Silicon Valley slams Trump's border policy, calls separating migrant families 'cruel'

Executives from across Silicon Valley have weighed in on the border policy of separating children from their parents, with some calling it "heartless" and "cruel" and likening it to a "war crime."

In a statement obtained by Fox News, Airbnb's co-founders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk condemned the acts being taken by the Department of Homeland Security. "Ripping children from the arms of their parents is heartless, cruel, immoral and counter to the American values of belonging," Chesky, Gebbia and Blecharczyk said.

They continued: "The U.S. government needs to stop this injustice and reunite these families. We are a better country than this."


Other companies in Silicon Valley weighed in as well, with Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson writing an editorial that suggested these actions are "war crimes."

"No matter what excuses are made, let’s call this what it is: collective punishment," Lawson wrote. "The practice of punishing family members is not just morally offensive, it’s also a war crime under the Geneva Accord. We are punishing children for the possibility that their parents have committed a minor crime (a misdemeanor actually), or no crime at all — in the case of amnesty seekers."

Microsoft, which has come under fire for a contract it has with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), also expressed dismay at the policy.

"As a company, Microsoft is dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border," Microsoft's President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. "Family unification has been a fundamental tenet of American policy and law since the end of World War II."

Smith continued: "We need to continue to build on this noble tradition rather than change course now. We urge the administration to change its policy and Congress to pass legislation ensuring children are no longer separated from their families."

Microsoft has come under fire for signing a deal with ICE to let the government agency use its Azure cloud service "for facial recognition and identification" purposes, PCMag reported.

Box CEO Aaron Levie tweeted the policy is "inhumane and un-American."

"The act of separating families at the border is inhumane and un-American," Levie wrote on Twitter. "We cannot let this continue. We need our government to address immigration in a compassionate and scalable way *now*."


Under the policy, all unlawful crossings are referred for prosecution — a process that moves adults to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and sends many children to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services. Under the previous administration, such families were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May.

At a White House briefing Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen declared, "Congress alone can fix it." That line has been echoed by others in the administration, including President Donald Trump, who has falsely blamed a law passed by Democrats for the "zero tolerance" approach to prosecutions of families crossing the border.

The policy has come under fire from both sides of the aisle, including former First Lady of the United States Laura Bush, who said the zero-tolerance policy is "cruel," "immoral" and it "breaks [her] heart."

Former governor of Massachusetts and presidential candidate Mitt Romney also weighed in, saying the country needs "a more compassionate answer."

Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton called for an immediate end to the "ugly and inhumane practice," adding, "It's never acceptable to use kids as bargaining chips in political process." Kansas GOP Sen. Pat Roberts said he is "against using parental separation as a deterrent to illegal immigration."

"The time is now for the White House to end the cruel, tragic separations of families," Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press.

The Trump administration insists the family separations are required under the law. But after signaling Monday that it would oppose any fix aimed solely at addressing the plight of children separated from their parents under the crackdown, the White House said Tuesday that it is reviewing emergency legislation being introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to keep migrant families together.

There are also two immigration bills being debated in the House, but conservatives say the compromise legislation that GOP leaders helped negotiate with moderates is inadequate.

This story has been updated to include comments from Twilio's Lawson.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia