Tech CEOs protest ‘cruel and abusive’ US border policy

20 Jun 2018

Image: Lightspring/Shutterstock

Silicon Valley CEOs say new US border policy to separate children from parents is ‘abhorrent’.

The internet this week reverberated with the plaintive, distressed cries of children being separated from their parents by US border guards. These were sounds that would break the hardest of hearts. But, seemingly, not some of those on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Silicon Valley tech CEOs have added their voices to the chorus of protests against the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance border policy that is splitting up families.

‘Kids are the most vulnerable people in any society. I think that what’s happening is inhumane, it needs to stop’

Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted: “The stories and images of families being separated at the border are gut-wrenching. Urging our government to work together to find a better, more humane way that is reflective of our values as a nation.”

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said: “Ripping children from the arms of their parents is heartless, cruel, immoral and counter to the American values of belonging.

“The US government needs to stop this injustice and reunite these families. We are a better country than this.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview in The Irish Times“It’s heartbreaking to see the images and hear the sounds of the kids.

“Kids are the most vulnerable people in any society. I think that what’s happening is inhumane, it needs to stop.

“We’ve always felt everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. In this case, that’s not happening.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post: “Organisations like Texas Civil Rights Project and RAICES are doing great work helping families at the US border get legal advice and translation services, as well as documenting what is happening on the ground to make sure these stories are shared. I’ve donated to them and I encourage you to as well. We need to stop this policy right now.”

Microsoft feels chill from ICE storm

Redmond-based Microsoft hit out at the new US border policy but also faced a controversy of its own when concerns were raised that its cloud technology might be used by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to facilitate the controversial policy.

Microsoft president Brad Smith blogged: “This is rapidly becoming a momentous week in the history of immigration for the United States. As the House of Representatives prepares to vote on two major bills, we need our elected officials to get things right. In part, we need Congress to address the Dreamers and those affected by the green card backlog. We need improved security at the border. And, perhaps more than anything, we need Congress to remember the fundamental decency and humanitarian spirit that defines us as a people and a nation. In short, we need to take care of children.”

Microsoft also responded to concerns by employees that its technology is being used by ICE.

The company stated: “Microsoft is not working with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement or US Customs and Border Protection on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border and, contrary to some speculation, we are not aware of Azure or Azure services being used for this purpose. As a company, Microsoft is dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border. Family unification has been a fundamental tenet of American policy and law since the end of World War II. As a company, Microsoft has worked for over 20 years to combine technology with the rule of law to ensure that children who are refugees and immigrants can remain with their parents. We need to continue to build on this noble tradition rather than change course now. We urge the administration to change its policy and Congress to pass legislation ensuring children are no longer separated from their families.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella responded with a memo to employees that he also shared on his personal LinkedIn page stating that as a father and an immigrant, he is “appalled at the abhorrent policy of separating immigrant children from their families”.

He described the new US border policy as “cruel and abusive” and said that Microsoft is standing for change.

He wrote: “I consider myself a product of two amazing and uniquely American things: American technology reaching me where I was growing up that allowed me to dream the dream, and an enlightened immigration policy that then allowed me to live that dream. My story would not have been possible anywhere else.”

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

“Microsoft has a long history of taking a principled approach to how we live up to our mission of empowering every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more with technology platforms and tools, while also standing up for our enduring values and ethics. Any engagement with any government has been and will be guided by our ethics and principles.”

What the Silicon Valley tech chiefs are tweeting:

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years