Last Friday Trump signed an executive order imposing a 90-day ban on U.S. admissions and reentry for non-citizens coming from Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen.
Microsoft didn’t specify whether all of the employees under this ban are in the U.S. and can’t leave without risk of being stopped upon return, or if any are currently abroad and require intervention to get back in. Microsoft declined to comment for more information, stating that it is focusing its energy on directly supporting those employees, and on protecting their privacy.
The order has directly impacted a number of other Seattle-area businesses and their workers. Governor Jay Inslee and other elected officials headed to Sea-Tac International Airport over the weekend to blast the executive order, saying federal authorities there detained traveling families, including one with a family member who works at the airport itself.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella – an immigrant from Hyderabad, India – held a meeting alongside Smith on Monday to address concerns about the order and its repercussions for employee and the software company ore generally.
“As an immigrant and as a CEO, I’ve both experienced and seen the positive impact that immigration has on our company, for the country, and for the world,” Nadella wrote in a LinkedIn post. “We will continue to advocate on this important topic.”
Redmond-based Microsoft has pledged legal aid to employees affected by the ban, Smith noted in an statement to employees. “Microsoft believes in a strong and balanced high-skilled immigration system,” Smith wrote. “We believe that immigration laws can and should protect the public without sacrificing people’s freedom of expression or religion. And we believe in the importance of protecting legitimate and law-abiding refugees whose very lives many be at stake in immigration proceedings.”
Smith called for protecting a high-skilled immigration system and even expanding immigration opportunities, including the Deferred Access for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows undocumented youth who immigrated to the U.S. as minors to remain in the U.S. Many legal and political experts believe that program is at risk under the Trump administration.
Immigration is important to the economy in Washington. Immigrant- and refugee-owned businesses provide jobs for 140,000 people state-wide, and many Washington companies rely on foreign workers for operating and growing their businesses. Microsoft wrote in a quarterly earnings filing this week that a restrictive immigration system could hurt the company’s ability to recruit and carry our basic research and development.
Washington ranks 9th in the U.S. in the number of applications for high-tech visas. Microsoft is the state’s top employer of high-tech – or “H-1B” – visa holders and employs close to 5,000 people through the program. Amazon, T-Mobile, Expedia, Google, Facebook and Starbucks employ thousands more H-1B visa holders. Trump has hinted at plans to overhaul or scrap the H-1B program.