Microsoft President To Trump: To Deport A DREAMer, You'll Have To Go Through Us

Sep 5, 2017
Originally published on September 6, 2017 10:32 am

America's business leaders are speaking out against President Trump's move to end DACA.

The president of Microsoft, Brad Smith, took a notable stand. He said not only will his company lobby for a legislative solution but also that Microsoft is calling on Congress to make immigration the top priority, before tax reform. And he is calling on other business leaders to follow suit.

"There is nothing that we will be pushing on more strongly for Congress to act on," Smith said in an interview with NPR. "We put a stake in the ground. We care about a tax reform bill. The entire business community cares about a tax reform. And yet it is very clear today a tax reform bill needs to be set aside until the DREAMers are taken care of. They have a deadline that expires in six months. Tax reform can wait."

Smith also said if the government moves to deport DREAMers who are Microsoft employees, "it's going to have to go through us to get that person."

This is the second time in a week that Smith has spoken out. Last Thursday, Smith and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella both issued statements calling on the administration to preserve DACA. Nadella, a first-generation immigrant from India, struck a personal note: "I am a product of two uniquely American attributes: the ingenuity of American technology reaching me where I was growing up, fueling my dreams, and the enlightened immigration policy that allowed me to pursue my dreams."

Meanwhile, in a letter to employees this morning, Apple CEO Tim Cook said more than 250 Apple workers are affected by the DACA repeal and that he has been hearing from them all weekend.

"I want to assure you that Apple will 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 said.

Dozens of CEOs including Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Reed Hastings from Netflix, Randall Stephenson from AT&T and Tim Sloan of Wells Fargo wrote a letter addressed to the president asking him to preserve the program.

The leaders argued that all DACA recipients grew up in America and give back to the community and pay income taxes. They said: "More than 97 percent are in school or in the workforce, 5 percent started their own business, 65 percent have purchased a vehicle, and 16 percent have purchased their first home. At least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies count DACA recipients among their employees."

In a public post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said about Trump's announcement: "This is a sad day for our country" and that he and his immigration advocacy vehicle at Fwd.US will be "doing even more in the weeks ahead to make sure Dreamers have the protections they deserve."

Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google (an arm of Alphabet), did not make quite the same commitment on Twitter. But he took a moral stand, writing, "Dreamers are our neighbors, our friends and our co-workers. This is their home. Congress needs to act now to #DefendDACA. #WithDreamers."

When President Trump was first elected, leaders in the tech industry were reluctant to criticize campaign pledges of his that went against their values and interests. They took a wait-and-see approach and grappled with how to be a successful multinational in an increasingly nationalistic world. Tuesday morning's outpouring illustrates a clear shift in business leaders' willingness to speak out against decisions by the administration.

Microsoft's Smith says in the beginning of 2017, business leaders looked around and wondered how they would navigate this new unpredictable environment. They feared being attacked by the commander in chief on social media. Now, Smith says, "I don't think people get up in the morning worrying about tweets. We have much bigger problems to worry about than that."

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And we're listening this morning to reaction to President Trump's decision to phase out DACA. That is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, allowing people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to stay and work here. Trump's decision has been met with opposition from some prominent business leaders. And one of the most vocal is the president of Microsoft. NPR's Aarti Shahani caught up with him.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: Microsoft President Brad Smith, who can be quite measured, spoke with a great deal of passion when he said about the Trump administration...

BRAD SMITH: If the government wants to deport a DREAMer who is one of our employees, it's going to have to go through us to get that person.

SHAHANI: Go through us - those are fighting words. He and other tech execs, like the CEO of Apple, are pledging to legally protect the hundreds of DREAMer employees in their rank and file. Smith is also going a step further, saying that a legislative solution for DREAMers is Microsoft's top priority, more so than tax reform. While Republicans in Congress are getting ready to push a tax overhaul, which many CEOs want, the Microsoft leader says there is nothing his company will push more strongly than a solution for undocumented youth. And he's calling on other business leaders to do the same.

SMITH: A tax reform bill needs to be set aside until the DREAMers are taken care of. They have a deadline that expires in six months. Tax reform can wait.

SHAHANI: Being this vocal this quickly is a notable departure from the past. Just a few years ago, when Democratic politicians were trying to build support for comprehensive immigration reform, corporate leaders resisted the call to back a broad legalization and preferred to focus on narrow issues like H-1B visas. Smith says this time is different because DREAMers face a clear-cut deadline - six months - and unlike their parents, they know no other home.

SMITH: So many of these people only have one home. It is our home. It is our country, and it puts them in a completely different position.

SHAHANI: The CEOs of Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, Wells Fargo are among the many who've criticized Trump for rescinding DACA. This outpouring also illustrates a clear shift in business leaders' willingness to speak out against the administration. Microsoft's Smith says, in the beginning of 2017, he and others looked around and wondered how to navigate the public arena where they could be attacked by the commander in chief on social media. But now...

SMITH: I don't think people get up in the morning worrying about tweets. We have much bigger problems to worry about than that.

SHAHANI: Smith says Microsoft is reaching out to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. Aarti Shahani, NPR News.

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