Apple CEO Tim Cook on US Immigration Policy: Why He ‘Needed to Say Something’

Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke on a range of topics — from immigration and privacy to corporate values — at a conference Monday.

Cook, speaking at the Fortune CEO Initiative in San Francisco Monday evening, explained why he chose to speak publicly against US President Trump’s immigration policies.

“At Apple, we’ve always been about changing the world, and it became clear to me that you don’t do that by staying quiet about the things that matter,” Cook said. But, he added, he is careful to only speak out on topics that the company has enough “expertise” about, as he doesn’t want Apple to just be another “talking head.”

His remarks came a week after he condemned the Trump administration‘s since-reversed practice of separating children from parents accused of crossing the US border illegally in an interview with the Irish Times.

Cook elaborated on earlier remarks critical of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, noting many Apple employees likely went through a similar situation experienced by families trying to cross the US-Mexico border.

“We have a lot of immigrants that work at Apple,” Cook said, explaining that more than 300 are part of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). “I want to stand up for them.”

“We have over 300 folks here on DACA, and we have several people that are on H-1Bs that might be deep in the green-card backlog,” he said. “This gives us a perspective to share. … Too often in the case of immigration, people get to numbers. There are real people behind this.”

As a leader, Cook said he believes he has a responsibility to speak out for both the company’s values and the values of those it employs. “I don’t think business should only deal in commercial things. Business, to me, is nothing more than a collection of people. If people have values, then companies should,” Cook said.

Tim Cook said CEOs should speak out when they see something that isn’t consistent with their company’s values. “Think about if you don’t, then you’re in the ‘appalling silence of the good people’ category,” he said. “This is something I’ve never wanted to be a part of.”

“Ultimately that is what human rights [are] all about,” he said. “It’s about treating people with dignity and respect, at the end of the day.”