Microsoft employees ask CEO to cancel ICE contract

Microsoft visitor center in Redmond. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images for Microsoft)

About 100 Microsoft employees sent an open letter to CEO Satya Nadella this week urging the company to cancel its $19.4 million contract with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

“As the people that build the products that Microsoft profits from, we refuse to be complicit,” they wrote in the letter, posted on Twitter Tuesday by Gizmodo writer Kate Conger.

GeekWire reports that the letter follows the surfacing this week of a company blog post from January touting ICE’s use of the company’s services to “process data on edge devices or utilize deep learning capabilities to accelerate facial recognition and identification.”

The company said its software was not being used to facilitate the separation of families who have stopped at the U.S. border, but the letter from employees said that doesn’t clear the company of culpability.

“We are providing the technical undergirding of an agency enforcing this inhumane policy,” the letter said.

Nadella in a statement released late Tuesday reiterated its statement that its services were not being used to enforce family separation, and urged a change in the policy.

“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,” he said in the prepared statement.

At the start of this year, federal authorities implemented a policy to arrest and detain all adults without documentation trying to enter through a U.S. border, including asylum seekers. This has resulted in thousands of children, who cannot be put in federal prisons, being separated from their parents and housed in foster care or in holding facilities.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday to keep families together while criminal and immigration proceedings were conducted.

Other companies have issued statements refusing to participate in family separations. The air carriers American, Frontier, Southwest and United all issued statements that their airlines would not transport children being separated from their parents.