Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has consistently demonstrated an interest in using tech to target immigrant communities. Now, in California, lawmakers are considering terminating all contracts with tech companies that work with ICE and banning the state from investing in them.
The Sanctuary State Contracting and Investment Act was introduced by Democrat Assemblyman Rob Bonta. If the bill passes, state and local agencies would be prohibited from entering into contracts with companies providing a federal immigration agency with any data broker, extreme vetting, or detention facilities services “unless the state or local agency has made a finding that no reasonable alternative exists.”
If passed, the California Department of Justice would compile and publish a list of all contractors working with ICE that people could consult as a resource.
Although California already prohibits state and local agencies from directly sharing data with ICE, it’s happened before. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) uncovered a report that showed 80 law enforcement agencies shared license plate locations of residents with ICE — including sanctuary cities like Union City, California.
One company that the bill targets is Palantir, as reported by Gizmodo. The company’s most important presence is in California, according to a 2018 report.
In 2018, Stop LAPD Spying Coalition issued a report stating that the Los Angeles Police Department used predictive policing technology — provided by Palantir — to monitor specific people and neighborhoods. The coalition described a “racist feedback loop” where “disproportionate amount of police resources are allocated to historically hyper-policed communities.”
The ACLU also found that Amazon tried selling its facial recognition tool, Rekognition to ICE back in 2018. Last month, the ACLU revealed that ICE had access to a massive license plate database as well.
Community advocates have often pointed out that companies who choose to partner with agencies or design systems that only further exacerbate social injustice should be held accountable.
“The state has a moral obligation to protect its residents from persecution,” the bill says in its opening. “Immigrants are valuable and essential members of the state.”
If a state as big as California begins canceling contracts, then many companies will possibly feel it.