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Microsoft Requests Exception from Immigration Travel Ban

Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith today said that the company has formally requested that the U.S. government grant an exception from the travel ban enacted by President Donald Trump to its employees with nonimmigrant visas who live and work in this country. The president's executive order, enacted late last week, temporarily bans entry into the U.S. from seven countries: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan. 

In the formal letter to the newly sworn-in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Smith requested the exception to its employees using their authority in Section 3(g) of the executive order. That clause allows petitioners with "pressing needs" to enter the U.S. As reported Monday, Microsoft has 76 employees with nonimmigrant visas that live and work in the in the U.S. that are affected by the travel ban.

In today's filing, Smith added that those 76 employees have 41 dependents, including one with a terminally ill parent.  "These situations almost certainly are not unique to our employees and their families," Smith stated. "Therefore, we request that you create an exception process to address these and other responsible applications for entry into the country."

Citing the Section 3(g) clause of the executive order, Smith said "the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may, on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked." Smith stated that this "is not only consistent with the Executive Order, but was contemplated by it."

The Microsoft employees and family members the exception would apply to have already gone through extensive vetting by the U.S. government when approved for employment with their nonimmigrant visas, he noted. That vetting includes background checks by the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS), which required fingerprint and name checks, along with submitting US VISIT's Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) fingerprint information, DHS's Traveler Enforcement Compliance Program (TECS) name check and National Crime Information Center (NCIS) information, Smith underscored.

Smith pointed to the disruption the travel restrictions is having on Microsoft and all companies who have employees who need to travel internationally. "The aggregate economic consequence of that disruption is high, whether in administrative costs of changing travel plans or the opportunity cost of cancelled business meetings and deals," he noted. But he closed his request underscoring the human consequences the executive order has placed since it was enacted last week.

"Even among just our own employees, we have one individual who is unable to start her new job in the U.S.; others who have been separated from their spouses; and yet another employee who is confronted with the gut-wrenching decision of whether to visit her dying parent overseas," Smith stated. "These are not situations that law-abiding individuals should be forced to confront when there is no evidence that they pose a security or safety threat to the United States."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/02/2017 at 9:27 AM


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