Business & Lobbying

Microsoft pushes for DACA legislation

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Microsoft is heading to Capitol Hill to press lawmakers on legislation to protect recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program during a crucial week in the fight over the Obama-era immigration program.

Nearly 20 Microsoft employees, all DACA recipients, are flying in with President Brad Smith and top lobbyist Fred Humphries on Tuesday to urge congressional action and meet with lawmakers who have demonstrated leadership on DACA. The fly-in, the second time Microsoft has brought employees to Washington to press Congress, comes the same day the Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in cases challenging President Trump’s actions terminating the program.

Some immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children, commonly known as Dreamers, receive legal protection under DACA. But Trump in 2017 said he was ending the program, sparking the ongoing legal fight.

{mosads}“We have a proven track record of being an advocate for policies that include immigrants, that allows them and enables them to integrate their talents, their abilities, their skills. It’s helpful to the company but most importantly, to our economy,” Humphries told The Hill. 

A ruling from the Supreme Court on Trump’s termination of the program is expected in the summer, just months before the election. If the high court does allow Trump to strike down the program, Humphries said Microsoft will “double down” on pressing Congress to pass legislation to protect Dreamers.

“We have never taken our eye off the ball, even when it’s gone quiet,” Humphries said. “We have done our best to represent the 66 DACA employees, which includes Microsoft and LinkedIn, to make sure that our employees’ voices are heard and our company’s voice is heard.”

Microsoft has been a vocal advocate for the program, urging lawmakers to take action as soon as Trump moved to halt it.

“For Microsoft, the first step is clear. The administration has given Congress six months to replace DACA with new legislation. We believe this means that Congress now needs to reprioritize the fall legislative calendar and move quickly with new legislation to protect these 800,000 Dreamers,” Smith said in a statement at the time.

In November 2017, the company joined Princeton University and one of its students to file a complaint in federal court challenging the termination of DACA.

The company also listed action on DACA as one of the top tech issues for 2018, second only to cybersecurity.

Other technology companies have also been involved in efforts to protect Dreamers. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook urged the Supreme Court to protect the DACA program in October, saying the company employs 443 Dreamers.

Silicon Valley is already facing scrutiny on a number of fronts, and the industry’s vocal advocacy for Dreamers and immigration reform could be another potential flashpoint. 

But Todd Schulte, president of the immigrant advocacy group, said support for DACA rises above politics.

“The broad support here rises above the traditional fray and I think that’s why you see so many people standing by here and saying there are a lot of things we need to do better with our immigration system,” Schulte told The Hill.

And others defended the industry’s advocacy on the issue. 

“Defending DACA is not a particularly risky stance for tech companies. Only a small fringe of American politics actually think Dreamers should be deported — their status have always been a negotiating ploy in every immigration bill, including the President’s proposals,” Stewart Verdery, CEO of public affairs firm Monument Advocacy, told The Hill. “The program also fits nicely into the tech sector desire to have more home-grown talent.”

Bruce Mehlman, former assistant secretary of commerce for technology policy, said that DACA has strong bipartisan backing.

“The tech sector has long championed the DACA kids, and a majority of Republican voters and even members agree on the merits,” said Mehlman, partner at Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas. “I wouldn’t expect any blowback but even if there were, I don’t see tech backing down one iota on this one.”

While Humphries and his lobbying team are busy with a host of issues, he says Microsoft will stay committed to pushing for immigration reform.

“This is one that’s been consistent, steady, and one that they’ve heard from us as a company but it’s nothing like hearing from the employees directly,” he said. “It puts a face on the contributors and how they are making a difference, one as a contributor to the company, but two, making a contribution to society and to the economy and to the country.”

“We’re trying to make the Dreamers’ dream a reality,” he added. “That they have a place here in the U.S.”

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