Tech giants urge support of DACA as December deadlines loom

Their goal: Highlight the value to the US economy of so-called Dreamers, those undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children.

Claudia Cruz Reporter / CNET en Español
Claudia Cruz is a reporter for CNET en Español. Previously she served as the local editor and social media manager for Mountain View and Palo Alto, Patch.com. Prior to that, editor at El Correo de Queens and contributed as a staff reporter to The Queens Courier in New York City. She has a Masters degree from the City University of New York's (CUNY) Graduate School of Journalism in business and entrepreneurial journalism, and a Juris Doctor from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Claudia's a native New Yorker, daughter of Dominican parents. She loves baseball, yoga and tasting the abundant microbrews in California.
Claudia Cruz
3 min read

Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California system and former Homeland Security secretary, California State Sen. Scott Wiener (center) and Microsoft Assistant General Counsel Jack Chen (right) discuss what can be done to help Dreamers remain in the country.

Claudia Cruz/CNET

For many of those covered by DACA, a controversial program that offers protection to undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children, the support of the technology industry could help them secure the opportunity to remain in the US.

That future was the focus of a panel discussion Tuesday evening on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era program targeted for dismantling by the Trump administration. Hundreds of workers at technology companies such as Apple, Facebook and Microsoft could be subject to deportation as of March 5, 2018.

For Ron Conway, founder of the SV Angel seed fund and co-founder of the immigration reform organization FWD.us, the tech industry has as much to lose as recipients of DACA, sometimes referred to as "Dreamers."

"In this group [of Dreamers] is the next founder of a great tech company -- the next Mark Zuckerberg, the next Sergey Brin," Conway, wearing a "We are all Dreamers" T-shirt, said during the discussion at Microsoft's San Francisco office. "We have to get pissed off and call our members of Congress.

"We have to urge Congress to add the DREAM Act to the spending bill," Conway said, referring to the Dec. 9 deadline to approve a budget that would prevent the shutdown of the federal government.

Watch this: Zuckerberg to Dreamers: We're going to stand with you

The tech community has lobbied for years for immigration-friendly policies that would benefit skilled workers -- people who American tech companies say they need to keep their competitive edge.

Other members of the panel included Janet Napolitano, former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama and current president of the University of California system, and Jack Chen, an assistant general counsel at Microsoft.

"So much of the benefit and innovation in technology comes disproportionately from immigrants," said Chen, whose boss, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, is himself an immigrant. "We have been a talent magnet for so long, and I want to posit that we don't want to find out what it'll be like if we no longer are."

Current law does not give these immigrants a path to become legal and gain citizenship, and previous attempts to pass the DREAM Act -- the last one in 2010 -- have failed. An executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2012 gave individuals who arrived in the US before the age of 16 permission to stay and granted them some privileges, so long as they meet a number of conditions.

In September, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that individuals whose DACA status expires by March 5, 2018, could apply for a two-year extension. Nearly 800,000 people have qualified for DACA, but as of Sept. 4, only 690,000 were enrolled, according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service.

In an effort to save DACA, tech giants such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook earlier this month joined more than 100 other companies in filing an amicus brief in support of a University of California lawsuit against the US Department of Homeland Security.

Tech companies say the elimination of DACA would harm the US economy and their bottom lines directly. The brief indicates that 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies employ Dreamers. A study by the Center for American Progress estimated that the loss of all DACA workers would reduce US gross domestic product by $433 billion over the next 10 years.

Oral arguments in the lawsuit are scheduled to begin Dec. 20. when lawyers for the University of California, which has 4,000 DACA students, will argue that the government violated administrative and due process laws of the US Constitution, according to Napolitano.

"Do we want to be a talent magnet for the world or do we want to lose them?" Napolitano said during the panel. "I say, let's be a talent magnet."

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