Hamdi Ulukaya, a Kurd who built yogurt empire Chobani after immigrating to the US in the mid-90s, is challenging Americans to rethink the way they view immigration.
Ulukaya has sought to keep his mission of assisting refugees above the political fray. But on occasion he has denounced the administration’s immigration policies and the way it enforces them. The issue is deeply personal for Ulukaya — a self-made billionaire who grew up tending goat and sheep in rural Turkey.
Ulukaya said, “I have nothing against ‘America first’, but ‘humanity first’ too.”
Ulukaya started recruiting immigrants and refugees to work at Chobani in 2010 — a strategy that drew vicious attacks from far right-wing conspiracy theorists who have spread lies about the company, including allegations Chobani embarked on a secret plot to increase America’s Islamic population.
About 30 percent of Chobani’s employees are immigrants or refugees. He says his employees and suppliers are worried. “They ask, ‘What’s gonna happen to me, will I be able to see my mother, or if they’re gonna come and visit me?’ ”
Ulukaya calls America a “magic land,” alluding to its historic standing as a beacon of hope and opportunity. “Above and beyond all, I hope the idea of magic land doesn’t get damaged,” said Ulukaya.