Tech industry calls for legislative action after Trump administration announces end to ‘Dreamer’ immigration program

The tech industry and the Trump administration are clashing again, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions this morning announced plans to end the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, or DACA, in the next six months.

The program, created during the Obama administration in 2012, allows approximately 800,000 children of undocumented immigrants, also known as Dreamers, access to temporary work permits and protection from deportation as long as they submit biometric data to the government and keep a clean record.

Tech leaders en masse publicly expressed their disappointment in the decision and called on Congress to pass a bill protecting Dreamers as soon as possible. Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith in a blog post called on Congress to rearrange its schedule to prioritize a bill to protect Dreamers before it moves on to tax reform, an intiative that could greatly benefit tech companies.

Microsoft President Brad Smith at the company’s 2016 annual meeting. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

“We say this even though Microsoft, like many other companies, cares greatly about modernizing the tax system and making it fairer and more competitive,” Smith wrote. “But we need to put the humanitarian needs of these 800,000 people on the legislative calendar before a tax bill. As an employer, we appreciate that Dreamers add to the competitiveness and economic success of our company and the entire nation’s business community. In short, urgent DACA legislation is both an economic imperative and a humanitarian necessity.”

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who co-founded FWD.us to advocate for issues like immigration reform, in a Facebook post blasted the decision to end the program.

“The decision to end DACA is not just wrong,” Zuckerberg wrote. “It is particularly cruel to offer young people the American Dream, encourage them to come out of the shadows and trust our government, and then punish them for it.”

Zuckerberg went on to say that FWD.us will continue to work to protect Dreamers, and he encouraged people to call their congressional representatives and demand action on the issue.

Last week FWD.us published a letter signed by approximately 300 leaders in tech and the rest of the business community — including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson — calling on Trump to continue the program to protect undocumented immigrants. Todd Schulte, president of the group said he was disappointed in the decision and called on Congress to pass a bill that protects those at-risk of deportation.

“The time of reckoning is here — and we call on the American people to speak out and demand Congress pass a bipartisan Dream Act,” Schulte wrote.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said over the weekend that approximately 250 people at the company are Dreamers. On Tuesday, he sent an email to employees saying Apple will work with congressional leaders to make sure Dreamers are protected.

Other tech companies and leaders tweeted their disappointment in the decision.

Beyond upsetting the tech industry and disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, the decision could also lead to several lawsuits for the administration. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson yesterday promised to file suit should Trump cancel the DACA program. He noted that the Washington AG office has been working with legal teams across the country and expects other states to join the legal fray.

The tech industry has been critical of the Trump administration’s immigration policies since the president signed his first executive order restricting travel of citizens from several majority-Muslim countries. At that time, hundreds of tech companies condemned the policy, while Expedia and Amazon threw their weight behind Washington state when it sued the federal government over the order.