Airbnb co-founders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk have issued a joint statement this afternoon condemning President Donald Trump’s policy of separating immigrant parents from their children at the US-Mexico border. The statement, issued publicly on Twitter, is both a plain and harsh rebuke of the Trump administration’s policy, which has caused nationwide outcry as stories about and photos of distraught children and parents being forcibly taken away from one another have dominated the news.
“Ripping children from the arms of their parents is heartless, cruel, immoral and counter to American values of belonging,” the statement reads. “The US government needs to stop this injustice and reunite these families. We are a better country than this.” The words of Chesky and his co-founders is a stark contrast to the more careful wording of Microsoft, which has found itself in hot water over claiming earlier this year to be “proud” of its work with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency responsible for deportation.
On Monday, a Microsoft employee deleted the part about its work with ICE from the January blog post in question, which centered on the company’s Azure cloud computing platform. The company immediately reinserted the section and claimed its removal was a mistake, one apparently made apparently to quell online backlash. Microsoft issued a follow-up statement saying it was “dismayed” by the Trump administration’s policy of forcibly taking away people’s children. The company claims 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 Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith published a more direct and personal letter of opposition against the policy on LinkedIn on Sunday, though it made no mention of Microsoft’s ICE contract and did not mention Trump by name.)
Later on in the day, Microsoft clarified that it “is not working with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement or US 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.”
In comparison with Airbnb’s approach, Microsoft’s statement feels much more calculated. But Airbnb has a history of taking more forceful approaches to hot-button political and social issues. Back in January of 2017, Chesky condemned the Trump administration’s proposed seven-country immigration ban, and even offered free housing to refugees and those not allowed in the country that were affected by the ban. Airbnb also ran a television ad against Trump’s most recent State of the Union address in January of this year with the words, “Let’s open doors, not build walls.” Earlier that same month, Chesky promoted Airbnb rentals in locations Trump called “shithole countries.”