A new report details how some of the world's biggest tech and data companies—including Amazon, Palantir, Microsoft, and Salesforce—are raking in millions by "playing an increasingly central role in facilitating the expansion and acceleration of arrests, detentions, and deportations" in the Trump era.
Who's Behind ICE? (pdf)—produced by the research firm Empower LLC at the request of Mijente, the National Immigration Project, and the Immigrant Defense Project—outlines how lobbying by major tech firms leads to massive government contracts for services that help the Trump administration impose its anti-immigrant agenda.
— Mijente (@ConMijente) October 23, 2018
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—which oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—spends about 10 percent of its $44 billion annual budget on data management.
Relying on taxpayer dollars to cover the costs of contracts with tech companies, "ICE is preparing to use tech for mass deportation at an unprecedented scale that could make 'Sanctuary' city- and state-level protections obsolete," according to the report. Two companies "are at the forefront of these developments, providing the collection, storage, and management of the vast amount of information required by ICE to increase its reach."
Those companies are Amazon—run by Jeff Bezos, the richest man on Earth—and CIA-funded Palantir, which was co-founded by billionaire and GOP donor Peter Thiel, a vocal defender of President Donald Trump.
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Amazon, meanwhile, now has more federal authorizations to maintain government data than any other firm, and "has made wide use of these authorizations, serving as DHS's database for immigration case management systems and biometric data for 230 million unique identities—mostly fingerprint records, alongside 36.5 million face records and 2.8 million irises."
These authorizations mean more & more sensitive personal data lives on @AWSCloud servers; @Amazon now hosts backups of all DHS biometric info—230M unique identities, including 36.5M faces & 2.8M irises.
Much of this data is used to track, hunt, detain, & deport immigrants. pic.twitter.com/VWIoECLoF0
— Mijente (@ConMijente) October 23, 2018
Although Amazon and Palantir are singled out in the report for enabling the administration's immigration agenda, many others are named—including Microsoft and Salesforce, both which have elicited public outrage for contracting with DHS.
Acknowledging that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has shepherded many of the administration's immigration decisions—from terminating Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to imposing a "zero-tolerance" policy that forcibly separated thousands of migrant children from their parents—the report outlines three strategies "to defend our communities against the Trump/Sessions white supremacist agenda and the human rights crisis it has unleashed."
- We call on states, cities, and local municipalities to expand their "sanctuary city" policies by ending: (1) contracts that allow unfettered information sharing technologies and biometric collection to and from ICE; (2) contracts with private data brokers that work with ICE, and (3) predictive policing programs such as those developed by Palantir.
- We call on tech company employees to continue raising their voices against their companies' contracts with military, police, and immigration agencies.
- We call for increased public scrutiny to track Amazon's and Palantir's dominance in meeting the data storage needs of various federal agencies.
"The Trump administration is pushing an incredibly racist and xenophobic policing agenda. Tech and data companies' involvement is part of this expansion," Jacinta Gonzalez, Mijente's field director, told Fortune. "The point is we can stop this right now. This is the moment where we can have some sort of intervention."
Mijente has released a short video highlighting the key findings from the new report: