How IBM and Univision are going to bat for Dreamers on staff

Both companies have found their employees are the most effective storytellers on the issue.

President Donald Trump signaled the impending end of the DACA program last month, but some companies haven’t given up on trying to protect "Dreamers."

Seventy-three companies, from Ikea to Uber to Accenture, formed a coalition this week, called the Coalition for the American Dream, to support undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. The organization is urging Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that would allow them to continue to stay and work in the country.

Some blue-chip technology companies are also working separately to advocate for Dreamers. Microsoft has promised to defend its DACA recipient employees in court; Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg denounced its pullback in posts and a live video with Dreamers; other major companies such as Amazon and Starbucks are supporting lawsuits challenging the Trump administration's decision.

"Companies [with DACA recipient employees] are impacted because their workforce will be put at risk," said Marissa Padilla, VP at Global Strategy Group. "These 800,000 people are part of a workforce that will be dramatically impacted if they are subject to immediate deportation. For companies and businesses, highlighting how the decision is going to impact business is an effective message on many levels."

IBM
IBM is one company stepping up its public advocacy for Dreamers. The company flew a group of its employees affected by DACA to meet with members of Congress on Tuesday while telling their stories on digital media.

DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, is an Obama-era policy enacted in 2012 for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before their 16th birthday. It allowed them a two-year deferment from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.

Trump said in September that the program would come to an end in six months, or next March, if Congress did not find a solution. DACA beneficiaries will not be immediately deported once the program ends; their work permit and deferred action will last until its original expiration date.

After Trump’s announcement, IBM identified 31 Dreamers working for the company and reached out to ensure they understood the decision and let them know it would take action on the issue, according to a company spokesperson.

What IBM found was Dreamers who wanted to help.

"We believe it matters more what you do than what you tweet. We speak up and convey our position, but we don't stop there. When policies affect IBMers’ lives, it's our goal to do whatever we can to get their stories directly to the people who are influencing these policies," says Chris Padilla, VP of government and regulatory affairs at the company.

Its goal is to urge Congress to find a solution for Dreamers so they can stay in the U.S., where many have spent nearly all of their adult lives. The IBM Dreamers met with Congressional leadership, legislators, and staff from both parties while in Washington, DC. IBM’s lobbyists are also reaching out to Congress.

Telling personal stories is one of the best ways to break through on an issue like DACA, says Marissa Padilla, even if those stories are anonymous.

"Within companies, these are people’s colleagues, their friends, members of their community," she explains. "That really puts a very clear picture on who would be affected if DACA recipients are deported and puts in perspective how that impacts the business as a whole."

IBM is also maintaining a blog dedicated to Dreamers’ anonymous stories and tweeting excerpts from the IBM Policy account. Many stories show the writers realizing after a normal childhood that they couldn’t attend college or apply for jobs because they lacked proper paperwork.

"We tweet, we are members of coalitions, and we employ traditional lobbying efforts, but we believe the most important and impactful way to make a difference is to share the powerful stories of IBMers who are impacted by this policy with lawmakers and the broader public," Chris Padilla says.

Univision
The Spanish-language media company has been working on DACA advocacy on several fronts, from pitching Congress to communicating with employees to keeping the wider Hispanic and Latino community informed.

Immediately after the Trump administration’s announcement, Univision’s CEO issued a statement denouncing the move and calling on Congress to replace DACA. The company has since been lobbying Congress to pass legislation to protect Dreamers.

Univision is also taking steps to keep its audience informed. The top five countries of origin for DACA recipients are Spanish-speaking countries, according to Pew Research, with 79% originally from Mexico.

Univision has run a series of PSAs in both English and Spanish on its owned channels around the country to keep the Latino community informed of important dates and to let them know that they can speak out about DACA.

"The first thing we did within a couple days, we put on save DACA PSAs that said, ‘Stand up. Speak up. Save the dreamers. Save the American dream,’" says Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, EVP of government and corporate affairs at Univision. "Then we pivoted to educating our audiences about the October 5 deadline to reapply for DACA with segments within programs, PSAs, and info pieces saying that this date is coming."

Univision’s newsroom is also covering the issue extensively to keep people in the Latino community informed. The media company is also part of the the Coalition for the American Dream, among others, and is supporting a New York lawsuit challenging Trump’s decision to end DACA.

Internally, Univision is providing legal support to its DACA employees, offering to pay legal fees, and reimbursing staffers for the biannual fee to apply for the DACA program, Herrera-Flanigan says. The company also created an internal task force pulling from the government affairs, marketing, programming, and communications teams to support its DACA efforts.

"A lot of companies have emerged over last few years that are proud of being socially conscious," Herrera-Flanigan says. "That’s been a part of who we are from the beginning. We have a unique relationship with our audiences; they depend on us for a lot of information."

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