Microsoft has often pitted itself against US President Donald Trump and his various controversial immigration and equality decisions. However, as the company’s involvement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) becomes clearer, tensions are mounting. So much so, CEO Satya Nadella has sent an internal email to all employees in a damage control effort.
Yesterday Microsoft expressed its “dismay” at the controversial policy of separating families. However, the company has a conflict of interest in the form of a massive contract with the ICE. Trump’s administration holds a zero-tolerance approach towards undocumented immigrants. The situation has resulted in more than 2,300 children being separated from their parents.
After news of Microsoft’s working contract with the ICE emerged, more than 100 employees sent Satya Nadella an open letter. They wanted answers and for the company to cancel the ICE deal, known to be worth $19.4 million. Microsoft has previously discussed its partnership with the ICE, where it delivers deep learning technology for facial recognition.
Interestingly, either Microsoft is now backtracking or outright lying. That’s because the company says the contract does not actually include facial recognition. While it is clear to see how such technology could be used to separate children from parents, Nadella’s letter denies this:
“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,” Nadella wrote. “Our current cloud engagement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is supporting legacy mail, calendar, messaging and document management workloads.”
So, Nadella is basically saying the company supplies email, messaging, calendar, and document management for the ICE. In his letter, the CEO also expressed his own disgust of the Trump policy:
“Like many of you, I am appalled at the abhorrent policy of separating immigrant children from their families at the southern border of the U.S. As both a parent and an immigrant, this issue touches me personally,” he added. “This new policy implemented on the border is simply cruel and abusive, and we are standing for change.”
Despite being appalled, Nadella has not promised to cancel the ICE contract. He also failed to address the previous announcement that the ICE is using Microsoft deep learning for facial recognition. In other words, Satya Nadella has left most of the key questions unanswered.
Sources within the company say employees are unhappy with the vagueness of Nadella’s letter. They are concerned about contradictions and want specific answers about facial recognition.
Full Letter from Satya Nadella
Like many of you, I am appalled at the abhorrent policy of separating immigrant children from their families at the southern border of the U.S. As both a parent and an immigrant, this issue touches me personally.
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.
This new policy implemented on the border is simply cruel and abusive, and we are standing for change. Today Brad detailed our company’s position on this issue, as well as the immigration legislation currently being considered in Congress, and I encourage you to read his blog post.
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. Our current cloud engagement with U.S. 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 organization 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. We will continue to have this dialogue both within our company and with our stakeholders outside.
The immigration policy of this country is one of our greatest competitive advantages, and this is something we must preserve and promote. America is a nation of immigrants, and we’re able to attract people from around the world to contribute to our economy, our communities and our companies. We are also a beacon of hope for those who need it the most. This is what makes America stronger. We will always stand for immigration policies that preserve every person’s dignity and human rights. That means standing with every immigrant who works at Microsoft and standing for change in the inhumane treatment of children at the U.S. border today.