In early September 2017, the Trump administration announced that it would phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was put in place by the previous administration. The DACA policy allows immigrants who came to the US as minors to apply for a two-year renewable deferral that allows them to stay in the country and go to school or find employment. Getting the deferral required vetting in the form of a background check.
The phase-out period will last for six months, but there is chance the United States Congress could enact new legislation to replace DACA, which was implemented by executive order. President Trump has called on Congress to do just that, but many of the affected individuals are skeptical that any legislation will ever be considered.
The information technology industry's reaction to this decision, led by industry leaders like Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, and Alphabet, was quick and unequivocal—the industry was uniformly against the decision to phase out the policy.
Microsoft took it a step further and published a scornful press release, written by Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer, that characterized the decision as "a big step back for our entire country." The release calls upon the US Congress to rearrange its schedule to tackle this issue immediately. It also makes it clear that Microsoft will offer legal services to any of its employees affected by the elimination of the DACA program.
Microsoft's overall position, according to the release, can be summed up with this paragraph:
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.
The possibility that the US Congress will address the DACA issue is dubious at best.
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The strong reaction of Microsoft and the rest of the information technology industry can be attributed to one central fact—the tech industry is an international global industry. With the pervasiveness of the internet, networks, and the cloud, the modern workforce for many enterprises has become a global workforce. The arbitrary boundaries of office buildings, nations, time zones, and even language are disappearing because technology renders them irrelevant.
The more utopian side of the tech industry's disdain for the decision to end DACA revolves around the perceived contribution of motivated young people entering the workforce with fresh ideas and unique perspectives. The more cynical view notes that many immigrants to the United States can be hired for smaller salaries than their citizen counterparts. The truth of the matter, and the reality of the situation, lies somewhere in between.
While Microsoft's strongly worded release surely reflects genuine concern over the plight of the "Dreamer" population, especially when they are company employees, it also reflects the reality of being a global enterprise. Microsoft and the rest of the major enterprises operating today require talented employees from all walks of life, regardless of country of origin.
Diversity is not some buzzword. It is a fact of life. Fresh ideas and fresh perspectives lead to innovation, and innovation leads to profits. The most effective way to gain those fresh ideas is by tapping into the entire population of the planet. Governments may not be on board with this view, but much of the business world is, and companies like Microsoft are pressing the issue.
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Putting aside the political issues, does business have a valid point about not wanting to lose valuable employees? Share your thoughts and opinions with your peers at TechRepublic in the discussion thread below.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.