The Trump administration announced Tuesday it intends to terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that protects from deportation close to 800,000 people who entered the U.S. illegally as children.
The decision provoked strong condemnation from business and technology leaders, many of whom are immigrants themselves.
The backlash began last Thursday, as a broad spectrum of CEOs and other business, community and educational leaders signed a public letter by FWD.us, an immigration reform group, opposing any action on DACA.
By Monday, more than 400 business leaders had signed the letter, running the gamut from industry stalwarts like General Motors CEO Mary Barra to Silicon Valley titans such as Apple’s Tim Cook, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Many also spoke out individually.
Microsoft’s chief legal officer Brad Smith offered a strong defense of DACA as “both an economic imperative and a humanitarian necessity.” He urged Congress to reprioritize its legislative calendar to focus on legislation to protect the so-called Dreamers instead of digging into tax a reform bill.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in announcing the decision on DACA, said it will end in six months, giving Congress a window to figure out legislation to protect from deportation those covered by the program.
Smith pledged that Microsoft will provide and pay for legal counsel for any of its employees who are Dreamers, should the government attempt to deport them:
As this debate moves forward, we need to remember that these 800,000 individuals came to our nation as children. They grew up in this country. They attended our local schools and count millions of American citizens as friends. They obey our laws, pay taxes here and have registered voluntarily with the federal government for DACA relief. They are loyal to this country and contribute their time and money to local churches, schools and community groups. The Dreamers are part of our nation’s fabric. They belong here.
This is why we will work as needed with other companies and the broader business community to vigorously defend the legal rights of all Dreamers. For the 39 Dreamers that we know of who are our employees, our commitment is clear. If Congress fails to act, our company will exercise its legal rights properly to help protect our employees. If the government seeks to deport any one of them, we will provide and pay for their legal counsel. We will also file an amicus brief and explore whether we can directly intervene in any such case. In short, if Dreamers who are our employees are in court, we will be by their side.
Cook also noted the number of Dreamers who work at Apple and offered his support:
250 of my Apple coworkers are #Dreamers. I stand with them. They deserve our respect as equals and a solution rooted in American values.— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) September 3, 2017
Mark Zuckerberg encouraged his Facebook followers to call their representatives and tell them to “do the right thing.”
“This is a sad day for our country,” he 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.
Google’s Pichai also reaffirmed his support:
Uber tweeted its support for the FWD.us letter, as did Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky. Lyft co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer also signed the letter and individually tweeted affirmations of it Tuesday.
As entrepreneurs and business leaders, we are concerned about new developments in immigration policy that threaten the future of young undocumented immigrants brought to America as children.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows nearly 800,000 Dreamers the basic opportunity to work and study without the threat of deportation, is in jeopardy. All DACA recipients grew up in America, registered with our government, submitted to extensive background checks, and are diligently giving back to our communities and paying income taxes. More than 97 percent are in school or in the workforce, 5 percent started their own business, 65 percent have purchased a vehicle, and 16 percent have purchased their first home. At least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies count DACA recipients among their employees.
Unless we act now to preserve the DACA program, all 780,000 hardworking young people will lose their ability to work legally in this country, and every one of them will be at immediate risk of deportation. Our economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions.
Dreamers are vital to the future of our companies and our economy. With them, we grow and create jobs. They are part of why we will continue to have a global competitive advantage.
We call on President Trump to preserve the DACA program. We call on Congress to pass the bipartisan DREAM Act or legislation that provides these young people raised in our country the permanent solution they deserve.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.