After the Trump administration announced Tuesday that it would begin to unwind an Obama-era program that shields younger undocumented immigrants from deportation, Microsoft vowed to defend its workers in court.
The move follows a week of intensifying criticism from technology executives who strongly support the program, known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), on moral and economic grounds. The administration, however, says that DACA is unconstitutional, and it is looking to Congress to create a solution to addresses the status of DACA workers, as well as broader immigration reforms.
Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith said Tuesday that the company is committed to protecting its 39 employees who have DACA status, also known as “dreamers.”
“If Congress fails to act, our company will exercise its legal rights properly to help protect our employees,” Smith wrote in a company blog post. “If the government seeks to deport any one of them, we will provide and pay for their legal counsel.” Smith added that Microsoft will explore whether it can intervene directly in any such deportation case. “In short, if Dreamers who are our employees are in court, we will be by their side.”
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday that the decision to end the DACA program was “wrong.”
“It is particularly cruel to offer young people the American Dream, encourage them to come out of the shadows and trust our government, and then punish them for it,” he said.
Zuckerberg did not disclose how many Dreamers are employed by Facebook. But his FWD.us organization, which has advocated for immigration reform, was behind an open letter last week signed by leaders of nearly 400 companies urging Congress to pass legislation to provide a permanent fix for the young undocumented immigrants. The signatories included Apple CEO Tim Cook, business magnate Warren Buffett, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (who also owns The Washington Post), Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and Hewlett-Packard president and CEO Meg Whitman.
Zuckerberg also urged Americans to “call your members of Congress and tell them to do the right thing,” adding that “we have always been a nation of immigrants, and immigrants have always made our nation stronger.”
Apple said it employs 250 “dreamers.” Earlier this week, Cook said he stands by his co-workers. “They deserve our respect as equals and a solution rooted in American values,” he said in a tweet.
In announcing the decision at the Justice Department, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called DACA an “open-ended circumvention of immigration law through unconstitutional authority by the executive branch,” and said the program was unlikely to withstand court scrutiny.
The Department of Homeland Security said it would no longer accept new applications for DACA, which has provided renewable, two-year work permits to nearly 800,000 “dreamers.”