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Weaponized DOJ sues Elon Musk’s SpaceX

 August 25, 2023

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has initiated legal action against Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, commonly known as SpaceX, alleging the firm's discriminatory hiring practices against asylees and refugees.

According to the suit, from September 2018 through May 2022, SpaceX appeared to dissuade refugees and asylees from applying for jobs and allegedly declined to hire or even contemplate their applications based on their citizenship status.

According to the DOJ's press release, this purportedly breaches the stipulations of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

DOJ Challenges SpaceX's Citizenship-Based Hiring

The suit highlights that between 2018 and last year, SpaceX representatives repeatedly declared their focus on hiring only U.S. citizens and those holding green cards, attributing this practice to stringent export control laws regulating rocket and missile technology usage.

However, the government refutes this stance, pointing out that "export control laws impose no such hiring restrictions."

In a statement regarding the lawsuit, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, representing the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, remarked, "Our investigation found that SpaceX failed to fairly consider or hire asylees and refugees because of their citizenship status and imposed what amounted to a ban on their hire regardless of their qualification, in violation of federal law."

SpaceX's Defense and the National Security Concern

While SpaceX refrained from commenting on the issue, the company has consistently maintained in the past that its hiring approach aligns with the stipulations of a federal statute known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), the Washington Post reported.

Being a crucial player in the rocket industry, SpaceX has meticulously maintained the confidentiality of its manufacturing units and regulates what external photographers and videographers can capture to prevent sensitive designs from going public.

Given the delicacy of the space industry's operations, recent joint bulletins from the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, the FBI, and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations have raised alarms regarding foreign intelligence threats to the U.S. space sector.

These advisories underlined that foreign entities perceive the U.S. space sector as a significant component of the nation's economy and security. Officials are keen on leveraging U.S. space innovations, which they view as both potential threats and golden opportunities to amass crucial technology and knowledge.

These adversaries, as outlined, employ cyberattacks, strategic investments, and other tactics to penetrate the U.S. space industry. Yet, none of these warnings specifically cite hiring as a matter of concern.

While the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) did not issue a comment on the lawsuit, its representatives emphasized the significance of ITAR to their operations.

Their statement said, "ITAR applies to everything AIAA does, and the Institute carefully assures we operate within the ITAR requirements."

Specific Allegations and the Path Forward

The lawsuit brought forward by the Justice Department illuminates that their investigation, which began in 2020, led to the conclusion that SpaceX might be entrenched in unjust immigration-related employment procedures.

For instance, Musk tweeted in 2020 that U.S. laws mandate that candidates should at least possess a green card to be eligible for a position at SpaceX, attributing this to rockets being classified as advanced weapons technology.

It is highlighted in the lawsuit that SpaceX, from over 10,000 hires, employed only one individual who identified as an asylee in his application.

SpaceX, a dominant partner for both NASA and the Pentagon, plays a pivotal role in launching American astronauts to the International Space Station, including sensitive national security satellites.

Clarke expressed the Justice Department's commitment to ensuring that SpaceX is held answerable for its alleged illegal employment strategies and seeks resolutions that enable refugees and asylees to justly vie for positions and contribute to SpaceX's ever-growing workforce.

She added that asylees and refugees, having already faced numerous challenges, shouldn't be hindered by unwarranted employment discrimination based on their citizenship status.

The lawsuit seeks to compel SpaceX to hire those it previously deemed ineligible and to pay an appropriate civil penalty for each individual it allegedly discriminated against.

Musk's Companies and Discrimination Lawsuits

Musk-led companies, including Tesla, have previously faced discrimination lawsuits. Tesla has been accused of workplace discrimination against Black employees, with a recent case resulting in a $3 million payout to a former worker.

Additionally, former Twitter employees allege discrimination in Musk's layoffs based on gender, race, and age. Employees from Africa and those with disabilities have pursued legal action against Twitter. SpaceX has also been accused of age discrimination in the past.