In a new petition circulating on Medium, Google employees are demanding that their employer pledge not to work with US government agencies such as US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that enforce controversial immigration policies at the southern border such as family separation and child detainment. It’s the latest example of internal dissent and political tension at Google that’s been on the rise in the past few years.
The employees argue that the actions of ICE, CBP, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) violate international human rights standards, pointing to the recent deaths of at least seven children in immigration officials’ custody in recent months. At least 24 people have died in ICE’s custody since President Trump’s inauguration.
Specifically, employees who signed the petition are asking Google not to bid on a contract with CBP to provide the agency with cloud technology.
“History is clear: the time to say NO is now,” the petition reads. “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.”
At the time of publication, 507 Google employees and 24 other supporters have signed the petition.
Google did not respond to a request for comment.
The petition asks Google to follow its own company-wide AI Principles, which state that Google will not build technologies “whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.” Similar employee petitions and internal activism influenced Google to drop other controversial projects — such as Project Maven, the company’s contract with the Pentagon, and the company’s secretive efforts to build a censored search product for China, known as Project Dragonfly.
In the past year, many major tech companies, including Amazon, Palantir, Salesforce, and Microsoft, have also come under scrutiny for selling software to US federal immigration agencies like ICE and CBP. As Recode’s Rani Molla reported, ICE in particular does business with at least 200 tech companies. These contracts are politically controversial because ICE and CBP have been responsible for enforcing controversial immigration policies that separate families at the border, detain children, and deport people seeking refuge back to dangerous places. In many cases, employees who consider themselves part of the “Tech Won’t Build It” and “No Tech for ICE” movement have been some of the first to raise concerns about their companies’ practices.
The movement to stop tech companies from supplying technology to ICE and other immigration agencies has also been led in part by immigrant and minority advocacy groups like Mijente and Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, the latter of which last week helped shut down an Amazon Books store in Manhattan over the company’s ties with ICE.
While no major tech company has dropped a contract with ICE or CBP yet, these movements have put pressure on the firms to defend their decisions to work with the government. In Google’s case, employees hope the petition will preemptively caution the company against taking on such contracts.
This latest petition is another sign that these movements are growing, and that tech companies like Google will have to reckon with their employees’ outrage over contracts that support controversial government projects.
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