Over the past year, the general public has become increasingly aware of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) human rights abuses. From children dying within detention facilities that are akin to concentration camps to Muslim detainees only being given pork to eat — the stories coming out have encouraged increased action. Tech workers, in particular, have begun turning critical eyes on their own companies.
Today, Googlers for Human Rights called upon Google to publicly commit to not supporting Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) or ICE until they cease engaging in human rights abuses. That includes not offering infrastructure, funding, or engineering resources, whether directly or indirectly.
In a petition on Medium, the organizers wrote:
“In working with CBP, ICE, or ORR, Google would be trading its integrity for a bit of profit, and joining a shameful lineage. We have only to look to IBM’s role working with the Nazis during the Holocaust to understand the role that technology can play in automating mass atrocity.
History is clear: the time to say NO is now. We refuse to be complicit. It is unconscionable that Google, or any other tech company, would support agencies engaged in caging and torturing vulnerable people. And we are not alone — the world is watching and the facts are clear. We stand with workers and advocates across the industry who are demanding that the tech industry refuse to provide the infrastructure for mass atrocity.”
We won’t be complicit: #NoGCPforCBP
With this petition, we call on Google to publicly commit not to support CBP, ICE or ORR w/ any infrastructure, funding, or engineering resources, directly or indirectly, until they stop engaging in human rights abuses.https://t.co/8RITUXKJBq
— Googlers for Human Rights (@EthicalGooglers) August 14, 2019
Google employees are not new to protests. Back in 2018, Google employees protested Project Maven, the company’s contract with the Pentagon to develop drone technology. In a letter that gathered over 3,000 signatures, the employees wrote, “We believe that Google should not be in the business of war.” The company eventually pulled out of the contract.
Since then, Google employees have continued to organize within the company. In November 2018, more than 20,000 Googlers walked out in protest of sexual harassment within the company. Two employees — Claire Stapleton and Meredith Whittaker — later said Google retaliated against them for their role in organizing the walkout. Later, they both left the company.
Despite the risks that come with holding your own employers accountable, Google employees have positioned themselves as a force within tech organizing. They’re not the only ones taking action.
The petition — which currently has 240 Googler’s signatures — comes only a few days after multiple organizing efforts increased pressure against Amazon. On Sunday, #JewsAgainstICE drew around 1,000 participants to protest Amazon Web Service’s cloud contacts with ICE at Amazon Book stores in Manhattan. According to Gizmodo, the protest resulted in the arrests of about 40 demonstrators.
Then, Whole Foods (owned by Amazon) employees released a statement denouncing the company’s business with ICE. Within the letter, organizers refer to Amazon’s rule as “dystopian,” citing its attempts at union-busting through a training video.
In June, Wayfair employees staged a walkout after learning the company sold $200,000 worth of bedroom furniture to BCFS, the government contractor responsible for managing detention centers at the border.
“Amazon’s treatment of workers throughout the company is a reflection of its other business practices. Namely, its continued work with the company Palantir,” the organizers wrote.
The letter went on to add:
“Undocumented people must be welcomed with compassion and treated like the political and economic asylum seekers they are. Many it must be added, are fleeing from conditions created by destructive U.S policies, making it the responsibility of the U.S to welcome them. It also must be said that Palantir, in 2011, was involved in a plan to spy on labor unions and activists. As workers and activists actively organizing and unionizing, we see this as further proof that Amazon has no plans on respecting the rights of workers.”
As an organization, ICE has had a sketchy history since its inception. Sean McElwee, co-founder of Data for Progress, pointed out in the Nation that “ICE was a direct product of the post-September 11 panic culture.”
“From the start, the agency was paired with the brand-new Department of Homeland Security’s increased surveillance of communities of color and immigrant communities,” McElwee wrote.
Companies may have been hoping that protests around ICE would die down, but it’s clear that’s not the case. It’s clear that tech workers are not afraid to oppose their own employers. With more and more human rights abuses being exposed, calls to abolish ICE completely are becoming louder across the nation.