News, University News

Students protest companies tied to ICE at Career Fair

Microsoft, Amazon, Palantir, EY targeted for ties to Immigration and Customs Enforcement

By
University News Editor
Thursday, September 26, 2019

Students staged a demonstration at yesterday’s Career Fair to protest four companies that conduct business with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Two of those companies  — Amazon and Microsoft — had representatives at the Career Fair. The other two — Palantir and Ernst & Young — along with Microsoft, have partnered with the University’s Department of Computer Science.

Four students stood in front of Amazon’s table, which was located near the entrance to the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center, with signs that read “Amazon Sells Tech to ICE,” “IBM Sold Tech to Nazis” and “#NoTech4ICE.” Others distributed flyers connected to a Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition petition calling on the computer science department to end partnerships with Palantir, EY and Microsoft, and for all four companies to cancel contracts with ICE.

The protesters at the Career Fair were members and allies of BIRC as well as allies of the undocumented immigrant population, said Caiya Sanchez-Strauss ’21, a member of BIRC’s leadership.

Shortly after the protest began, officers from the Department of Public Safety arrived after being contacted by CareerLAB. The officers approached and engaged with the students standing in front of the Amazon table, but eventually walked away, and the demonstration continued. DPS could not be reached for comment by press time.

“We fully support students’ rights to protest any event or any program that they disagree with,” said Director of CareerLAB Matt Donato. “I think we would’ve preferred if they weren’t protesting right in front of the table, but that’s their choice, and we recognize their right to free speech and to stand up for what they believe in.”

The four companies in question, none of which could be reached for comment by press time, have all faced criticism for their respective ties to ICE. For instance, employees at Microsoft have expressed opposition to the company’s $19.4 million contract that gives ICE access to data processing and artificial intelligence tools.

Palantir has faced increasing opposition on college campuses. The company canceled an information session at the University of California at Berkeley following student pressure earlier this week, and more than 1,200 college students have signed a petition from activist organization Mijente committing to not work for Palantir. “A lot of institutions have been breaking their ties … with Palantir specifically, recently,” said Jai Chavis ’21, who distributed flyers at the fair. “It’s important that we continue to organize and continue to keep people engaged with the issue.”

At the University, the computer science department’s Industry Partners Program gives companies access to University faculty and students. Microsoft and EY-Parthenon pay $15,000 a year to be “affiliates” in the program. Palantir was previously an affiliate, but was no longer listed as an industry partner by press time.

“Things are under review right now,” wrote Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jeff Huang on Palantir’s status in an email to The Herald.

Yesterday’s protest comes as BIRC works on a campaign to urge the University to cut ties with the four companies, “which includes being a guest at Career Fair,” Sanchez-Strauss said. “The broader goal and the connection to Mijente is to put pressure on those companies to end their collaboration with ICE.”

During the protest, the line to speak with the Amazon recruiters remained long.

“The point of protesting is to get people to notice and have an impact,” said Ariel Weil ’21, who was in the Amazon line. “It is inevitable that you will get some people angry with something like that, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the wrong.”

Michael Mao ’21 said he thought the protest in front of the table lasted too long. “I understand that everybody has their rights to voice their opinions,” he said.

Last year, between 1,500 and 1,600 students came to the fall Career Fair, Donato said. This year’s fair featured over 100 employers across multiple industries.

—with additional reporting from Celia Hack

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