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A Top DHS Staffer Who Defended The Muslim Travel Ban Now Works At Google

Former DHS staffer Miles Taylor once defended a “tough” but “tailored” version of Trump’s controversial travel ban and served under Kirstjen Nielsen during the implementation of the family separation policy at the US–Mexico border.

Posted on October 21, 2019, at 8:26 p.m. ET

Stephen Perez / Getty Images

David Sanchez of Detroit chants during a protest of the Trump administration's travel ban, October 2017.

A former top staffer at the Department of Homeland Security who had defended a version of the Donald Trump administration's travel ban recently began working at Google, according to company documents seen by BuzzFeed News.

Miles Taylor, who previously served as chief of staff to former DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, started at the search and advertising giant last month as a government affairs and public policy manager. His LinkedIn profile confirms the change, though he lists his title on the professional social network as "head of national security policy engagement."

Indiana University News Room / Via

Miles Taylor

Google's relationship with Washington, DC, has become increasingly tense in recent months amid President Trump's continued attacks against the company for its alleged anti-conservative search bias and plans to operate in China. Meanwhile, outspoken Google employees have been pressuring the company to withdraw from certain government projects; in August, nearly 1,500 people signed a petition to demand that Google not bid on a US Customs and Border Protection cloud contract. CBP is overseen by DHS, Taylor’s old agency.

Google's employment of Taylor — who previously argued in favor of what he called a “tough” but “tailored” version of a controversial Trump administration rule that barred visitors from six Muslim-majority countries — follows heavy criticism of the travel ban from Google’s senior leadership and cofounders. In January 2017, following the announcement of the original travel ban, Google cofounder Sergey Brin joined protesters at San Francisco International Airport to object to the policy, while Google CEO Sundar Pichai pointedly voiced his displeasure on Twitter and in an email to staff.

Google declined to comment on Taylor’s hiring. Taylor did not respond to an emailed request for comment. A Politico newsletter announced his hire earlier this month.

Google cofounder Sergey Brin at SFO protest: "I'm here because I'm a refugee." (Photo from Matt Kang/Forbes)

Documents seen by BuzzFeed News show that Taylor has been on the job for a little more than a month. His boss is Johanna Shelton, a longtime Google public policy director and former Democratic congressional staffer. Further up the chain, Taylor is overseen by Mark Isakowitz, the public policy vice president, who's another recent hire and former top aide to Republican Sen. Rob Portman; Karan Bhatia, the vice president of global public policy who served for six years as a senior official in the George W. Bush administration; and Kent Walker, the senior vice president and chief legal officer.

As a counselor to then–acting DHS secretary Elaine Duke, Taylor called the screening and vetting standards at the country’s borders “no longer adequate to combat terrorism” as the agency recommended an updated policy to replace expiring parts of Trump’s travel ban in September 2017. He went on to serve as the deputy chief of staff and then chief of staff to Nielsen, whom Trump appointed to the top DHS role in December 2017. Nielsen oversaw the administration’s family separation policy for immigrants at the southern border. She resigned in April.

Meredith Whittaker, a cofounder of the AI Institute and a former Google employee who resigned in June, said Taylor’s appointment showed the company lacked a “moral and ethical compass.”

“Hiring someone who comes from an administration that is gleefully endorsing policies that are separating children at the border and violating human rights is pretty telling,” she said. “If you look at the profession of solidarity back then put forward by executives, this is a pretty stark contrast.”

Last week, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton withdrew in protest from a speaking engagement at a Fortune magazine event that included Nielsen, voicing a sentiment that Google’s executives seemed to share with the former Democratic presidential candidate during the implementation of the family separation policy.

Screenshot from LinkedIn / BuzzFeed News / Via LinkedIn

“The stories and images of families being separated at the border are gut-wrenching,” Pichai tweeted in June 2018. “Urging our government to work together to find a better, more humane way that is reflective of our values as a nation. #keepfamiliestogether.”

Politico previously reported on the turmoil within DHS following Nielsen’s resignation, noting that it was expected that Taylor would be pushed out in April. Taylor’s public LinkedIn page does not mention when exactly he left the department and what month he started at Google.

Earlier this year, Google said it would be taking a new approach to public policy, according to an email first reported by Axios. The memo noted that the unit would be renamed “Government Affairs and Public Policy” and overseen by Bhatia, who said that the reorganization would allow the company to better “engage with governments and other stakeholders.”

Google and its parent company, Alphabet, are currently the subjects of multiple federal, state, and territorial investigations, including one overseen by the Justice Department.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.