Growing up in eastern Turkey, Hamdi Ulukaya was the son of a Kurdish dairy farmer who emigrated to the United States in 1994, and went to college in upstate New York. Today, he is the founder of Chobani, one of the largest Greek yogurt companies in America whose personal wealth exceeds $1.4 billion.
Chobani employs 2,000 people, about 300 of which are immigrants (hailing from Iraq, Afghanistan and Turkey) and there… there lies the rub. Mr. Ulukaya has become a leading advocate for the refugee crisis — as an immigrant himself, it’s no doubt personal for him. Recently, he established the Tent Foundation whose goal is to create employment opportunities for refugees as well as support grants to entrepreneurs working on solutions to the crisis.
Though Mr. Ulukaya has many admirers, there has been a backlash to his advocacy. According to the New York Times, “he and his company have been targeted with racist attacks on social media and conspiratorial articles on websites including Breitbart News. Now there are calls to boycott Chobani. Mr. Ulukaya and the company have been taunted with racist epithets on Twitter and Facebook.”
“What’s happening with Chobani is one more flash point in this battle between the voices of xenophobia and the voices advocating a rational immigration policy,” says Cecillia Wang, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Breitbart’s editor in chief, Alex Marlow, counters with: “Breitbart has been a leader in delivering important and breaking news on refugee crises throughout the Western world, which pose both national security and financial risks. Mr. Ulukaya hasn’t merely involved himself in this issue, he’s been one of the leaders in expanding refugee resettlement in the United States.”