IBM is engaged in a couple of unusual efforts to encourage lawmakers to protect “Dreamers,” and pass legislation that protects them from deportation. IBM employs 31 Dreamers and is flying them to Washington to meet with lawmakers directly. It wants Congress to pass this legislation by the end of the year now that Trump has rescinded support for the act that previously protected them.
IBM has launched a major campaign to convince lawmakers to pass legislation that protects Dreamers from deportation and to do so by the end of the year.
Dreamers are the people who were raised in the US as their only homeland when their parents brought them into the country as children without legal immigration status. There are some 800,000 undocumented immigrants who have been living in the US since they were children.
Under President Obama they were protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). With this protected status, they could secure work permits, get jobs and pay taxes. The hope was that that Congress would pass immigration reform that gave these people a path to citizenship over time.
About a month ago, the Trump Administration said that he planned to end this program with a six month delay for people already covered by it. That meant that unless Congress passed a law to protect them, these people would be deported. Trump has since said that he was willing to work with Democrats to come up with a law that will once again protect Dreamers. There’s been much finger pointing between his administration and top Democrats on how to proceed, but little action so far.
The decision to end the program drew condemnation at the time from the tech world. Executives from Microsoft, Google, Salesforce, Facebook and Apple tweeted their support for Dreamers. Apple CEO Tim Cook and Microsoft President Brad Smith promised to take action in defense of Dreamers.
Since then, Apple, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft have sent lobbyists to fight for the law. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft and Uber are providing legal aid to their employees, too. And tech companies are also taking other actions, from joining court challenges to signing public letters of support.
But only one of them, IBM, sent their CEO, Ginni Rometty, to Washington to lobby lawmakers directly. Rometty has a closer than typical tie to the Trump Administration. She was one of original business people to join his now-disbanded advisory board. She’s sent him open letters about working together and in February, told employees that she believes continuous “engagement” with his administration is “the best path to good outcomes.”
Last week, IBM has upped the fight for Dreamers in a big way.
IBM employs 31 Dreamers and is publishing their personal stories on its website, and protecting their identities in these posts. The company is planning on spending advertising dollars to promote these posts, targeting them to policy makers and “influencers” in Washington, D.C., Chris Padilla, vice president for the government and regulatory affairs at IBM, told The Hill.
More than that, the company is sending its Dreamers to Washington to talk directly with lawmakers and tell their stories. “We believe bringing personal stories to light is the best way to make an impact on the legislative process. We are providing that platform for our own Dreamers in a way that is comfortable for them,” a spokesperson told Business Insider.
It has been joined in this fight with Fwd.us, the technology industry’s advocacy group on immigration issues. Fwd.us flew 100 Dreamers to Capitol Hill to attend events with Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) last week.
IBM’s actions are part of a growing trend of social activism on the part of tech companies. And its direct action to convince lawmakers to act on behalf of Dreamers is shoulders above what other tech companies have been doing so far. It modeled this federal advocacy campaign after its success in fighting a transgender bathroom bill in Texas, Padilla said. IBM fought that bill by flying 20 executives to Austin to persuade state legislators to drop it, which they did in August.
“Many tech companies have issued statements, but we’re actually trying to do something,” Padilla told The Hill.