Should Microsoft end its contract with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)? This was the question posed to tens of thousands of Microsoft employees late last month—all users of the anonymous messaging board Blind.
Less than half responded, “Yes.”
According to Blind, 55.68 per cent of Microsoft employees believe the company should continue its work with ICE, the federal law enforcement agency charged with rounding up immigrants who are in the United States illegally.
Fewer than 22 per cent believe the company should sever ties with ICE, according to the survey, while nearly 23 per cent said the contract should continue, but only under new conditions, which were not specified.
Of the thousands who were asked, a total of 1,180 Microsoft employees participated in the survey, according to Blind. The company’s website states that more than 40,000 Microsoft employees use the service, which requires users to register with a company email account or via LinkedIn.
Users who sign up for Blind with public email accounts, such as Gmail or Yahoo, are limited to read-only access on certain topic-based boards. Blind confirmed to Gizmodo that only users with Microsoft email accounts were allowed to participate in the survey.
The question of whether Microsoft and other tech companies should continue aiding federal immigration agencies comes amid the developing controversy over Trump administration policies that led to more than 2,300 children being separated from their migrant parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Gizmodo reported in mid-June that more than 100 employees had signed an open letter demanding Microsoft cancel its $US19.4 ($26) million contract with ICE. Roughly a week later, more than 300 employees had reportedly threatened to resign unless the contract was canceled.
In attempting to quell the dissent, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella downplayed the significance of the contract, stating that Microsoft was “not working with the U.S. government on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border.” Instead, he said, the company’s work with the agency is limited to “supporting legacy mail, calendar, messaging and document management workloads.”
Nadella called the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” practice at the border “cruel and abusive.”
Microsoft had previously boasted in January that its cloud service, Azure, would enable ICE to “accelerate facial recognition and identification.”
In response to outcry from the public and influential members of his own party, President Trump signed an executive order on June 20 to house together the migrant parents and children who are awaiting asylum hearings or deportation.
The separation policy was further blocked on June 27 by a U.S. district judge who ordered that the families be reunited within 30 days; children under the age of five were to be reunited with their parents within two weeks.
Trump officials said that complying with the judge’s timeframe prove challenging, if not impossible, citing a need to verify familial ties.
A Pentagon spokesperson said on June 21 that the government was preparing to detain as many as 20,000 migrant children on four military bases—a practice that has been widely compared to the establishment of internment or concentration camps, not unlike those which housed more a hundred thousand people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the Trump administration’s immigrant-detention plans would be a boon for private prison operators.
The stock prices of two of the country’s largest private prison companies, CoreCivic Inc. and Geo Group, rose last month, the Journal reported, amid news that Trump administration planned to seek billions in additional funding in next year’s federal budget to increase the number of beds in immigrant detention centres.