No Tech For ICE spreads to Canada

courtesy Science for the People

Demonstrations against tech companies who work with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have spread across cities and university campuses south of the border, reaching Toronto at the Amazon Web Services Summit. 

Immigrant rights groups Mijente, the National Immigration Project, and the Immigrant Defense Project have created the No Tech For ICE campaign, bringing to light the extent of tech companies’ role working with ICE and pressuring the companies to end their contracts with the agency. 

The No Tech For ICE coalition emphasized that some tech companies—including those that regularly hire Waterloo co-ops—have created the tools that allowed ICE to widely expand its migrant detention program. 

ICE relies on a wide range of private contractors in order to run their operations. Officers collect public and private data to build profiles of migrants as a means of facilitating detention and possible deportation. 

ICE arrests and detention cannot function without the assistance of advanced technology driving the operations. As a result, a coalition of immigrants’ rights groups have targeted the tech companies providing ICE with the tools required to carry out the Trump administration’s hardline policies. 

ICE’s expansion under the Trump administration has resulted in a wide range of high profile allegations of human rights abuses.

ICE has been criticized for many human rights abuses against migrants, including the denial of medical care to the sick, hundreds of sexual assault allegations, dangerously overcrowded facilities with multiple disease outbreaks, and more. Recently, a Honduran woman pressed charges, revealing she was raped for seven years by an ICE officer, and impregnated three times.

Almost 70,000 children were detained this year alone—including those as young as four months old. Some of these children have had to show up to their immigration trials by themselves, with no lawyers or parents, to defend their immigration status. 

A recent UN report, United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, stated that the United States is the country with the highest rate of child detention, including those children held in immigration-related custody. 

The report emphasized that family separations—where children are taken from their parents with no plans for reunion—are a violation of the international treaty, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed by every member of the United Nation, including the U.S. 

Family separations because of ICE operations have increased dramatically under the Trump administration, numbering nearly 5,500 since 2017. 

The time people spend in detention is fraught with difficulties. Forty-two people are known to have died during their time in ICE detention. 

ICE’s deportations have also caused deaths, such as the high-profile death of 41 year-old Jimmy Al-Daoud. 

Al-Daoud immigrated to the U.S. when he was six years old and died after being deported to Iraq—where he wandered the streets homeless and searching for insulin for his diabetes  in a country whose language he did not speak.

As these abuses become public, the coalition against ICE is growing, including groups such as Families Belong Together, Jewish-led Never Again Action, and the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Many of these groups used a variety of approaches to stop the abuses, ranging from street demonstrations to blockading ICE offices, with many of the members risking arrest for the cause. 

No Tech For ICE is another approach to the issue, where the goal is stop tech companies from supplying ICE with the technology required for the abuses to occur.

The No Tech For ICE movement created a report documenting the specific methods in which tech companies enable ICE operations and abuses. This includes the ability for ICE to circumvent sanctuary zones provided by state and municipal governments to immigrant communities.

”ICE is preparing to use tech for mass deportation at an unprecedented scale that could make “Sanctuary” city and  state level protections obsolete,” the report stated. 

One of the main targets of the campaign is Amazon, which provides hosting services and infrastructure for ICE’s immigrant surveillance systems. Without this infrastructure, ICE’s surveillance systems and data analytics would not have the processing power to function. 

The biggest target is Palantir Technologies, who have built a custom-made product called the Investigative Case Management system for tracking migrants through public and private data—including phone records and biometric data. 

The U.S. government’s documents approving the funding have labelled Palantir’s technology “mission critical” for ICE’s operations.  During large-scale nationwide raids, ICE officers were instructed to use a mobile version of Palantir software for arrests. It was also used in planned nationwide raids, where ICE agents were all instructed to download a mobile version of Palantir’s software for easy use.

In Oct., over 1,200 students from MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and 14 other universities signed a petition saying they will not work for Palantir until the company cancels their ICE contracts. Both of these companies regularly hire Waterloo students for internships and full-time positions, regularly advertising on campus without disclosing the company’s work with ICE. 

No Tech For ICE has a simple request for students: don’t work for these companies until they cancel the contracts. How will UW students respond?