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Tech giants join fight against Trump to protect young people brought to the US as infants

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 2:18am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 4:13am

The technology industry is fighting President Trump’s plan to mothball a programme that allows young people who were brought to the US illegally as children to remain here, opening yet another front in an increasingly tense relationship with the White House.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, is an Obama administration programme that allows nearly 800,000 “DREAMers,” young undocumented immigrants, to work and study legally in the US.

Trump had been expected to announce on Friday whether he will end DACA or let the programme gradually expire. Under the programme, DREAMers can remain in the US until their work permits expire. The work permits must be renewed every two years. His decision is now expected next week.

“I think the dreamers are terrific,” he said when asked what he would tell young immigrants awaiting his move.

On Thursday night, hundreds of tech and business leaders from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to Google’s Sundar Pichai sent a letter to Trump and congressional leaders.

“We call on President Trump to preserve the DACA programme. 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,” the letter sent through FWD.us, a pro-immigration group cofounded by Mark Zuckerberg.

In a separate blog post, the Facebook co-founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) made an emotional plea.

“We need a government that protects Dreamers,” Zuckerberg wrote.

Then in the comments, he debated Facebook users on immigration.

“People who jump over fences and enter this country illegal are not dreamers they are criminals and should be deported!” wrote one Facebook user.

Zuckerberg responded: “It’s tough to jump over a fence when you’re 1 or 2 years old. Many of these young folks didn’t even make the decision to come here themselves. They were brought by their parents, they’ve grown up here, and this is the only country they’ve ever known.

Microsoft urged Trump not to pull the plug on the programme, saying 27 of its employees could be affected. Among them are software engineers, finance professionals and retail and sales associates, Microsoft said.

“Ending DACA will drastically disrupt the lives of these individuals who willingly came forward to register with the federal government. They could lose their jobs and risk deportation,” Brad Smith, the company’s president and chief legal officer, said in a blog post Thursday.

‘We’re after criminals, not dreamers’: Trump tells young immigrants in US illegally to ‘rest easy’

Ending DACA could endanger 700,000 jobs, according to research released this week by FWD.us and the Centre for American Progress, with data from the Cato Institute. Some 91 per cent of DACA recipients are employed. If Trump ends the programme, 1,400 people of them will lose their ability to work each business day, the research found.

The tech industry has already clashed with the Trump administration on immigration. It’s a hot-button issue for an industry which relies heavily on foreign workers.

Apple CEO Tim Cook told Trump his administration needed to show “more heart” on immigration, including DACA, during a meeting at the White House in June.

Some multinationals are making contingency plans to move vulnerable workers to overseas locations, according to news site Axios.

Trump’s relationship with the technology industry and the business community at large is fraying. Business leaders abandoned the president in droves over his response to a deadly neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville.

The DACA programme allows young people who arrived by 2007 to remain in the US if they were illegally brought by their parents to the US before they were 16 years old and lived here since then without committing any serious crimes. They must renew their DACA status every two years.

Trump pledged during his campaign to scrap the programme, but seemed to have had a change of heart until attorneys general from 10 states urged the White House to let the programme lapse or face a challenge in federal court.