Microsoft CEO Responds to Employee Criticism of Company's Contract With ICE

Microsoft chief executive Sayta Nadella sent a memo to employees late Tuesday saying that the tech giant’s contract with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is limited to administrative functions unrelated to the White House policy of separating children and families at the US-Mexican border.

The memo came after more than 100 employees wrote a letter asking leadership to cancel the nearly $20 million (roughly Rs. 136 crores) contract with the federal agency amid nationwide condemnation of the Trump administration’s border control policy. The employees’ letter was first published Tuesday by the New York Times.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump changed course on his policy and said he would sign an executive order ending family separations at the southern border.

The contract being criticised by Microsoft workers is for the Azure Government product, a cloud-based service that Nadella said in his memo only supports ICE functions such as mail and document management. “I want to be clear: Microsoft is not working with the US government on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border,” Nadella said in his memo. He said Microsoft’s “engagement with any government has been and will be guided by our ethics and principles.” He slammed the administration’s border policy, calling it “simply cruel and abusive.”

In their letter, employees said that any involvement with ICE was too much. “We are providing the technical undergirding in support of an agency that is actively enforcing this inhumane policy,” they wrote. In addition to asking Microsoft to cancel the contract, employees also asked that the company commit to working only with clients who do not violate human rights law, as well as to submit to a review of all government contracts.

Nadella referred to his own experience as an immigrant in his memo. “My story would not have been possible anywhere else,” he said.