Amid red-hot immigration debate, U.S. tech leaders speak out

The faces of some of America’s biggest companies are condemning the Trump administration’s ‘zero-tolerance’ immigration policy, including the practice of separating children from parents.

Tech immigration response

When should CEOs weigh in on political issues?

Studies have shown that consumers want companies to take a strong stand on social issues that affect them. However, the current political climate might have communicators—and top executives—wary about weighing in on especially thorny issues.

As the debate over immigration overtakes the national conversation, leaders of some tech companies are speaking out against the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies, specifically separating children from their parents, sometimes for months at a time.

Do their statements strengthen their brand reputation or risk turning off consumers?

[RELATED: Get the skills you need to become a trusted advisor to leaders.]

Apple CEO Tim Cook denounced the hard-line immigration policy in an interview with the Irish Times.

It reported:

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

In his interview, Cook promised to do more than just speak out:

“I’m personally a big believer in the way to be a good citizen is to participate, is to try to advocate your point of view, not to just sit on the sideline and yell or complain,” he said.“That will be the approach we will take here. This one in particular is just heartbreaking and tragic.”

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg released statements that criticized Trump’s immigration policy.

Zuckerberg called on people to donate to organizations helping families at the border:

Sandberg was more descriptive in her plea.

Internal pressure at Microsoft

Employees at Microsoft have been protesting the company’s contract with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency after revelations that facial recognition software can be used to target minorities.

The Verge reported:

More than 100 Microsoft employees are now calling on Microsoft to cancel its ICE contracts, create a policy to not work with clients that violate international human rights law, and commit to transparency around Microsoft government contracts. “We request that Microsoft cancel its contracts with ICE, and with other clients who directly enable ICE,” say the more than 100 workers in an open letter published by the New York Times. “As the people who build the technologies that Microsoft profits from, we refuse to be complicit.”

Microsoft’s chief executive pushed back on those claims.

The Verge continued:

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has now responded to this growing criticism of ICE contracts in an internal memo to all employees: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 President Brad Smith penned a blog post urging the administration to amend its immigration policy.

It read, in part:

As much as any business in the country – and one that generates one of the nation’s leading export surpluses – Microsoft is a company of immigrants in a nation of immigrants. A high majority of our employees grew up in the United States. Like most Americans, most of us have ancestors that came from someplace else. Microsoft also has employees who have moved here from more than 120 other countries, including lawful permanent residents, high-skilled immigrants on the path to a green card, and DREAMers. This has made Microsoft something akin to “the United Nations of Software.”As is the case for the nation, we believe the diversity of our employees is one of our greatest strengths. We appreciate, as few companies can, that a healthy immigration policy is important from a humanitarian perspective and serves as a vital engine of the nation’s economic growth.

Other tech CEOs, from Google to Airbnb, tweeted their anger:

Twitter’s CEO asked people to share what he and other users could do to help:

Elon Musk was cryptic in his tweets:

Some say border security is a priority, but they condemn current policy:

Others called on people to put aside partisan differences:

What do you think of these Silicon Valley leaders’ statements?

COMMENT

One Response to “Amid red-hot immigration debate, U.S. tech leaders speak out”

    John H. says:

    Communications that begin with, “Regardless of your politics,” have your audience feeling a sense of disdain before your words have been comprehended. When writing out “regardless of your politics,” in a memo to your employees or an external source, just remove it. Your words are more effective as a whole when exhibiting them in their simplest form.

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