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IBM CEO Ginni Rometty is in D.C. urging Congress to save DACA

IBM has 31 employees affected by Trump’s decision to unwind the program.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

Two weeks after President Donald Trump moved to eliminate a program that protects some young immigrants from deportation, IBM chief executive Ginni Rometty is visiting Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to save it.

As part of a swing through Washington, D.C., this week, Rometty has met with Senate Democrats and Republicans in a bid to get them to preserve Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, from phasing out beginning in March. The initiative, implemented in 2012, had allowed children brought to the United States illegally to obtain waivers so they could continue to live and work in the country.

“We’ve got 31 of these people at IBM,” said Christopher Padilla, the vice president for government and regulatory affairs at IBM, in an interview Tuesday. “They’re in a wide variety of jobs, everything from software development to people in our design lab who do regulatory compliance work.”

Report card: how tech companies are responding to DACA

In Rometty’s meetings — including a session with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and an upcoming sit-down with GOP Sen. Jeff Flake — the IBM executive has even suggested that lawmakers address DACA as part of a bill they plan to consider in December to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling. That’s a must-pass measure, and it could be an opening for lawmakers to tackle DACA after failing for years to reach a compromise on the program.

But Rometty did not say that Congress should reinstate DACA protections before moving on to tax reform — another major issue for IBM, and one that the company’s leader raised during her meetings this week.

Others in the tech industry, including Microsoft President Brad Smith, have urged lawmakers to halt tax reform while they weigh the future of more than 800,000 beneficiaries of DACA, known as Dreamers.

Rometty also met with White House officials to discuss the issue this week.

Beyond IBM, the tech industry recently has ramped up its efforts to try to defend DACA and its beneficiaries, who work at companies like Apple, Microsoft and Uber. Some, like Amazon, have joined on court cases challenging Trump’s decision to eliminate DACA; Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, meanwhile, has sought to tell the stories of affected Dreamers through, his immigration reform-minded lobbying effort.

So far, though, IBM is the only tech giant whose chief executive has paid a visit to Congress. Rometty happened to be in town as a result of a meeting of the Business Roundtable, where she sits on the board of directors.

“The president has said there needs to be a legislative fix,” Padilla said. “That’s the best way to keep folks in the country before time runs out in March.”

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