Tech employees call on companies to cancel their contracts with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency over human rights abuses

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Article
19 November 2019

Letter from Tableau employees calling on the company to cease complicity in human rights abuses against migrants

Author: Tableau Employee Ethics Alliance, Medium

"Drawing a line," 29 Oct 2019

We call on our company to publicly cease its policy of complicity towards the systematic human rights abuses being carried out by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement... As a company and an industry, we must take ethical responsibility for our business relationships with organizations doing systemic harm, especially if our products enable that harm either directly or indirectly... We refuse to remain open to complicity in the ongoing harm to migrants, whether they are incarcerated inside the US, denied due process rights at the border, or living in fear of being separated from their families. As Tableau employees with diverse backgrounds and points of view, we call out to our co-workers, our executives, our industry, and our society for collective action.

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Article
19 November 2019

More than 200 employees at Tableau walked off the job to protest the data visualization company's ties with ICE

Author: Lauren Kaori Gurley, Motherboard

"Tech workers walked off the job after software they made was sold to ICE," 31 Oct 2019

After more than a year of organizing behind closed doors... [r]oughly 240 employees walked out of Tableau’s headquarters and protested in Seattle’s Gas Works Park, demanding the company stop its software from being sold to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)... [A] survey of public federal databases shows that third party vendors have sold millions of dollars of Tableau software to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the agency that houses ICE and CBP, in 2019 alone.

... In late June [2019], Tableau employees penned an internal letter that they presented to the company’s management, requesting the company cut ties with ICE and CBP... Nearly 20% of Tableau’s roughly U.S. workforce signed onto the resolution. In response, Tableau offered an enumerated proposal, which did not meet any of their specific demands... The walkout at Tableau follows employee-led protests at tech companies including MicrosoftGoogleAmazonSalesforce, and most recently Github and Chef... On September 23, Barry Crist, the CEO of Chef, announced that the software company would not renew its contracts with ICE and CBP when they expire in 2020, after a former employee deleted code in protest of the company’s work with ICE. 

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Company non-response
19 November 2019

Tableau did not respond

We invited Tableau to respond to a call from employees to stop selling its software to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Employees alleged that through these sales, Tableau is complicit in systematic human rights abuses against migrants. Tableau did not respond.

Article
13 November 2019

At least five employees quit GitHub over its contract with ICE

Author: Rosalie Chan, Business Insider

"The Microsoft-owned GitHub is under pressure for its work with ICE, as employees resign and activists protest the biggest event of the year," 13 Nov 2019

At least five employees have quit GitHub over the contract, and at least four speakers scheduled to speak at Universe have dropped out... Tech Workers Coalition set up a giant cage outside GitHub's annual user conference in San Francisco to protest its $200,000 contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"We are bringing a cage representing the cages that ICE puts children into as a symbol and public protest of GitHub's relationship with ICE," the Tech Workers Coalition said in a statement. "The demonstration will be shedding light on GitHub's contract with ICE and is intended to show support for the GitHub workers who are organizing internally to get the contract cancelled."... In an email to employees, Friedman said that while GitHub and its parent company Microsoft oppose Trump administration policies like family separation and ending the DACA program, the company believes that it can't be held responsible for how its customers use its products and services – and that, as such, GitHub would not block the renewal of the contract. He also said that GitHub will donate $500,000 to immigration nonprofits... Microsoft employees recently wrote an open letter to show their solidarity with GitHub employees protesting ICE. 

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Article
8 November 2019

GitHub employees demand company cancel ICE contracts in open letter

Author: Johana Bhuiyan, Los Angeles Times

Employees of Microsoft's GitHub demand company cancel its contract with ICE, 9 October, 2019

In an open letter... [GitHub] employees... said continuing to work with ICE would make the company “complicit in widespread human rights abuses"... "GitHub has held a ‘seat at the table’ for over 2 years, as these illegal and dehumanizing policies have escalated, with little to show for it. Continuing to hold this contract does not improve our bargaining power with ICE.” ... Employees at Microsoft, GitHub’s parent company, began protesting the software maker’s $19.4 million contract with ICE in June 2018 [stating] “We are part of a growing movement, comprised of many across the industry who recognize the grave responsibility that those creating powerful technology have to ensure what they build is used for good, and not for harm”... Whole Foods employees protested Amazon’s work with Palantir, a data-analytics company whose software has been used in ICE raids, and the company’s sale of facial recognition technology to law enforcement... “None of the tech CEOs who sat down with Trump after he got elected made a difference in the policies we see enacted today. Why would continued engagement yield anything different in the future?” [said] Jacinta Gonzalez, a senior campaign organizer at Mijente [an activist group leading protests against corporate ICE contracts]. “They’re deluding themselves, and we’re proud of the workers at these companies who see past the prevarication of their executives and see to the heart of the issue: If you work for ICE, you’re upholding this regime.”

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Article
8 November 2019

GitHub executives respond to employees protests to recent ICE contract renewals

Author: Johana Bhuiyan, Los Angeles Times

"GitHub is trying to quell employee anger over its ICE contract. It's not going well", 31 October 2019

...GitHub Chief Executive Nat Friedman announced on [9 October] his company would donate half a million dollars to nonprofits helping communities affected by [US] immigration policies [in an effort to advert]... an internal protest [similar to] other technology firms whose software powers controversial government policies.... [Chief Operating Officer Erica Brescia and the leadership team said] that barring ICE from “access to GitHub could actually hurt the very people we all want to help... We have learned from a number of nonprofits and refugee advocates that one of the greatest challenges facing immigrants is a lack of technology at ICE and related agencies, resulting in lost case files, court date notifications not being delivered, or the wrong people being charged or deported”...  Brescia cited the “other important work ICE does, such as stopping child exploitation, human trafficking, money laundering and disrupting terrorist networks.” ... Brescia’s letter was a second response to an Oct. 9 open letter from employees calling on GitHub to cancel its contract with ICE. The employees behind it said continuing to work with ICE would make the San Francisco-based company “complicit in widespread human rights abuses.”... GitHub parent company Microsoft — which has contracts with ICE worth more than $8 million, according to Recode — has also resisted giving in to employee demands to stop working with the agency... Raices, a Texas-based nonprofit that provides legal services to immigrants and refugees... [responded] to Brescia’s claim that nonprofits want ICE to have better technology [said] “We can assure you that’s not the case”...

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Article
8 November 2019

GitHub open letter to employees regarding ICE contact renewal

Author: Nat Friedman and the GitHub Leadership Team, GitHub

"GitHub and US Government developers", 9 October

In August, the GitHub leadership team learned about a pending renewal of our product by [ICE]... GitHub does not have a professional services agreement with ICE [and] is not consulting with ICE... GitHub has no visibility into how [our on-premise] software is being used... We have spoken out as a company against [the current administration’s immigration policies] and joined with other companies in protesting them... In approaching the topic of government purchases, we use the same overarching policy framework as Microsoft... We do not know the specific projects that the on-premises GitHub Enterprise Server license is being used with, but recognize it could be used in projects that support policies we both agree and disagree with... [W]e do have license terms for GitHub Enterprise Server, and also terms of service and acceptable use policies for GitHub.com... That applies to ICE and any other GitHub users or customers... [W]e believe the appropriate way to advocate for our values in a democracy is to use our corporate voice, and not to unplug technology services when government customers use them to do things to which we object... As a result, the GitHub leadership team intends to take the following steps: We will continue to participate in policy and advocacy efforts to change the current... immigration policies like the family separation policy and the effort to rescind DACA... We will donate $500,000—in excess of the value of the purchase by ICE—to nonprofit organizations working to support immigrant communities targeted by the current administration...[W]e will continue to encourage and support employees who want to donate their time or other resources to causes in support of humane immigration policies and migrant rights. 

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Article
23 September 2019

Chef CEO announces that the software company won't renew ICE contract due to human rights abuses

Author: Barry Crist, Chef blog

"An important update from Chef," 23 Seotember 2019

We began our work with the U.S. Government in earnest in 2014 and 2015... Policies such as family separation and detention did not yet exist. While I and others privately opposed this and various other related policies, we did not take a position despite the recommendation of many of our employees.  I apologize for this. I had hoped that traditional political checks and balances would provide remedy... [h]owever, it is clear that checks and balances have not provided relief to the fundamental issues of the policies in question. Chef, as well as other companies, can take stronger positions against these policies that violate basic human rights... [W]e will not renew our current contracts with ICE and CBP when they expire over the next year.  Chef will fulfill our full obligations under the current contracts... We have also decided that we will donate an amount equivalent to our 2019 revenues from these two contracts directed to charities that help vulnerable people impacted by the policy of family separation and detention. 

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Article
25 July 2018

The Investor Alliance for Human Rights shares Guidance on Corporate Human Rights Due Diligence Related to Immigration Detention and Family Separation

Author: The Investor Alliance for Human Rights

According to the United Nation's (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the practice of separating children at the border constitutes “arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child,"... Companies with existing or potential contracts with the U.S. Federal Government associated with the enforcement of immigration policies are exposed to the risk of contributing to, or being directly linked to, violations of human rights, including children’s rights, due process, equal protection, freedom from
persecution and torture, and the rights of asylum seekers. This exposes companies to significant legal and reputational risks, including brand risk and workplace unrest by employees who are strongly opposed to these practices. 

This document, developed by the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, provides an overview of the human rights risks associated with family separation and indefinite immigration detention, and includes guidance to help companies identify, assess and address those risks, both in the U.S. and globally.

Objective 

By providing guiding questions that are in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and developed in collaboration with UNICEF, this document helps:

  • Companies identify, assess and address real and potential human rights impacts they may be contributing to, or directly linked to, through U.S. Federal Government contracts; and
  • Investors engage their portfolio companies to address the human rights impacts associated with immigration detention and family detention.

Download the full document here

Article
19 June 2018

Microsoft says it is “dismayed” by the forced separation of migrant families at the border

Author: Catherine Shu, techcrunch

Amid calls for a boycott and employee dissent over its cloud-computing deal with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Microsoft  issued a statement saying that the company “is dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border.”...The controversy over Microsoft’s involvement with the ICE  stems from an Authority to Operate (ATO) that the agency granted to Azure Government earlier this year. In a January blog post, Microsoft said the ATO would enable the ICE to deliver cloud-based identity and access services and “help employees make more informed decisions faster.” It also said that the use of its government compliant cloud computing software would allow ICE to “process data on edge devices or utilize deep learning capabilities to accelerate facial recognition and identification.” Though the ATO has been public for six months already, it resurfaced as outrage grew over the separation of families, including those legally seeking asylum with children, with many social media users calling for a boycott of Microsoft and some employees considering resigning.

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