Microsoft leadership tries to quell employee backlash over ICE contract

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Microsoft executives are rushing to contain employee backlash over the company’s contracts with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

After more than 100 Microsoft employees signed and posted a letter to a message board demanding the company cut ties with ICE, CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith issued public statements asserting the company’s commitment to immigrants.


“Microsoft is a company of immigrants in a nation of immigrants,” Smith wrote late Tuesday in a blog post discussing immigration and the separation of families at the border. Smith did not directly mention the company’s contracts with ICE.

In an all-staff email, Nadella addressed the controversy head on, downplaying the company’s involvement in the “zero tolerance” policy leading to the separation of families at the border.

“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,” the letter reads. “Our current cloud engagement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is supporting legacy mail, calendar, messaging and document management workloads.”

The responses might not slow the backlash of employees against the ICE contracts.

In their letter asking Nadella to end the relationship with ICE, employees said that regardless of previous assurances that services to the agency were not contributing to the separation of families, those assurances do “not go far enough.”

“We are providing the technical undergirding in support of an agency that is actively enforcing this inhumane policy,” they wrote.

The letter comes after critics tweeted out a Microsoft blog post from January highlighting its contract with ICE. According to the post, the Microsoft’s Azure service would help ICE “process data on edge devices or utilize deep learning capabilities to accelerate facial recognition and identification.”

President Trump and the Department of Justice have faced massive blowback from lawmakers in both parties, as well as the public, over the zero tolerance policy.

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