In the past year, many major tech companies such as Amazon, Palantir, Salesforce, and Microsoft have come under scrutiny for selling software to US federal immigration agencies. That’s because those agencies have been responsible for enforcing some of the controversial immigration policies that separate families at the border, detain children, and deport people seeking refuge back to dangerous places.
Jonathan Ryan, CEO of immigrant legal aid and services organization RAICES, and Erika Andiola, the organization’s chief advocacy officer, are making the case that tech companies need to realize the moral consequences of the industry’s complicity — and their ability to stop what many view is blatantly unethical treatment of refugees.
“I think that what the companies right now that are holding the power need to recognize is that the government could not do what it is doing now without them,” said Ryan, speaking onstage at Code Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Tuesday. “What we’ve seen is a scaling up and a quickening of the efficiency of this tyrannical operation,” added Ryan.
Andiola stated how, in her view, tech companies are enabling a “machine of deportation” that’s only become more efficient under the Trump administration.
Tech companies such as Palantir have defended their contracts with the US government as being the right thing to do because it’s the patriotic move, whether or not Silicon Valley largely agrees with Trump’s immigration policies.
Ryan dismissed that argument, saying companies “need to build tech on the ideals that did make this the greatest nation in the world.”
If tech giants were to take a stand and boycott working with immigration agencies, Ryan said, it could take the US government several years to build their own comparable tools. In that time, he argued, some of the Trump administration’s most controversial immigration policies might be deemed illegal.
RAICES took a stand itself when the organization refused a $250,000 donation from Salesforce after it was revealed that the company holds a contract with Customs and Border Protection to provide HR software. Salesforce has maintained that their software is not used by CBP to enable deportations.
“If tech wants to walk hand in hand with our government in this experiment in tyranny, then go for it,” said Ryan. “But we will be here when that music is over, and there will be no chair for them to sit when everybody is sitting down.”
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