In a post on the GitHub blog, CEO Nat Friedman publicly addressed the company’s business relationship with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, its opinion on the current administration’s immigration policy and “the principles by which we make decisions in these areas.”
The issue is that ICE renewed its purchase of GitHub Enterprise Server for $200,000. GitHub says it will honor the contract, but will continue its advocacy against the “administration’s terrible immigration policies” and will donate $500,000 “to nonprofit organizations working to support immigrant communities targeted by the current administration.”
From the post:
Like many Hubbers, I strongly disagree with many of the current administration’s immigration policies, including the practice of separating families at the border, the Muslim travel ban, and the efforts to dismantle the DACA program that protects people brought to the U.S. as children without documentation. The leadership team shares these views. These policies run counter to our values as a company, and to our ethics as people. We have spoken out as a company against these practices, and joined with other companies in protesting them.
We respect the fact that for those of us in the United States, we live in a democratic republic in which the public elects our officials and they decide, pursuant to the rule of law, the policies the government will pursue. Tech companies, in contrast, are not elected by the public. But we have a corporate voice, and we can use our voice and our resources to seek changes in the policies that we oppose. As a matter of principle, we believe the appropriate way to advocate for our values in a democracy is to use our corporate voice, and not to unplug technology services when government customers use them to do things to which we object.
We believe that this principled approach will also be impactful as a matter of pragmatism. Attempting to cancel a purchase will not convince the current administration to alter immigration policy. Other actions, such as public advocacy, supporting lawsuits, meaningful philanthropy, and leveraging the vast resources of Microsoft will have the greatest likelihood of affecting public policy. Our voice is heard better by policymakers when we have a seat at the table.
As software becomes more important in the world, we will continue to face increasingly challenging political and social questions. Even with careful thought, we will sometimes make mistakes. My hope is that we can be an organization that works hard to make principle-based decisions, that regularly reflects on and remains willing to refine its principles, and that recognizes the inevitability of interpersonal disagreement around those principles and challenges that constructively. It’s incumbent on all of us to find ways to cohesively navigate the increasingly turbulent times we find ourselves in.