Earlier today, reports speculated that ICE was apparently using Microsoft's Azure services to separate families at the U.S.-Mexican border. The entire saga was fueled by the phrasing in a January Microsoft blog post and the company now claims that it is "dismayed" and not working with U.S. Immigration, Customs Enforcement, or Border Protection on any projects related to separating children from their families.
Though Microsoft's post was from January, Microsoft only today was put under heavy fire. The post mainly mentioned Azure Government's ability to process data on edge devices or utilize deep learning capabilities to accelerate facial recognition and identification. However, the following Microsoft claim from the blog post is what raised up a storm. It was actually briefly removed but then later restored after a Microsoft spokesperson explained the removal was an employee "mistake."
ICE's decision to accelerate IT modernization using Azure Government will help them innovate faster while reducing the burden of legacy IT. The agency is currently implementing transformative technologies for homeland security and public safety, and we're proud to support this work with our mission-critical cloud.
Microsoft is now insisting in a statement that it wants to make things clear, though it still didn't directly address its business or relations with ICE. The company instead pointed out how it has worked for over 20 years to "combine technology with the rule of law to ensure that children who are refugees and immigrants can remain with their parents." Microsoft also mentioned the need for legislation on the immigration issue and you can find their full statement below.
In response to questions we want to be clear: Microsoft is not working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or U.S. Customs and Border Protection on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border, and contrary to some speculation, we are not aware of Azure or Azure services being used for this purpose. As a company, Microsoft is dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border. Family unification has been a fundamental tenet of American policy and law since the end of World War II. As a company Microsoft has worked for over 20 years to combine technology with the rule of law to ensure that children who are refugees and immigrants can remain with their parents. 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.
This won't be the first time that Microsoft has found itself in the middle of some political controversy. The tech company previously opposed The Trump Administration's Travel Ban, and also pushed Congress to pass legislation to protect undocumented immigrants here in the US.