Tech is facing a 'tough summer' for immigration issues, Microsoft's Brad Smith says

Key Points
  • Microsoft has previously sought to defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, despite the Trump administration's attempts to end it.
  • Brad Smith, Microsoft's president and chief counsel, said he doesn't think there's a desire to find common political ground around DACA.
  • Smith said the U.S. government could also remove the authorization to work for spouses of some visa holders.
Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft speaking at the 2018 Code Conference on May 29th, 2018.
Asa Mathat | Vox Media

Brad Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, said on Tuesday that he fears a "tough summer" is ahead, with respect to immigration issues like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The Trump Administration has sought to end DACA, an Obama-era policy that provides legal protection for young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Microsoft has advocated the protection of DACA and has more broadly supported immigration as a way to make sure U.S. companies are hiring talented people.

Smith, who has previously been outspoken against the efforts to stop DACA, told Recode's Kara Swisher that he doubts there will be any kind of political compromise to keep the program intact.

"There is room, I believe, for common ground if people want to find it," Smith said at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. "In an era of such disagreement, I just don't know that people are looking for that common ground."

Smith also said he thought the Trump administration could try to take away work authorization for spouses of people with H-1B visas, known as the H-4 rule. This would affect "virtually every company," he said.

"We have 98 employees who are here on an H-4," Smith said. "They will lose their jobs if this administration revokes that authority."

Additionally, Smith said, the U.S. government could roll back the potential for certain people with science, technology, engineering or math degrees to work under H-1B visas.

If that were to happen, Smith said, "we could have thousands of people suddenly unable to work. And I just think this is terrible for the country, it's terrible for the tech sector and it is a tragedy for the individuals involved."

Microsoft could well take its political opposition to the courts, Smith said.

"I think we need to be firm in our resolve to take whatever action we can," he said. "That means using our voice, it means using our lawyers, it may mean standing behind our employees, and if necessary, giving them the ability to work in Canada instead of the United States."

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