4 Big Brands and Their Ties with ICE
A number of companies and universities have come under fire for having contracts tied to Immigration and Customs Enforcement also known as ICE. Until recently, these partnerships didn’t get much attention. But given the controversy surrounding immigration raids, there have been more public calls for action against ICE and companies connected to the agency.
In early August, ICE raided several companies in Mississippi and swept up 680 undocumented workers. There was a strong response against the raids from the public and several Democratic presidential candidates, with Bernie Sanders calling the raids “evil” and Joe Biden saying that they are aimed at “stoking fear.”
Public outrage has grown over the summer as details surface about the inhumane living conditions children and families face in migrant detention centers. Images of undocumented children being locked up in cages have been making rounds on social media. In some extreme cases, there have been reports of children dying in immigration custody.
Here are four companies and colleges that you might not know that have worked with ICE. Some still do.
In June, in a letter widely circulated on social media and in the Boston Globe, Wayfair employees protested the sale of “over $200,000 worth of bedroom furniture” sold to a detention center for migrant children in Texas. The letter asked company executives to end business with contractors that operate detention centers for migrants and establish a code of ethics for business sales.
The leadership team responded stating, “We are proud to have such an engaged team that is focused on impacting our world in meaningful and important ways.”
But the company will continue to sell to detention centers. The Wayfair team wrote, “This does not indicate support for the opinions or actions of the groups or individuals who purchase from us.”
The employees took to Twitter to ask that the profit from the sales to detention facilities be donated to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). Wayfair donated $100,000 to the Red Cross “in their effort to help those in dire need of basic necessities at the border,” according to reporting from MSN.
While protesting employees were glad to hear Wayfair will make a monetary donation to the Red Cross, they reminded the company on Twitter that “the Red Cross has nothing to do with these ICE-operated facilities.”
YR Media reached out to Wayfair for comment and they didn’t respond in time for publication.
Bank of America
Earlier this year, an article in the Miami Herald revealed that in August 2018, Bank of America provided a multi-million dollar loan to Caliburn, a company that runs a temporary shelter for migrant children in Homestead, Florida.
Following the public backlash, Bank of America decided to cut its ties with Caliburn and other companies. A Bank of America spokeswoman told the Miami Herald that they “have decided to exit the relationships we have with companies providing prisoner and immigrant detention services for federal and state governments, as expeditiously as possible.”
CoreCivic, another company that works with ICE, referred to Bank of America’s move to part ways with detention companies as “disappointing.” “Bank of America’s decision is about politics, not about the company we are.”
In 2011, the U.S. government established a “cloud-first” policy, which standardized the digital storage of data and resources for government agencies. That included the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE. DHS adopted Amazon’s cloud services that include technologies allowing the agency to track undocumented immigrants through facial recognition and other means. In a public letter from Amazon’s shareholders to CEO Jeff Bezos last year, they expressed their concerns over the use of the technology stating the following:
“The undersigned Amazon (AMZN) shareholders are concerned such government surveillance infrastructure technology may not only pose a privacy threat to customers and other stakeholders across the country, but may also raise substantial risks for our Company, negatively impacting our company’s stock valuation and increasing financial risk for shareholders.”
In an interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher in June, Andy Jassy, the CEO of Amazon’s cloud computing service, responded to pushback on government contracts saying, “We will serve the federal government, and they’re going to have to use the technology responsibly.” According to government documents, Amazon will continue to work with ICE and there are plans to expand surveillance technology to include identifying markers such as tattoos, palm prints and scars.
Johns Hopkins University
An online petition was created urging Johns Hopkins University to end its contracts with ICE, and earlier this year, students and faculty members walked out of their classes in protest.
The university’s multi-million dollar relationship with ICE goes back a decade, to 2009. Their programs in the School of Education and the School of Medicine provide ICE with leadership and emergency medical training.
As of now, Johns Hopkins University continues to work with ICE, and the school says “discussions regarding the future of this contract are ongoing.”
This story was updated to reflect that while CoreCivic does business with ICE, it is not the parent company of Caliburn.