Immigrant Advocacy Group Says Tech Industry Enables Trump Administration

By Shani Saxon Jun 12, 2019

Tech giants are feeling the heat after Jonathan Ryan, president and CEO of Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), called them out during a speech at Recode’s Code Conference on Tuesday (June 11), CNN reports. 

“The tech industry deserves a lot of blame for what is happening at our borders and assisting and enabling our government to bring to scale and into more efficiency this devastating violation of human rights,” Ryan reportedly said onstage at the conference, which was held in Scottsdale, Arizona.

RAICES, a Texas-based organization that, according to its website, “promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees,” once refused to accept $250,000 from software company Salesforce because the company wouldn’t sever ties with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). According to CNN, RAICES organizers insisted Salesforce was “an operational backbone for [CBP]” and supports its “inhumane and immoral policies.” Salesforce stated in March 2018 that CBP used its services to “manage border activities” among other things. That didn’t sit well with hundreds of Salesforce employees who signed a petition in June of last year demanding that the company stop supporting CBP. 

Ryan touch on his organization’s decision to turn down the money from Salesforce during his speech, “It was an attempt at handwashing in response to the rightful uprising of Salesforce employees.” The CEO also said that Hewlett Packard, Microsoft and Amazon have contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and CBP. 

Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, also spoke at Recode’s conference and defended his organization’s choice to work with the government, CNN reports. “If our government doesn’t have access to all of the most modern and sophisticated technology the private sector has, we’re in trouble," he said. “Any government department that’s following the law, we will serve.”

But Ryan says tech companies have to acknowledge their own accountability. “If tech wants to walk hand-in-hand with our government in this experience in tyranny, then go for it, but we will be here when the music is over,” he said.