Documents released this week, reveals that the data mining firm, Palantir was responsible for 2017 operation that targeted and arrested family members of children crossing the border alone. The documents show a huge contrast to what Palantir said its software was doing.
This discrepancy was first identified by Mijente, an advocacy organization that has closely tracked Palantir’s murky role in immigration enforcement. The documents confirm that “the role Palantir technology played in facilitating hundreds of arrests, only a small fraction of which led to criminal prosecutions”, The Intercept reports.
Palantir, a software firm founded by Peter Thiel, one of President Trump’s most vocal supporters in Silicon Valley, develops software that helps agents analyze massive amounts of personal data and builds profiles for prosecution and arrest.
Also, in May 2018, Amazon employees, in a letter to Jeff Bezos, protested against the sale of its facial recognition tech to Palantir where they “refuse to contribute to tools that violate human rights”, citing the mistreatment of refugees and immigrants by ICE.
Palantir earlier said it was not involved with the part of ICE, which was strictly devoted to deportations and the enforcement of immigration laws. Whereas Palantir’s $38 million contract with Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, a component of ICE had a far broader criminal enforcement mandate.
In mid-2017, ICE wanted to crack down on the parents of kids who crossed the border alone.
They used Palantir’s ICM to build profiles of families for arrest, nabbing anyone undocumented they came across during investigations, including those who came forward to claim their kids. pic.twitter.com/2Gea2xmiCW
— Mijente (@ConMijente) May 2, 2019
The 2017 ICE operation was designed to dissuade children from joining family members in the United States by targeting parents and sponsors for arrest.
According to The Intercept, “Documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act litigation and provided to The Intercept show that this claim, that Palantir software is strictly involved in criminal investigations as opposed to deportations, is false.”
As part of the operation, ICE arrested 443 people solely for being undocumented. For all this, Palantir’s software was used throughout, which helped agents build profiles of immigrant children and their family members for the prosecution and arrest of any undocumented person they encountered in their investigation.
This saga led to more kids being locked up in desert camps like Tornillo b/c family members got scared of coming forward.
If they tried to claim their children, they could be deported. That was the choice ICE gave them & Palantir facilitated.
Hundreds were arrested this way.
— Mijente (@ConMijente) May 2, 2019
“The operation was underway as the Trump administration detained hundreds of children shelters throughout the country. Unaccompanied children were taken by border agents, sent to privately-run facilities, and held indefinitely. Any undocumented parent or family member who came forward to claim children were arrested by ICE for deportation. More children were kept in detention longer, as relatives stopped coming forward”, Mijente reports.
Mijente further mentions in their post, “Mijente is urging Palantir to drop its contract with ICE and stop providing software to agencies that aid in tracking, detaining, and deporting migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. As Palantir plans its initial public offering, Mijente is also calling on investors not to invest in a company that played a key role in family separation.”
The seven-page document, titled “Unaccompanied Alien Children Human Smuggling Disruption Initiative,” details how one of Palantir’s software solutions, Investigative Case Management (ICM) can be used by agents stationed at the border to build cases of unaccompanied children and their families.Mijente further mentions, “This document is further proof that Palantir’s software directly aids in prosecutions for deportation carried out by HSI agents. Not only are HSI agents involved in deportations in the interior, but they are also actively aiding border agents by investigating and prosecuting relatives of unaccompanied children hoping to join their families.”
Jesse Franzblau, senior policy analyst for the National Immigrant Justice Center, said in an email to The Intercept, “The detention and deportation machine is not only driven by hate, but also by profit. Palantir profits from its contract with ICE to help the administration target parents and sponsors of children, and also pays Amazon to use its servers in the process. The role of private tech behind immigration enforcement deserves more attention, particularly with the growing influence of Silicon Valley in government policymaking.
“Yet, Palantir’s executives have made no move to cancel their work with ICE. Its founder, Alex Karp, said he’s “proud” to work with the United States government. Last year, he reportedly ignored employees who “begged” him to end the firm’s contract with ICE”, the Mijente report mentions.
To know more about this news in detail head over to the official report.