Microsoft CEO says company isn’t aiding ‘cruel and abusive’ border tactics, doesn’t address calls to cancel ICE contract

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at Build 2017 in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

In a company-wide email to employees Tuesday night, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella called the separation of families and children at the U.S.-Mexico border “abhorrent” and “simply cruel and abusive,” but did not directly address an employee letter asking the company to cancel its contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Microsoft’s work with ICE came under the microscope Monday after an Azure blog post from January highlighting its work with ICE resurfaced on social media. The company later issued a statement, saying that Microsoft products are not being used specifically for the separation of families.

Nadella reiterated that point again in his letter, which he posted on LinkedIn Tuesday.

“I want to be clear: Microsoft is not working with the U.S. government on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border,” wrote Nadella, who immigrated to the U.S. from India. “Our current cloud engagement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is supporting legacy mail, calendar, messaging and document management workloads.”

Nadella did not mention a letter signed by more than 100 Microsoft employees, first reported by The New York Times, demanding that the company cancel its contract with ICE. Bloomberg reported that Microsoft has more than $19 million in active cloud contracts with ICE.

“Any engagement with any government has been and will be guided by our ethics and principles,” Nadella wrote in the email. “We will continue to have this dialogue both within our company and with our stakeholders outside.”

Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith. (GeekWire File Photo)

Separately on Tuesday, Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote a lengthy post titled, “The country needs to get immigration right.”

Smith wrote about Microsoft’s stance on immigration, noting that the company “is something akin to ‘the United Nations of Software.’” He said one House bill, the Securing America’s Future Act (H.R. 4760), “plainly represents the wrong approach,” while picking apart another bill — the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018 (H.R. 6136) — particularly for the separation of children from their families.

“As individuals and groups across the country have spoken up to recognize, this practice violates the fundamental humanitarian principles that define us as a people,” Smith wrote. “It needs to end. And if the administration will not end this on its own, Congress needs to do so.”

Smith previously addressed the border controversy in a blog post on LinkedIn this weekend.

Microsoft has not shied away from taking a stance on immigration-related issues. The company and Princeton University sued the Trump administration in November claiming that attempts to end DACA, a program that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to study and work in the country, violate both the U.S Constitution and federal law. A federal judge sided with Microsoft and Princeton but the legal future of the program is still uncertain.

Other tech companies are also sounding off on the immigration policy.

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