Tech companies, which have long emphasized how their products are making the world a better place, make millions from their work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the government organization that’s become infamous for putting children in cages.
Americans, including tech workers, have increasingly scrutinized over the past year whether or not these companies are fulfilling — or betraying — their purported altruistic missions. This has manifested in protests that targeted Amazon’s wages and treatment of warehouse workers; sexual discrimination and abuse of employees at companies including Google; and the contracts that companies like Microsoft have with ICE and other government organizations accused of mistreating immigrants.
A Latinx activism organization rights group called Mijente has even started a campaign called #NoTechForIce to expose, protest, and stop Big Tech’s “outsized role” in collaborating with immigration enforcement like ICE.
Immigration is a particularly contentious issue in Silicon Valley, which relies on immigration to supply high-skilled tech workers to run its businesses.
So, over a year ago, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to review all of ICE’s current technology contracts. This week, I finally got the data (on a CD!).
Many of these contracts, including Microsoft’s, have been previously reported. But new information of expanded ICE raids and the abhorrent conditions inside the makeshift facilities where ICE houses migrants of all ages have renewed scrutiny for tech companies of all sizes that contract with ICE and aid its missions.
The dataset also shows the breadth of the agency’s technology dealings, which include about 500 different contracts, current as of June 2018, with nearly 200 companies. The contract descriptions vary widely in specificity, from “software” to “mission critical requirement for software that will be used by the financial undercover group to analyze bank accounts during ongoing investigations.” The contract amounts also vary from a couple hundred dollars to a couple hundred million dollars, but they give a general idea of how important or often a tech company contracts with ICE. (They are also subject to change, especially since this data is now a year old.)
ICE contracts with major tech companies like Dell and Microsoft, but also with numerous companies you may never have heard of but that are necessary for the operations of a government body with over 20,000 employees and an $8.8 billion budget.
Concur, a work expense software company, has a $3.3 million contract to manage ICE’s travel, according to the dataset. Datacenter company Equinix has a $128,000 contract for network hosting hardware. Comcast Business charged ICE about $10,000 for internet services last year. And Virginia-based professional services company Snap, Inc. — not to be confused with Snapchat maker Snap Inc. (no comma) — has a $1.6 million software licensing contract with ICE.
None of these companies responded to requests for comment to specify the nature of their ICE contracts.
Amazon isn’t listed in this dataset, but its highly profitable cloud arm, Amazon Web Services, provides critical support to a number of the other companies on the list, including Palantir, Peter Thiel’s controversial data-mining company. Palantir, in turn, has numerous contracts with ICE and serves as its technological backbone, allowing the agency to scan people’s biometrics, look up their family histories, and power its raids. Amazon’s relationship with ICE prompted protests earlier this month at the tech giant’s cloud summit.
Here’s a simplified and lightly edited sortable list of all ICE tech contracts, with dates as well as a short description of what each contract is for. Remember, this data is current as of June 2018.
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