northern and western Europe, and imposed a yearly limit on immigrants from the western hemisphere.
The Justice Department said that its lawsuit covers a range of jobs at SpaceX, including welders, cooks, crane operators, baristas and dishwashers. The lawsuit seeks “fair consideration and back pay for asylees and refugees who were deterred or denied employment,” as well as civil penalties on the company.
In Thursday’s press release, the Justice Department called on refugees and asylum seekers who had been denied work or discouraged from applying to come forward and join the lawsuit.
As of Thursday afternoon, Musk has not commented on the lawsuit. However, the billionaire has been engaged in a war of words with President Joe Biden’s administration since he purchased Twitter, since renamed X, last October. Since taking over the social media platform, Musk has published documents revealing a conspiracy by the White House, FBI, and other government agencies to control the flow of information on the site, prompting reports that the Biden administration had launched a national security investigation into the tycoon.
Shortly before the lawsuit was announced, Musk said on X that his company would be “filing legal action” against liberal megadonor George Soros over his support for controversial “hate speech” legislation in Ireland and Scotland.