Microsoft said it would lend its corporate strength to employees facing the threat of deportation after the Trump administration announced plans to repeal a program that protected "Dreamers."
Following Attorney General Jeff Sesssion's Tuesday announcement that the administration would phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program over the next six months, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith issued a statement decrying the decision.
"We believe this is a big step back for our entire country," Smith said in the statement. "The question for individuals, employers and the country is what we do now."
"Dreamers" refers to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children and protected under the DACA program, an executive order signed by President Barack Obama that allowed the young immigrants to remain in the country and obtain work permits.
Smith called on Congress to act quickly in drafting DACA replacement legislation, urging it to drop negotiations on tax reform "given the number of legislative days Congress has scheduled over the next sixth months."
"We need to put the humanitarian needs of these 800,000 people on the legislative calendar before a tax bill," the statement read. "As an employer, we appreciate that Dreamers add to the competitiveness and economic success of our company and the entire nation's business community. In short, urgent DACA legislation is both an economic imperative and a humanitarian necessity."
If Congress is unable to agree on legislation, Smith pledged support for Microsoft's 39 Dreamer employees.
"If Congress fails to act, our company will exercise its legal rights properly to help protect our employees," Smith said. "If the government seeks to deport any one of them, we will provide and pay for their legal counsel. We will also file an amicus brief and explore whether we can directly intervene in any such case. In short, if Dreamers who are our employees are in court, we will be by their side."
Enacted by President Obama in 2012, the DACA program offered protection from deportation and a work permit for two years for those who had come to the country before the age of 16, had lived in the U.S continuously since 2007 and were in school or had graduated. Any felony or significant misdemeanor convictions disqualified applicants.
The administration will wind down the program -- which Sessions called an "unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch" -- by not accepting any new applications. Those with current work permits will be able to use them until they expire, officials said.
Individuals who applied for DACA for the first time or applied for a renewal before Tuesday will still be eligible. Those whose protections were set to end before March 5 will be able to apply for a renewal by Oct. 5.
Last week, after reports came out that the administration was considering rescinding DACA, Smith and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella wrote in favor of the program.
"We care deeply about the Dreamers who work at Microsoft and fully support them," Nadella said. "We will always stand for diversity and economic opportunity for everyone. It is core to who we are at Microsoft and I believe it is core to what America is."
Amazon, Starbucks, Boeing and Nordstrom did not immediately respond when asked if they would issue statements on the DACA decision.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
SeattlePI.com is a KOMO News partner. You can read this story at SeattlePI.com here.