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Rights Groups Call For Blacklisting Of Trump Administration Officials

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen
Tim D. Godbee/U.S. Department of Homeland Security
file | agency
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen on March 18, 2019.

Wednesday is Kirstjen Nielsen’s last day as head of the Department of Homeland Security. Nielsen resigned on Sunday, becoming the latest member of the Trump administration to resign or be fired. Her departure also places her on a so-called "blacklist" created by civil rights and immigration groups.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, America’s Voices and the National Immigration Law Center are some of the organizations calling upon companies to not hire senior Trump administration officials involved in planning, carrying out or defending the separation of migrant children from their parents.

The request was made in a letter sent to the CEOs of all the Fortune 500 companies and in an ad in Sunday’s New York Times.

In an age when consumers are supporting companies whose practices are socially responsible, how might companies respond to this type of request?

“Today’s leading companies understand that they have a responsibility to respect human rights, and that extends to all aspects of their business so actually companies like Microsoft, Intel, Chevron, Pepsi and in the Phoenix area, Freeport, they have formal human rights policies and management systems to make sure they don’t infringe on human rights directly or indirectly," said Faris Natour who leads a human rights and business initiative at University of California, Berkeley.

He said more companies are taking action when consumers or, in this case civil rights groups make such a public request.

“They’ve put in place human rights teams, Pepsi, for example, has a chief human rights officer. So, I think, for companies, it’s about hiring people that align with their values and have demonstrated an understanding of the ability for navigating complex challenges like this one,” he said.

While we’d like to think all companies are acting in everyone’s best interest, money and influence are still powerful draws. Natour said there are many companies that would be happy to have someone from a White House administration on their staff.

“I think there’s always a range," he said "I think for all companies, access to government officials is important and having the ability to engage in public policy is important so I don’t think any company would have the blanket policy to not hire anyone who served in the Trump administration.”

Natour said human rights concerns, whether they come from organizations or individuals, are a core part of running a business. In the end, he said, companies are looking for leaders who align with its values and have a record of effective leadership.

Marcus Charleston was a senior producer for KJZZ's The Show from 2017 to 2019.