US migrant family separation: Microsoft issues statement following criticism over contract with US immigration agency

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Article
25 July 2018

The Investor Alliance for Human Rights shares Guidance on Corporate Human Rights Due Diligence Related to Immigration Detention and Family Separation

Author: The Investor Alliance for Human Rights

According to the United Nation's (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the practice of separating children at the border constitutes “arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child,"... Companies with existing or potential contracts with the U.S. Federal Government associated with the enforcement of immigration policies are exposed to the risk of contributing to, or being directly linked to, violations of human rights, including children’s rights, due process, equal protection, freedom from
persecution and torture, and the rights of asylum seekers. This exposes companies to significant legal and reputational risks, including brand risk and workplace unrest by employees who are strongly opposed to these practices. 

This document, developed by the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, provides an overview of the human rights risks associated with family separation and indefinite immigration detention, and includes guidance to help companies identify, assess and address those risks, both in the U.S. and globally.

 

Objective 

By providing guiding questions that are in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and developed in collaboration with UNICEF, this document helps:

  • Companies identify, assess and address real and potential human rights impacts they may be contributing to, or directly linked to, through U.S. Federal Government contracts; and
  • Investors engage their portfolio companies to address the human rights impacts associated with immigration detention and family detention.

Download the full document here

Article
25 July 2018

The Investor Alliance for Human Rights shares Guidance on Corporate Human Rights Due Diligence Related to Immigration Detention and Family Separation

Author: The Investor Alliance for Human Rights

According to the United Nation's (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the practice of separating children at the border constitutes “arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child,"... Companies with existing or potential contracts with the U.S. Federal Government associated with the enforcement of immigration policies are exposed to the risk of contributing to, or being directly linked to, violations of human rights, including children’s rights, due process, equal protection, freedom from
persecution and torture, and the rights of asylum seekers. This exposes companies to significant legal and reputational risks, including brand risk and workplace unrest by employees who are strongly opposed to these practices. 

This document, developed by the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, provides an overview of the human rights risks associated with family separation and indefinite immigration detention, and includes guidance to help companies identify, assess and address those risks, both in the U.S. and globally.

 

Objective 

By providing guiding questions that are in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and developed in collaboration with UNICEF, this document helps:

  • Companies identify, assess and address real and potential human rights impacts they may be contributing to, or directly linked to, through U.S. Federal Government contracts; and
  • Investors engage their portfolio companies to address the human rights impacts associated with immigration detention and family detention.

Download the full document here

Article
19 June 2018

Microsoft says it is “dismayed” by the forced separation of migrant families at the border

Author: Catherine Shu, techcrunch

Amid calls for a boycott and employee dissent over its cloud-computing deal with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Microsoft  issued a statement saying that the company “is dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border.”...The controversy over Microsoft’s involvement with the ICE  stems from an Authority to Operate (ATO) that the agency granted to Azure Government earlier this year. In a January blog post, Microsoft said the ATO would enable the ICE to deliver cloud-based identity and access services and “help employees make more informed decisions faster.” It also said that the use of its government compliant cloud computing software would allow ICE to “process data on edge devices or utilize deep learning capabilities to accelerate facial recognition and identification.” Though the ATO has been public for six months already, it resurfaced as outrage grew over the separation of families, including those legally seeking asylum with children, with many social media users calling for a boycott of Microsoft and some employees considering resigning.

Read the full post here

Article
19 June 2018

Microsoft employees protest work With ICE, as tech industry mobilizes over immigration

Author: Sheera Frankel, The New York Times

In an open letter posted to Microsoft’s internal message board... more than 100 employees protested the software maker’s work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and asked the company to stop working with the agency, which has been separating migrant parents and their children at the border with Mexico. “We believe that Microsoft must take an ethical stand, and put children and families above profits,” said the letter... The letter pointed to a $19.4 million contract that Microsoft has with ICE for processing data and artificial intelligence capabilities... The letter is part of a wave of tech workers mobilizing this week against the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy that refers for criminal prosecution all immigrants apprehended crossing the border without authorization... At Silicon Valley companies including Google, Apple and Facebook, employees have in recent days circulated internal emails asking for donations to nonprofit groups that support immigrants... The activity has had an effect. Late on Tuesday, after Microsoft’s employee letter went up, the company released a memo from Mr. Nadellain which he called the immigration policy “cruel and abusive” and said Microsoft was not working with the federal government on any projects to separate families. Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, also published a blog post titled, “The Country Needs to Get Immigration Right.”...On Facebook, two former employees of the social network started a fund-raiser on Saturday to collect $1,500 for migrants who needed legal assistance because of the new policy. By Tuesday afternoon, the effort had garnered more than $5 million from donors who included numerous tech workers.

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Article
19 June 2018

Microsoft Employees Up in Arms Over Cloud Contract With ICE

Author: Bryan Menegus, Gizmodo (USA)

Tensions are high within Microsoft, as new scrutiny is given to a partnership between the company’s Azure Government cloud computing arm and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to several Microsoft employees who spoke to Gizmodo on the condition of anonymity. Two were considering leaving the company based on the response. The partnership was first made public in late January, where Microsoft announced it was “proud to support” the agency’s efforts—but given the size of the company, many employees were not even aware any such agreement was in place until recently. A likely catalyst is the recent revelations that ICE separates asylum-seeking families and confines children in cages...Internally, as news of the contract spread, employees expressed their dissent. “This is the sort of thing that would make me question staying,” one employee told Gizmodo. Another echoed, “I’ll seriously consider leaving if I’m not happy with how they handle this.” Microsoft condemned family separation by ICE in a statement to Gizmodo but declined to specify if specific tools within Azure Government, like Face API—facial recognition software—were in use by the agency. The company also did not comment on whether it had assisted in building artificial intelligence tools for ICE, something the agency has been seeking (and courting Microsoft over) for some time.

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Article
19 June 2018

Microsoft President Brad Smith urges Congress to enact fair bipartisan immigration solutions

Author: Brad Smith, Microsoft

"This country needs to get immigration right," 19 June 2018

This is rapidly becoming a momentous week in the history of immigration for the United States. As the House of Representatives prepares to vote on two major bills, we need our elected officials to get things right. In part, we need Congress to address the DREAMers and those affected by the green card backlog. We need improved security at the border. And perhaps more than anything, we need Congress to remember the fundamental decency and humanitarian spirit that defines us as a people and a nation. In short, we need to take care of children... 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... As is the case for the nation, we believe the diversity of our employees is one of our greatest strengths... Reflecting this perspective, for more than a decade we’ve made the protection of children in immigration proceedings one of Microsoft’s signature civic initiatives. In 2008 we co-founded one of the nation’s premier organizations focused on representing in immigration proceedings children that have been separated from their families, Kids in Need of Defense.

...One bill the House will vote upon – the Securing America’s Future Act (H.R. 4760) – plainly represents the wrong approach. It undermines the ability for unaccompanied children to express their need for protection and replaces child-oriented oversight and care with prolonged detention for children in adult facilities... The newly introduced bill – the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018 (H.R. 6136) – is better, but it needs to be improved in significant ways, including by requiring the administration to end the changes it instituted in April to separate children from their families at the border.   

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Item
19 June 2018

Microsoft statement on separating families at the southern border

Author: Microsoft

In response to questions we want to be clear: Microsoft is not working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or U.S. Customs and Border Protection on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border, and contrary to some speculation, we are not aware of Azure or Azure services being used for this purpose. 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. As a company Microsoft has worked for over 20 years to combine technology with the rule of law to ensure that children who are refugees and immigrants can remain with their parents. We need to continue to build on this noble tradition rather than change course now. We urge the administration to change its policy and Congress to pass legislation ensuring children are no longer separated from their families. 

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Article
18 June 2018

Microsoft's ethical reckoning is here

Author: Nitasha Tiku, Wired

...critics noted a blog post from January in which Microsoft touted its work with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The post celebrated a government certification that allowed Microsoft Azure, the company’s cloud-computing platform, to handle sensitive unclassified information for ICE... The post resurfaced amid outrage over ICE’s role in forcibly separating families soon after they arrive in the US, with some children detained in cages. Critics lambasted Microsoft on social media, asking the company to discontinue its work with ICE... Tech Workers Coalition, a labor group for tech industry employees, urged Microsoft employees to coordinate their opposition. “If you are a worker building these tools or others at Microsoft, decide now that you will not be complicit,” the group tweeted... Late Monday, Microsoft said it is “not working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or U.S. Customs and Border Protection on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border, and contrary to some speculation, we are not aware of Azure or Azure services being used for this purpose.” The company also decried policies that lead to separating families. “As a company, Microsoft is dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border,” the statement said. 

... The backlash against Microsoft underscores the shifting moral boundaries for tech companies, which have worked closely with defense and military since the advent of Silicon Valley... Most of the recent debate has been around uses of artificial intelligence to identify objects in video footage from drones, or to identify people through facial recognition.

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Article
17 June 2018

Commentary by Microsoft President: Father’s Day: A day for families to be together

Author: Brad Smith, Microsoft

This Father’s Day provides an opportunity to recall one thing we shouldn’t take for granted – the opportunity to be with our children... And given the news of migrant children being separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border, it’s especially poignant this year. Twenty years ago, Microsoft became the first business to partner with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in a new private sector program. Our goal was simple: to use technology to reunite families that had been separated by violence. The place was Bosnia, and the cause was the war that had ripped whole communities apart... Ten years ago, in the United States, Microsoft co-founded a national volunteer organization, Kids in Need of Defense, or KIND... When we keep children with their parents, we not only follow in the footsteps of one of the world’s oldest and most important humanitarian traditions, we help build a stronger country. 

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