Tech workers protest Amazon’s ICE contracts, interrupt conference

Amazon Web Services hosts databases for the Department of Homeland Security that allow the ICE to track down migrants. It is currently negotiating an expansion of the existing contract

July 15, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Amazon tech workers protest
Protests against the ICE have grown stronger ever since president Donald Trump made the announcement over Twitter that the agency would go into a massive raid and deportation drive across the country.

On July 11, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Global Summit in New York was interrupted by protesters, who demanded an end to its contractual relationship with the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DHS is the federal ministry that oversees the controversial Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) agency. The protest was attended by dozens of tech workers, among others.

During the AWS conference, around 30 workers constantly interrupted a session by Amazon CTO Werner Vogels with an audio recording of detained immigrant children and by shouting slogans such as “Cut ties with ICE”. Groups that were involved in organizing the protest include Make the Road New York, Tech Workers Coalition, Democratic Socialists of America and Mijente. Protesters also held placards outside the venue of the conference that read “Amazon causes family separation”, “Never again mean now” and “No human is illegal”.

AWS currently hosts databases for the DHS that have been crucial in the detection and tracking down of migrants by the ICE. Amazon is currently negotiating an expansion of the database program to include bio-metric data that will go on to aid the ICE in its operations.

Protests against the ICE have grown stronger and more vocal ever since president Donald Trump made the announcement over Twitter that the agency would launch a massive raid and deportation drive across the country. Major corporations have recently been targeted by protesters in a bid to exhort them to withdraw their contracts and association with the ICE, which runs migrant detention centers that are known for widespread human rights violations.

Last month, workers at the furniture retail corporation Wayfair walked out in protest of the company’s continuing association with the ICE by means of supplying furniture to detention centers. Earlier this year, after much protests and criticism, JP Morgan Chase ceased its financing of private prison corporations, like the GEO Group and CoreCivic that run ICE detention facilities. Other companies and institutions that have attracted protests and criticisms over the past year or so include Microsoft, Salesforce, and the Johns Hopkins University.

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