Around 15 activists converged on Microsoft’s Redmond campus on July 26 to turn in more than 300,000 signatures urging the corporation to stop providing services to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Microsoft provides ICE cloud services through the Azure Government platform. According to a previous Microsoft press release, it may also aid with facial recognition and identification programs, though this claim was later disputed by the company. This has led to concern that Microsoft is directly aiding ICE in rounding up and deporting undocumented immigrants under the Trump administration.
Activists rallied on the sidewalk outside of Microsoft’s visitor center as part of a movement called Cancel The Contract. It was spearheaded by a coalition of organizations called ColorOfChange whose senior campaign director, Scott Roberts, gave a statement.
“Microsoft must cancel its $19.4 million contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” he said.
Roberts said this was a natural end to a justice system that relies on policing and incarcerating people to solve social problems, which in turn profit businesses.
“A big part of the problem is that we built an entire economy around incarcerating and imprisoning,” he said.
Other organizations represented in the coalition included Demand Progress and Sum of Us, among many others. Sum of Us organizer Emma Pullman also made an appeal to Microsoft to terminate their contract with ICE.
“Right now, (Microsoft) is being asked a fundamental question: ‘Which side of history does it want to be on?’” she said.
ICE has come under scrutiny under the Trump administration, especially in recent months as a policy designed to separate children from parents was implemented. This led to a massive backlash against the agency and a growing call to abolish ICE, which was formed in 2003 in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. A recent report by The New York Times found that thousands of migrants have alleged they were sexually assaulted or abused while in the custody of ICE.
Of the more than 2,500 children ICE separated from their families under the direction of the Trump administration, little more than half had been reunited with their families as of a court-imposed deadline of July 26.
On top of separating families from their children and placing them in internment camps, ICE has stepped up arrests of non-violent undocumented immigrants in a departure from Obama-era policies that prioritized those who posed a risk. For example, Miguel Martinez, a father of two, was arrested by ICE in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood on July 11 while he was working a double shift at the Columbia City Ale House.
Instances like these led more than 300 Microsoft employees to sign an open letter to their company, urging them to end the $19.4 million contract with ICE. Additionally, more than 550 scientists, scholars and researchers signed an open letter similarly condemning the contract.
“We call on Microsoft, and all tech firms with ICE contracts, to drop those contracts immediately. Anything short of cancellation constitutes compliance with inhumane, abusive practices,” the academic’s letter read.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella responded to his employee’s letter in a LinkedIn post, saying the company was only supporting legacy email, messaging and document management workloads for ICE. He said these were not directly related to separating children from families and called the separation policy “cruel and abusive.”