The DOJ’s Investigation Into SpaceX Doesn’t Make Sense

CNBC reported that the Department of Justice is investigating SpaceX for discriminating against non-U.S. citizens in its hiring. The issue is that SpaceX didn’t hire someone because they are not a U.S. Citizen. Normally, people are upset with companies that hire non-citizens while overlooking American citizens.

The complaint that the DOJ received stated that SpaceX was discriminating against someone based on their citizenship status. DOJ attorney, Lisa Sandoval wrote this in a court document that was filed last week.

“The charge alleges that on or about March 10, 2020, during the Charging Party’s interview for the position of Technology Strategy Associate, SpaceX made inquiries about his citizenship status and ultimately failed to hire him for the position because he is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.”

This sounds really bad, but this is why it’s weird — legally SpaceX can not hire non-U.S. citizens.

There is a reason that SpaceX can’t hire non-U.S. citizens and it has absolutely nothing to do with discrimination. Elon Musk explained before that he would like to bring in international talent to SpaceX but our laws restrict him from doing this. The laws he was talking about are the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) which pretty much make it clear that Elon Musk can only hire American citizens for SpaceX.

Popular Mechanics noted back in 2016 that the basics of these regulations are that information about military technology is to be limited to citizens and U.S.-based companies. The law uses the term, “U.S. Person” which is inclusive of both citizens and green-card holders.  ITAR regulates possible dual-use technology such as rocket launches and has made working at space launch companies off-limits to non-U.S. citizens. A great example in the Popular Mechanics article is this: So what kind of things are on a Falcon 9 that shouldn’t be shared with, say, Iran? Imagine the consequences of SpaceX’s technology falling into the hands of Iran or even North Korea.

It is senseless for the DOJ to punish an American company for following the law and I think that the judge will probably consider the fact that SpaceX is following the ITAR laws. Perhaps if those laws are ever changed to allow SpaceX to hire non-U.S. citizens, then Elon Musk would be able to hire international talent at SpaceX.

However, The Boring Company, Neuralink, and Tesla are Elon Musk’s companies and all three of those are hiring.

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