Microsoft supports 'family unification' but also provides tech for U.S. immigration enforcement

Microsoft Logo at Ignite
Microsoft Logo at Ignite (Image credit: Windows Central)

The child migrant crisis currently underway at the U.S.-Mexico border is causing a firestorm of public outrage throughout the country, and Microsoft has now found itself in the middle. The cause? A January 2018 blog post in which Microsoft says it is "proud to support" the work of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is at the center of the controversy over separating migrant children from their parents, by providing Azure tech to the agency.

The January blog touted Azure Government's achievement of Authority to Operate (ATO) designations for two arms of the U.S. government: the Air Force and ICE. In reference to ICE, Microsoft stated in January:

ICE's decision to accelerate IT modernization using Azure Government will help them innovate faster while reducing the burden of legacy IT. The agency is currently implementing transformative technologies for homeland security and public safety, and we're proud to support this work with our mission-critical cloud.

Though the post came months ahead of the current controversy and is clearly unrelated, some Twitter users have called out Microsoft's support of ICE as offensive.

When reached for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson stated:

As a company, Microsoft is dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border. Family unification has been a fundamental tenant of American policy and law since the end of World War II. As a company Microsoft has worked for over 20 years to combine technology with the rule of law to ensure that children who are refugees and immigrants can remain with their parents. We need to continue to build on this noble tradition rather than change course now. We urge the administration to change its policy and Congress to pass legislation ensuring children are no longer separated from their families.

That sentiment largely jells with a Father's Day LinkedIn post from Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith, in which he called attention to the issue. From that post:

This Father's Day provides an opportunity to recall one thing we shouldn't take for granted – the opportunity to be with our children. It's what makes Father's Day so special. And given the news of migrant children being separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border, it's especially poignant this year.

Given its public stance, Microsoft clearly isn't supporting children being separated from their parents. Indeed, the company provides services like Azure and Windows to a number of commercial entities and governments around the world, including the U.S. federal government.

Still, the company's position on the border crisis stands in sharp contrast to its willingness to provide backend technical support for the digital services that ICE relies upon to pursue its mission. Given the complicated nature of the contracts and services involved, there's likely no easy answer here. But, with the passion of the current political climate, and the plight of families arriving at the border, Microsoft's support of ICE is likely to remain a thorny issue.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl