- Microsoft-owned GitHub continues to face challenges from its employees over licensing software to ICE, the controversial Department of Homeland Security agency which arrests and deports illegal immigrants.
- GitHub this week defended its contract in a memo obtained by LA Times reporter Johana Bhuiyan saying that a lack of technology at ICE might actually be hurting immigrants being detained by the agency.
- A GitHub engineer, Sophie Haskins, resigned from the firm on Monday saying: “Doing business with ICE is not OK.”
- Microsoft currently has over $8 million in contracts with ICE, while GitHub recently renewed a contract with the agency worth some $200,000. CEO Nat Friedman said in October that ICE had renewed a license for its enterprise server.
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Microsoft-owned GitHub continues to be challenged by employees over its contract with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency responsible for arresting and deporting undocumented immigrants into the US.
The company this week doubled down on justifying its decision to do business with ICE in an internal memo sent by company leadership and obtained by the LA Times. According to the newspaper, COO Erica Brescia writes in the memo that GitHub is helping immigrants by providing ICE with vital technology.
Blocking access to GitHub “could actually hurt the very people we all want to help”, the memo reads, according to the newspaper.
The memo reportedly continues: “We have learned from a number of nonprofits and refugee advocates that one of the greatest challenges facing immigrants is a lack of technology at ICE and related agencies, resulting in lost case files, court date notifications not being delivered, or the wrong people being charged or deported.”
GitHub has a contract with ICE worth some $200,000, after the agency renewed a license for GitHub’s enterprise server. Its parent Microsoft has, according to Recode, $8 million in contracts with ICE.
But ICE, as the agency responsible for enforcing President Trump’s controversial immigration policies, has come in for intense criticism by human rights observers for its heavy-handed methods. Its raids on undocumented immigrants have led to children being separated from their parents. According to NBC News, 24 immigrants have died while detained by ICE during the Trump administration.
And employees at a number of tech firms have lobbied their employers not to do business with the agency.
Some 150 GitHub workers signed an open letter on October 9 to CEO Nat Friedman calling out human rights abuses by ICE. “GitHub has held a ‘seat at the table’ for over 2 years, as these illegal and dehumanizing policies have escalated, with little to show for it,” the employees wrote. “Continuing to hold this contract does not improve our bargaining power with ICE. All it does is make us complicit in their widespread human rights abuses.”
On Monday, GitHub engineer Sophie Haskins resigned from the firm over its ICE contract. That was first reported by the LA Times, and Haskins confirmed the news on Twitter.
“Doing business with ICE is not okay,” Haskins wrote on Wednesday.
Employees at defense firm Palantir have lobbied their employer not to provide its data-mining software to ICE, while musicians have pledged to boycott an Amazon music festival unless the firm cuts its ties to the agency. Protesters also rallied outside Salesforce’s offices in New York in October to protest the firm’s business with ICE.