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Immigrant Rights Activists Renew Push Against Palantir To Cancel $53 Million Contract With ICE

Organizers with Mijente, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, the Tech Workers Coalition, and other groups mobilized in New York and Washington D.C. to demand Palantir Technologies, a surveillance company, cancel its contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In New York, people stood outside the Palantir office and chanted, “Immigrants are welcome here! Time to cancel, Palantir!”

Activists with Mijente, an immigration and Latinx-focused organization, attempted to give workers entering the New York office a flier that urged “all Palantir employees to speak to their executives and help cancel this contract.”

As Sophie Hurwitz reported, the flier declared, “There is no need for Palantir to be in the business of abusing human rights. You have the power to stop this.”

It outlined how hundreds of people were arrested by ICE thanks to the software designed by Palantir and how management lied about Palantir’s role in President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigrants and asylum seekers.

The flier additionally noted a Privacy Law Scholars Conference at the University of California in Berkeley dropped Palantir as a sponsor in June.

But according to Hurwitz, several individuals refused to take the flier as they entered the building that houses the company’s New York office.

Individuals gathered outside the building read the names of immigrants who have lost their lives in camps and detention centers.

An organizer with Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) described Palantir as the “link between Amazon and ICE,” and added, “They are selling out our communities.”

Rabbi Salem Pearce of T’ruah stated, “We’ve seen this before, both in this country and in places around the world.”

“What if 80 years ago IBM had said no to the German government and had refused to provide crucial technology to the Nazis?” Pierce asked.

Jewish Americans throughout the United States have mobilized in the past weeks, seeking to shut down immigrant camps and detention centers under the banner of “Never Again Is Now.”

At the action in D.C., a video showed one organizer speaking with a Palantir employee. She requested a meeting with someone at Palantir and was told to leave immediately.

“I’m telling you we’re not going to leave until we speak to someone,” the organizer said. “So, if you could just let folks know that there’s a group of people here that are very concerned about the way you’re using technology to criminalize immigrants and especially what’s happening right now with people in detention and children and their parents being separated.”

The Palantir employee responded by requesting the group turn off their camera, and the company called the police.

Palantir’s name comes from the magic crystal ball that Sauron used for surveillance in the Lord of The Rings. A few of the organizers held up signs admonishing the company: “You can’t save the Shire if you work with Sauron,” and, “Choose Frodo! Not Sauron!”

In May, the Intercept obtained documents from the Homeland Security Department showing Palantir was lying about its role in deportations. They showed the company was involved in “facilitating hundreds of arrests, only a small fraction of which led to criminal prosecutions.”

“A May 2017 ICE document on an impending ‘Unaccompanied Alien Children Human Smuggling Disruption Initiative,’” made it clear that Palantir’s Investigative Case Management software was used to “target the parents and other relatives of unaccompanied minors crossing the border — a precursor to the Trump administration’s family separation policy,” according to the Intercept.

On July 3, Mijente released thousands of documents as part of a report on Operation Mega, called, “Blueprint for Terror: How ICE Planned Its Largest Immigration Raid.” It detailed how ICE planned to arrest at least 8,400 people in 2017. An agent crudely told colleagues, “Happy Hunting.”

“Before the raids, all officers were instructed to use Palantir Technologies’ FALCON app,” Mijente revealed. “All ICE raids now use powerful tech and databases in the field. Palantir’s programs and databases, all hosted on Amazon Web Services, were integrated into all Operation MEGA/EPIC/CrossCheck planned raids.”

Mijente released a report in October 2018 that documented the “lucrative relationship” between tech companies and ICE. It covered Palantir in detail.

A $53 million contract was signed with Palantir in September 2014 to “modernize” the system known as TECS. (At the same time, military contractor Northrop Grumman was granted a $400 million contract to further develop the system’s platform.)

Prior to this, In-Q-Tel, which is the company that invests in tech companies for the CIA, invested millions in Palantir.

Palantir provided software to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in 2011. They “signed a contract for operations and maintenance support services” for their Palantir Government software (now Palantir Gotham) in 2013, which was renewed in 2015 for around $39 million.

According to the report, “These contracts were dedicated to the development of the FALCON Search and Analysis (FALCON-SA) application used by ICE as an analytical tool to ‘store, search, analyze and visualize volumes of existing information in support of ICE’s mission to enforce and investigate violations of [United States] criminal, civil and administrative laws.”

“Every time you read about an ICE raid, know that Palantir provided the tech backbone,” Mijente stated.

There are plans for additional actions. Close the Camps Bay Area will protest on July 12 outside Palantir’s office in Palo Alto, California.

Organizers will be at Amazon’s offices later in the week to protest their hosting of Palantir’s technology on their servers.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."