“Justice Department Sues SpaceX Over Asylee and Refugee Discrimination Allegations”

The Justice Department has initiated legal action against SpaceX, the aerospace firm led by Elon Musk, alleging discriminatory treatment of individuals holding asylum and refugee status within the country.

According to the civil lawsuit filed on Thursday, the federal government asserts that between September 2018 and May 2022, SpaceX violated the Immigration and Nationality Act by actively discouraging asylees and refugees from seeking employment at the company, and furthermore, by refusing to consider hiring them.

The complaint argues that SpaceX’s leadership, including Elon Musk, repeatedly made false statements claiming that the company’s hiring was restricted to U.S. citizens or green card holders due to “export control laws.” However, the Department of Justice contradicts this assertion, contending that such laws do not impose such limitations.

“Discriminating against asylees and refugees due to their citizenship status is an injustice they should not have to face after overcoming numerous challenges in their lives,” stated Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Questions have also arisen in a substantial lawsuit involving Elon Musk’s tweet about Tesla.
As of now, SpaceX has not provided immediate comments in response to inquiries about the lawsuit.

The investigation into SpaceX by the Department of Justice’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section was initiated in May 2020.

The lawsuit highlights that SpaceX hires for a variety of positions, spanning from skilled trades like welders and crane operators to roles in IT, software engineering, business analysis, rocket engineering, marketing, as well as service roles such as cooks, baristas, and dishwashers.

Starting from at least September 2018 until at least May 2022, SpaceX issued no less than 14 public job notices and postings that explicitly stated, “SpaceX can only hire U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents due to ITAR [International Traffic in Arms Regulations]” regulations. The lawsuit also references a video from 2016 where Musk asserted that a regular work visa wouldn’t suffice for employment at SpaceX unless the company secured “special permission from the Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State.” Additionally, a post made by Musk in June 2020 on X (formerly Twitter) claimed that “U.S. law requires at least a green card to be hired at SpaceX, as rockets are advanced weapons technology.”

The Justice Department’s argument counters SpaceX’s position, stating that ITAR and Export Administration Regulations (EAR), another export control law, do not impose restrictions on asylees or refugees. ITAR laws essentially “constrain an employer’s ability to export specific goods, software, technology, and technical data,” as outlined in the lawsuit.

The Department of Justice clarified that under ITAR and EAR, “U.S. persons” employed by U.S. companies can access export-controlled items without requiring authorization from the U.S. government. This category includes U.S. citizens or nationals, lawful permanent residents, refugees, and asylees.

The complaint from the Department of Justice indicated that between September 2018 and March 2022, SpaceX’s job applications asked prospective candidates to specify their citizenship status. The provided options included “U.S.; citizen or national of the United States,” “U.S. lawful permanent resident,” “refugee under 8 U.S.C. 1157,” “asylee under 8 U.S.C. 1158,” or “other.”

According to the complaint, the company’s hiring managers and recruiters purportedly turned away candidates who identified as refugees or asylees, utilizing rejection codes such as “not authorized to work/ITAR ineligible.”

The lawsuit stated that a recruiter employed the aforementioned rejection code for an asylee who possessed over nine years of pertinent engineering experience and held a degree from Georgia Tech University.

Further information revealed by SpaceX’s data indicated that between September 2018 and May 2022, out of the 10,000 individuals hired by the company, only one was an asylee, as per the Department of Justice’s account. This single asylee was brought on board four months subsequent to the commencement of the Department of Justice’s investigation, as asserted in the lawsuit.

The legal action seeks an order from a federal judge to compel SpaceX to discontinue its discriminatory practices, introduce equitable consideration methods, and offer retroactive pay to asylees who were denied employment opportunities at the company. Additionally, the lawsuit calls for the imposition of civil monetary penalties, the exact amount of which would be determined by the court.

Why is the Department of Justice suing SpaceX?

The Department of Justice is suing SpaceX over alleged discriminatory practices against individuals with asylum and refugee status within the United States.

What is the basis of the lawsuit against SpaceX?

The lawsuit claims that SpaceX violated the Immigration and Nationality Act by discouraging asylees and refugees from applying to the company and refusing to hire or consider them.

What did Elon Musk and SpaceX leadership allegedly claim regarding hiring restrictions?

Elon Musk and SpaceX leadership allegedly made false claims that the company could only hire U.S. citizens and green card holders due to “export control laws.”

What were the key allegations related to ITAR regulations?

SpaceX posted job announcements citing ITAR regulations as a reason to hire only U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, but the Department of Justice argued that ITAR and EAR do not prevent hiring asylees or refugees.

How did SpaceX’s job applications inquire about citizenship status?

SpaceX’s job applications between September 2018 and March 2022 included options for candidates to specify their citizenship status, including “refugee” and “asylee.”

What data was presented about SpaceX’s hiring practices?

The Department of Justice claimed that, according to SpaceX’s data, the company hired 10,000 people from September 2018 to May 2022, with only one asylee among them.

How did SpaceX allegedly treat the single hired asylee?

The lawsuit alleged that the one asylee hired by SpaceX was brought on board four months after the Department of Justice’s investigation began.

What remedies does the lawsuit seek against SpaceX?

The lawsuit seeks a federal court order for SpaceX to cease discriminatory practices, implement fair consideration methods, provide backpay to denied asylee candidates, and impose civil monetary penalties.

Who is Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke?

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke is from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and made a statement regarding the lawsuit, expressing concerns about discrimination based on citizenship status.

What was SpaceX’s immediate response to the lawsuit?

As of the current information available, there has been no immediate response from SpaceX regarding the lawsuit.

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