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Microsoft will give legal aid to its 39 Dreamers

Tech chiefs have spoken out against President Trump's plans to pull the plug on the US Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme. Now Microsoft's legal chief has promised to provide legal support to affected staff

Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, has written an open letter stating the company will support 39 employees following the US government’s U-turn on so-called “Dreamer” residents.

Dreamers are young people protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme, which was introduced by Barack Obama in 2012 to give temporary legal immigration status to people who were brought into the US illegally as children. 

But President Donald Trump plans to end the programme in March 2018, which could lead to the deportation of 800,000 people currently protected by the programme.

In a blog post, Smith said Microsoft was “deeply disappointed” by the administration’s decision to rescind protection under Daca, calling it a “big step back for our entire country”.

He urged US Congress to prioritise Daca legislation before it makes changes to the tax system.

“We believe that Congress now needs to reprioritise the [autumn] legislative calendar and move quickly with new legislation to protect these 800,000 Dreamers. This means Congress should adopt legislation on Daca before it tries to adopt a tax reform bill. This is the only way – given the number of legislative days Congress has scheduled over the next six months, we realistically can expect Congress to complete Daca legislation in time.”

In the letter, Smith welcomed the tax reform, but said Microsoft’s position was to protect its employees.

“For the 39 Dreamers that we know of who are our employees, our commitment is clear. If Congress fails to act, our company will exercise its legal rights properly to help protect our employees. If the government seeks to deport any one of them, we will provide and pay for their legal counsel. We will also file an amicus brief and explore whether we can directly intervene in any such case. In short, if Dreamers who are our employees are in court, we will be by their side,” Smith said in the letter.

He added that while Microsoft supported the modernisation of the tax system, Congress needed to make the humanitarian needs of the 800,000 people affected by Daca as a top priority in the legislative calendar before a tax bill.

“As an employer, we appreciate that dreamers add to the competitiveness and economic success of our company and the entire nation’s business community. In short, urgent Daca legislation is both an economic imperative and a humanitarian necessity,” Smith wrote.

IT chiefs support Daca

At the end of August, a number of US entrepreneurs signed a letter penned by FWD.us, the immigration reform group, calling on President Trump to preserve Daca.

Tech chiefs who have signed the letter include Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, Cloudera founder Mike Olson, Dropbox founder Drew Houston, eBay CEO Devin Wenig, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, HP Inc CEO Dion Weisler, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

Responding to a comment claiming Dreamers were illegal immigrants, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said US laws have a statute of limitation, which means people are rarely punished for crimes committed a decade ago.

“For these Dreamers, the only crime they were a part of was being brought here by their parents,” he said. “For many of them, that was more than 10 years ago, when they were very young. It was not their decision. America is the only country they’ve ever known, and they work hard every day to contribute to our economy and community.

“Yes, we have laws and we must fix our immigration system, but we must also be proportionate in our response to infractions. Ruining these young people’s lives by deporting them or forcing them to live in fear is not the just path forward.”

In a letter to staff, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he was “deeply dismayed” by Trump’s decision, according to the Independent.

Cook tweeted: “250 of my Apple coworkers are #Dreamers. I stand with them. They deserve our respect as equals and a solution rooted in American values.”

In April, Trump issued an executive order that took aim at companies – mainly Indian IT suppliers – that use immigrant labour in the US on visas for highly skilled workers.

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