Since its founding in 2003, data-mining firm Palantir has made quite a name for itself because of its willingness to work with law enforcement and government agencies.
In December, Palantir sent a statement to the New York Times after reports that the company renewed a $38 million contract with Immigrant and Customs Enforcement(ICE).
There are two main divisions of ICE: Homeland Security Investigations and Enforcement and Removal Operations(E.R.O). Palantir was explicit in saying that it did not work for E.R.O. In fact, in the statement Palantir said “We do not work for E.R.O.”
Recent revelations have shown that’s not entirely true.
Documents obtained by the American Immigration Council and other advocacy groups through Freedom of Information Act litigation reveal that the company was more involved with deportation, detention, and family separation than it cared to admit.
Using Palantir’s software, ICE agents built profiles of immigrant children and their family members. According to Mijente, these profiles were then used for the prosecution and arrest of any undocumented person ICE encountered in its investigation.
One seven-page report titled, “Unaccompanied Alien Children Human Smuggling Disruption Initiative” outlines the development of a 90-120 day program that targeted those who help unaccompanied minors cross the border.
The report emphasizes the “identification, investigation, and arrest of human smuggling facilitators, including, but not limited to, parents and family members.”
When an unaccompanied minor is located by an ICE agent, they are instructed to log the “arrival in the Investigative Case Management (ICM) system.” Developed by Palantir, ICM is a software platform for “managing and investigating complex cases,” according to the company’s own website.
Documents also showed that when an unaccompanied minor was apprehended, law enforcement border teams were told to check their databases and contact family members or sponsors. These are the people who can remove the child from custody.
However, if applicable, the documents instruct agents to “seek charges against the individual(s) and administratively arrest the subjects and anybody encountered during the inquiry who is out of status.”
“What these documents show is that as ICE was starting this program to try to prosecute and arrest people, and the key place where that information was stored and communicated to be able to prosecute them was through the ICM and Palantir’s information sharing,” Mijente’s Jacinta Gonzalez told Slate.
Tech companies partnering with ICE is nothing new, but these documents are in direct contradiction with Palantir’s earlier statement to the New York Times.
The company has also faced backlash from groups like Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, whose 2018 report revealed the company provided the Los Angeles Police Department with software to develop its predictive policing program.
The coalition described the LAPD’s program as a “racist feedback loop” in which a “disproportionate amount of police resources are allocated to historically hyper-policed communities.”
The public backlash against tech’s involvement in questionable government projects has increased — and companies’ own employees are beginning to take a stand. Last week, California lawmakers began reviewing a proposal to terminate all tech contracts with companies who work with ICE. The state is Palantir’s most important presence.