Apple and Microsoft pledged on Tuesday to protect workers who face the risk of legal trouble and perhaps deportation after President Donald Trump terminated a major immigration program that had broad support among the business community.
In a statement, Microsoft said it would provide aid wherever possible, including paying for affected employees’ legal counsel and intervening in court cases to defend the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
The initiative has allowed more than 800,000 young adults, brought to the United States illegally when they were children, to obtain authorization to stay and work in the country. Trump’s decision to eliminate the program after a six-month delay that expires in March, however, leaves many of those individuals, known as Dreamers, in legal limbo.
To that end, Microsoft also called on Congress to restore DACA — and to do it before tackling other legislative priorities, including tax reform, a major issue for the tech industry.
“We say this even though Microsoft, like many other companies, cares greatly about modernizing the tax system and making it fairer and more competitive,” explained Brad Smith, the company’s president and chief legal officer. “But we need to put the humanitarian needs of these 800,000 people on the legislative calendar before a tax bill.”
In a note to employees, meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook similarly said he is “deeply dismayed” by Trump’s decision — and pledged the company would “work with members of Congress from both parties to advocate for a legislative solution that provides permanent protections for all the Dreamers in our country.”
Cook also said the company would provide the roughly 250 at Apple affected by the decision with the “support they need, including the advice of immigration experts.”
“On behalf of the hundreds of employees at Apple whose futures are at stake; on behalf of their colleagues and on behalf of the millions more across America who believe, as we do, in the power of dreams, we issue an urgent plea for our leaders in Washington to protect the Dreamers so their futures can never be put at risk in this way again,” Cook said in the note obtained by Recode.
Other tech giants, however, were still considering their next steps by Tuesday afternoon.
In a tweet, Google CEO Sundar Pichai expressed his disappointment with Trump’s effort to undo DACA, urging Congress to take action. A spokeswoman for Google’s parent company, Alphabet, said the search giant is still reviewing its options internally. Alphabet has not yet detailed how many of its workers participate in DACA.
Facebook similarly did not announce any specific steps to come or the total number of affected employees. But its leader, Mark Zuckerberg, urged users of the social network to sound off to their lawmakers.
“For years, leaders from both parties have been talking about protecting Dreamers. Now it’s time to back those words up with action,” wrote Zuckerberg. “Show us that you can lead. No bill is perfect, but inaction now is unacceptable.”
“If you live in the U.S., call your members of Congress and tell them to do the right thing,” he continued. “We have always been a nation of immigrants, and immigrants have always made our nation stronger.”
For the tech industry, however, there might only be so much it can do. Companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft spend many millions of dollars lobbying government each year, but their cries for immigration reform long have failed to penetrate the partisan divide on Capitol Hill.
There, House Speaker Paul Ryan is among a growing chorus of Republicans who now believe that Congress should rethink and reauthorize DACA in some form. But Ryan, in a statement Tuesday, did not indicate a timeline for that debate. The chamber already has a number of other, critical items on its plate, from allotting billions of dollars to recovery efforts following Hurricane Harvey to funding the U.S. government itself.
(Update, 2:32 pm ET): Trump’s efforts to terminate DACA prompted Uber’s new chief executive — himself an immigrant from Iran — to sound off on Tuesday. It’s Dara Khosrowshahi’s first-ever comments about politics as Uber’s leader.