Microsoft Asks for Exception to Trump Travel Ban for Workers, Students

SEATTLE (The Seattle Times/TNS) -

Microsoft on Thursday asked the U.S. government to carve out exceptions to President Donald Trump’s U.S. entry ban for people with visas sponsored by companies or academic institutions.

In a letter sent to the State Department and Department of Homeland Security, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said people on work and student visas have already gone through a rigorous vetting process. Smith proposed that, in cases of family emergencies or business travel, they should be allowed to travel abroad and re-enter the U.S.

“These are not people trying to avoid detection,” Smith said in the letter, addressed to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. “Rather, these individuals are ‘known quantities’ in their communities: their character, personalities, conduct and behavior is well recognized and understood by their employers, colleagues, friends, and neighbors.”

Trump’s executive order, signed last Friday, set a 90-day ban on entry into the U.S. for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, and set a 120-day halt on entry for all refugees. It sparked protests nationwide and drew opposition from a wide range of civil liberties groups, companies and academic institutions.

Microsoft called the move a “fundamental step backwards” that endangered the country’s values and reputation.

In Smith’s request Thursday, he highlighted some of the hardships presented to Microsoft employees caught up in the order.

One woman who has accepted a job offer in the U.S. has been unable to enter the country. Some employees have been separated from spouses, and at least one is confronted with the choice of visiting a dying parent overseas and perhaps not being allowed to return.

The company’s request asked that holders of temporary work or student visas, and their visa-holding immediate family members, be allowed to travel abroad for up to two weeks on business trips, or to address family emergencies.

In a blog post, Smith said Microsoft’s request wasn’t the end of the company’s involvement in the debate around the executive order.

“But even amidst these debates, there is an opportunity under the executive order to address the pressing needs of real people,” Smith said.