ICE in the city of New York. Photographer: John Moore/Getty Images
ICE in the city of New York. Photographer: John Moore/Getty Images

Technology companies are ICE’s dark allies

One report found that several Silicon Valley corporations, including Amazon, Palantir, and Microsoft, have made millions of dollars in business with the…


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When it comes to money, the margin of politics is very narrow.

That is why technological giants – who, by the way, have reached success thanks to thousands of immigrants in their workforce - have signed agreements with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) and with the Border Patrol to profit from the new measures of coercion imposed by the Trump Administration.

According to a report commissioned by activist groups for immigrant rights, "multiple technology companies, including Amazon and Palantir, are of special importance to immigration authorities due to their involvement at multiple points in the profiling, tracking and apprehension of undocumented persons," explained Axios.

Organizations like Mijente, the National Immigration Project and the Immigrant Defense Project requested the investigation after new changes in ICE policy, and have highlighted "the importance of two key technology companies: Amazon, as the main provider of cloud services for the agency, and Palantir, as a case management provider that can be integrated with the key merger centers for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and local and state law enforcement agencies," the report explains.

The services offered by the technological giants are the following:

  • Palantir: provides management and analysis software for local, regional and federal authorities, including key ICE systems and the facilities of the Department of Homeland Security in California.
  • Amazon: hosts numerous key state and federal data systems for immigration law enforcement, including the integrated case management system of Palantir in ICE. In the same way, it works with the application of the state and local law that feeds the DHS systems.

Amazon has been a special focus of criticism after it was discovered that its web services platform (Amazon Web Services) signed a $6.8 billion contract with DHS for the storage of information, even though its CEO, Jeff Bezos, considered as the richest man on the planet, "has positioned himself as a philanthropist and ethical leader in labor issues," explained The Guardian.

For its part, Palantir, a data firm backed by the CIA and co-founded by open pro-Trumpist Peter Thiel, "provides a management system for national security investigations, a key criminal investigation division for ICE," the media continues.

Palantir designed a fundamental analytical tool called Falcon Search and Analysis that helps with data processing and intelligence reporting for authorities.

This is not the first time that there is speculation of technological collaboration with the anti-immigrant measures of the Trump Administration.

Only during the month of June, Palantir was accused of collaborating with the separation of immigrant families and children at the border after having designed the necessary software to achieve it.

During the first nine months of the Trump Administration, and while the ICE arrests increased by 42 percent, Palantir advised the government with technological strategies of mass surveillance and locating immigrants.

All of the data recovered by the company is stored on the Amazon platforms, to which Palantir pays around $600,000 a month for the service, explained the Technology Review.

In the same way, during the first months of the year, NBC News reported the existence of other ICE technology contracts such as those signed with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Thomson Reuters, Microsoft, and Motorola Solutions.

Mijente's campaign to denounce these companies has been launched and argues "it not only threatens immigrant communities, but also marginalized ones."

The data processing strategies used by ICE is based on the collection of information, the construction of profiles of undocumented persons who can be deported and the detention of so many others under the new guidelines of the agency.

To this end, the government has allocated around 10 percent of the DHS budget in fiscal year 2019 (the largest federal government technology budget, according to government data), which will allow a much broader "level of surveillance" and that could include other communities such as people of color, detainees, people with a criminal record, left activists, etc.

"The Trump Administration is pushing an incredibly racist and xenophobic political agenda," Mijente field director Jacinta González told Fortune. "Tech and data companies’ involvement is part of this expansion. The government could be contracting tech companies for environmental reasons, but instead, it’s targeting communities of color, specifically people organizing for their rights."


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