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Elon Musk says DOJ’s lawsuit against SpaceX is ‘for political purposes’: ‘Weaponization of government agencies needs to stop’
Photo by PHILIP PACHECO/AFP via Getty Images

Elon Musk says DOJ’s lawsuit against SpaceX is ‘for political purposes’: ‘Weaponization of government agencies needs to stop’

The Department of Justice announced a lawsuit against Elon Musk’s SpaceX on Thursday, alleging that the company discriminated against refugees and those granted asylum by hiring only United States citizens and green card holders.

Musk replied to the DOJ’s allegations on his social media platform, X, formerly known as Twitter.

What’s the background?

According to a DOJ press release and lawsuit, “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 department accused SpaceX of “wrongly” claiming that “export control laws” prevented the company from hiring non-citizens. Instead, the DOJ stated that “export control laws impose no such hiring restrictions.”

“Moreover, asylees’ and refugees’ permission to live and work in the United States does not expire, and they stand on equal footing with U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents under export control laws,” the DOJ said.

The department is seeking fair consideration and back pay for applicants who were “deterred or denied employment” based on their citizenship status.

Musk fires back

During the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, in September 2016, Musk was asked, “When are you going to hire people from other countries than the U.S.?”

The question received resounding applause from the audience.

“I think people are a bit confused about this,” Musk replied. “Unfortunately, this is not up to us.”

“If you’re working on rocket technology, that’s considered an advanced weapons technology. So, even a normal work visa isn’t sufficient unless you get special permission from the secretary of defense or the secretary of state,” he continued. “This is not a wise policy for the U.S. because there’s so many talented people all around the world that we would love to have work at our company, but unless they can somehow get a green card, we’re legally prevented from hiring anyone.”

In response to an X user sharing the 2016 video this week, Musk replied, “The fundamental principle of [International Traffic in Arms Regulations] law is that US companies who have advanced weapons technology, such as rockets with intercontinental range, must hire people who are permanent American residents, so that the technology does not fall into the hands of countries who wish us harm.”

Musk further claimed that SpaceX was “told repeatedly” that it could not employ anyone “who was not a permanent resident of the United States” because it would “violate international arms trafficking law.” He noted that violating such laws “would be a criminal offense.”

“We couldn’t even hire Canadian citizens, despite Canada being part of NORAD!” Musk added, referring to the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

He called the lawsuit “yet another case of weaponization of the DOJ for political purposes.”

In response to a different post regarding the recent legal action taken by the department against SpaceX, Musk stated, “The weaponization of government agencies needs to stop. This fundamentally undermines public faith in the justice system.”

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