The chief executives of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google joined roughly 300 business leaders urging President Donald Trump late Thursday to continue protecting children brought illegally to the United States from being deported.
Since 2012, the U.S. government has allowed those children — young adults now known as Dreamers — to continue living in the country as long as they obtain and renew work permits under a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
But Trump on Friday is expected to eliminate that legal shield entirely. Months after promising to approach the issue with “great heart,” the president reportedly is expected to order the government to cease granting work permits for undocumented young adults to stay. Meanwhile, the roughly 800,000 currently registered in DACA would not be allowed to obtain additional work authorizations once their current approvals expire.
The move would fulfill one of Trump’s most controversial promises from the 2016 presidential campaign — yet it already is prompting a wide array of businesses to issue a collective rebuke of the White House.
“Dreamers are vital to the future of our companies and our economy. With them, we grow and create jobs,” wrote the corporate executives in a joint letter. “They are part of why we will continue to have a global competitive advantage.”
The missive was organized by FWD.us, the immigration reform group backed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Other initial signers include the leaders of Airbnb, LinkedIn, Lyft, Netflix and Snap, as well as Laurene Powell Jobs, the founder of the Emerson Collective, and some executives outside of the tech industry, like Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors.
In a post on his own Facebook, meanwhile, Zuckerberg late Thursday himself stressed: “We need a government that protects Dreamers.”
“Today I join business leaders across the country in calling on our president to keep the DACA program in place and protect Dreamers from fear of deportation,” he continued. “We’re also calling on Congress to finally pass the Dream Act or another permanent, legislative solution that Dreamers deserve.”
Broadly, Trump’s expected announcement may only worsen his already strained relationship with corporate America. In August, a number of high-profile executives opted to stop advising him on economic issues because of his comments on a different matter: The neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville, Va.
In Silicon Valley, though, the move toward ending DACA adds to a special, longer-running strain between tech titans and the Trump administration. Immigration is an issue of immense personal and professional importance to the tech industry, which employs a number of foreign workers and long has sought to hire more. Other tech engineers have families abroad, and some of the region’s founders and executives themselves are immigrants who have tried, unsuccessfully, to sway Trump in recent months.
Previously, the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google had opposed the White House as it advanced policies to rethink high-skilled visa programs, limit legal immigration and halt incoming immigrants and refugees from Muslim-majority countries. And even before Trump announced his plans to end DACA, tech leaders pleaded with him to reconsider.
Earlier Thursday, Microsoft estimated that 27 of its workers — from engineers to sales associates — would be affected by the change to DACA. The company’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, even tried to issue an early plea to the White House: “We care deeply about the DREAMers who work at Microsoft and fully support them,” he said. “We will always stand for diversity and economic opportunity for everyone.”
Uber, meanwhile, similarly came to the defense of the Dreamers, noting in a statement that their “contributions make America more competitive and they deserve the opportunity to work, study, and pursue the American dream.” The defense of DACA comes days after Uber appointed a new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, who himself is an immigrant from Iran — and a fierce critic of Trump’s approach to those issues.
Trump’s expected announcement comes partly in response to 10 state attorneys general, which threatened to take the administration to court over DACA if it did not eliminate the program by Sept. 5. Going forward, though, Congress can still codify the program into law, but lawmakers long have struggled in that aim.
“The 800,000 people, and dreamers like them, they deserve a permanent legislative solution,” stressed Todd Schulte, the leader of FWD.us, in an interview late Thursday. He said lawmakers had a choice — pass a law or risk become “a nation that says we’re going to see hundreds of thousands of people pushed out of the workforce.”
Initially, Trump himself appeared to waver on the issue, a fierce opponent of DACA during the campaign who later said, as president, he would approach the Dreamers with “great heart.”
Ahead of the decision, tech executives had been some of the more vocal, aggressive lobbyists on behalf of preserving DACA. In June, for example, Apple CEO Tim Cook specifically urged Trump to show compassion for the Dreamers. The private comments came at a reception to conclude the first day of Trump’s “tech week,” a five-day focus on ways to modernize the government with the industry’s help.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.