Tuesday union members protested outside the Amazon-owned Whole Foods in downtown Minneapolis Tuesday afternoon demanding Amazon drop contracts with Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and data-mining corporation Palantir. 

During a short program outside of the store, speakers from Immigrant Worker Solidarity shared the harm being caused by our current immigration policies, made worse by Amazon’s technology. 

Immigrant Worker Solidarity (IWS), is a new group of Minnesota workers supporting immigrants inside and outside the labor movement.

“As a union that includes members from many backgrounds, we know that the current system of tearing families apart is terrible and needs to be fixed. The fact that Amazon is not only supporting this system but making profits off the misery of so many families is wrong,” said Sheigh Freeberg, Secretary-Treasurer of the MN Hospitality Workers’ union, UNITE-HERE Local 17. “It is time for Amazon to cut ties with ICE and Palantir.” 

The Intercept reported in 2017 that Palantir developed an intelligence system called Investigative Case Management (ICM) for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

“ICM funding documents analyzed by The Intercept make clear that the system is far from a passive administrator of ICE’s case flow. ICM allows ICE agents to access a vast “ecosystem” of data to facilitate immigration officials in both discovering targets and then creating and administering cases against them. The system provides its users access to intelligence platforms maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and an array of other federal and private law enforcement entities. It can provide ICE agents access to information on a subject’s schooling, family relationships, employment information, phone records, immigration history, foreign exchange program status, personal connections, biometric traits, criminal records, and home and work addresses.”

Documents released earlier this year specifically mentioned that Palantir software was used to place information about the arrival of unaccompanied minors at the border into ICM.

Palantir was, founded by billionaire Peter Thiel, one of President Trump’s most vocal supporters in Silicon Valley. Palantir received backing from the venture capital arm of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In the past Immigrant rights advocacy organization Mijente has called on Amazon to stop offering hosting servers to Palantir. Amazon hosts a variety of data on their servers used in the identification, targeting, and deportation of immigrants. They’ve also sold their facial recognition software to law enforcement and the government.  

Mijente’s June 2019 report, Who’s Behind ICE?, explains the vast web of services tied to ICE

Amazon isn’t the only tech company doing this, but it has the largest role. Through intense lobbying of policymakers and law enforcement officials, Amazon and Palantir have secured a role as the backbone for the federal government’s immigration and law enforcement dragnet.

Joining the protest were educators who have recently begun the new school year and have seen firsthand the damage caused by our inhumane immigration system.

“We see students every day who are traumatized by our inhumane immigration system. We should be nurturing and supporting every single child. But right now because of our federal government and corporations like Amazon, families are being torn apart,” said Jill Jacobson, a teacher, member of MFT 59 and Minnesota Educators Against ICE. “The studies are clear in highlighting the damage done to kids when they face traumatic situations like the ones Amazon are helping to facilitate. I’m here today to say enough is enough and demand Amazon cut ties with ICE.”

This protest joins others around the country in recent weeks, including Boston and New York. Protestors said they were inspired by Amazon tech workers and Whole Foods employees who repeatedly called on Amazon to cut ties with ICE.

“Minnesotans know that immigrant rights are worker rights and worker rights are human rights,” said David Gilbert-Pederson. “I’m proud that so many union workers stood together today to call out corporate greed and our broken immigration policies. We’re tired of a small group of corporations and executives trying to divide us and keep more for themselves.”

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