Corporations that contract with President Donald Trump's immigration agencies faced harsh rebuke this week both from within their ranks and from outside critics over their complicity with the Trump administration's separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
More than 100 employees at Microsoft demanded that the company stop providing support to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
"We request that Microsoft cancel its contracts with ICE, and with other clients who directly enable ICE," wrote the workers. "As the people who build the technologies that Microsoft profits from, we refuse to be complicit."
Microsoft has previously told employees that its work with ICE does not support the Trump administration's zero tolerance immigration policy under which thousands of children have been separated from their families—packed into detention centers for children as young as a few months old or sent all over the country in the foster care system.
The employees made clear that such an assurance "does not go far enough."
"We believe that Microsoft must take an ethical stand, and put children and families above profits," said the employees, noting that the company has a $19.4 million contract with ICE. "We also call on Microsoft to draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Microsoft nor its contractors will work with clients who violate international human rights law."
In January, Microsoft announced a new partnership with ICE through its Azure Government computing program. The program's capabilities include facial recognition software, leading to concerns among critics that the company could be directly participating in the apprehension of immigrants.
As a former @Microsoft employee, I’m appalled to see this news. The projects we take on matters, they have real world implications. We can’t hide behind code without thinking about the ethical implications of our work. Do better. https://t.co/PuXQX5oBqS
— Niles Guo (@powerguo) June 18, 2018
If you are a worker building these tools or others at Microsoft, decide now that you will not be complicit. Then, talk to a trusted coworker. Begin building power. If you don't feel like you know how to begin those conversations, our DMs are open. https://t.co/I6dScfxqlb
— Tech Workers Coalition (@techworkersco) June 18, 2018
In CEO Satya Nadella's response to his employees' letter, he said only that Microsoft is "supporting legacy mail, calendar, messaging, and document management workloads" for ICE.
Regardless of the exact nature of Microsoft's work with the agency, the letter noted, the company is "providing the technical undergirding in support of an agency that is actively enforcing this inhumane policy."
Meanwhile, partnerships forged by defense and intelligence contractors with the Health and Human Services Department (HHS)—which is charged with caring for children who arrive in the U.S. without adults as well as those who have been forcibly separated from their parents and guardians—have come under attack in recent days.
As Common Dreams reported last week, General Dynamics and MVM, Inc. have won multi-million dollar contracts with the department to oversee the detention centers where more and more children have been sent in recent weeks, and to transport children throughout Texas.
General Dynamics' involvement in the zero tolerance policy provoked condemnation from peace activists in Maine, home of the corporation's subsidiary, Bath Iron Works.
"It is a real sign that [General Dynamics] is willing to do just about anything to make [money]," peace activist Bruce Gagnon told the Bangor Daily News. "Ethics do not matter to this mega-corporation at all."
Organizers of the online boycott campaign Grab Your Wallet have urged supporters to contact both General Dynamics and MVM.
The publicly available email address of the CEO of the main contractor in this story is email@example.com. His name is Kevin Marquez. His company's name is MVM. The other contractor in this story is General Dynamics. Email of its main PR rep is firstname.lastname@example.org. https://t.co/dg4sHgY7GN
— Shannon Coulter (@shannoncoulter) June 15, 2018
Another Maine-based critic, Lisa Savage, informed General Dynamics, "Your reputation with the public is sinking lower with each passing day that GD profits from racist detention policies separating little kids from their parents. I call on GD to do the right thing: divest now and donate any profits to date to refugee relief efforts."