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Microsoft to feds: Please exempt our immigrant workers hit by travel ban

Cyrus Farivar

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Microsoft has formally asked the US Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security to grant it and other companies an exemption to the Trump administration’s executive order that restricts entry or re-entry of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. The order, which was signed last Friday, affects immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria.
On Wednesday, a federal judge in Los Angeles "enjoined and restrained" the president's executive order for the time being—following similar temporary restraining orders that other judges have also issued in recent days in related lawsuits filed elsewhere. While the executive order is theoretically halted for the time being, the various restraining orders around the country don’t provide any predictable, long-term solution as of yet, legal experts say.
"This is very disruptive to a business model," Lenni Benson, an immigration law professor at New York Law School, told Ars, noting that many companies are starting to ponder what the long-term ramifications of such a ban are, especially if it is eventually upheld in court.
Another immigration law professor, Jennifer Chac√≥n of the University of California, Irvine, told Ars that right now the "road forward is uncertain," even if some of the plaintiffs eventually win some of their arguments.
"These companies presumably want something more certain and stable in place to allow them to continue their operations," she wrote in an e-mail. "They may also want the Trump administration to rethink portions of the order that may withstand legal scrutiny but that they view as inconsistent with broader national values."

“Critical roles”

In its Thursday letter, Microsoft explained that it has 76 employees (along with their 41 dependents) who are affected by the executive order. It asks that the government create a "case-by-case" exception for those who already hold a valid and relevant visa, have no criminal record, and have a pressing need to leave the country for business or exigent family reasons.
Brad Smith, Microsoft’s top lawyer, wrote that the company’s affected employees have already "undergone significant government security review."
As he continued:
These individuals fill critical roles in the organizations that employ them, whether they are doctors, scientists, engineers, medical technicians, researchers, architects, software developers, or any number of other highly skilled professionals. They are deeply valued contributors to the innovation, research, and business acumen of our nation, and they serve critical roles in the successful operations of US companies.
There is also a deep personal cost for many impacted individuals. Again, even among just our own employees, we have one individual who is unable to start her new job in the US; others who have been separated from their spouses; and yet another employee who is confronted with the gut-wrenching decision of whether to visit her dying parent overseas. These are not situations that law-abiding individuals should be forced to confront when there is no evidence that they pose a security or safety threat to the United States.
Neither the Department of State nor the Department of Homeland Security immediately responded to Ars’ request for comment.

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