These three corporations are hoping we’ll forget they’re collaborating with ICE, but we’re going to keep holding them accountable. Here’s how.
Last week, more than three dozen organizations collectively called the Seattle Families Belong Together Coalition organized a week’s worth of actions opposing the ongoing abuse of immigrants by our Federal government.
The week included massive protests outside multiple detention centers and ICE offices, meetings with lawmakers and elected officials, and a capstone symposium at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound.
As part of the week of action, Seattle Indivisible organized a day of protests targeting three corporations whose complicity with family separation, indefinite detention, and deportation of immigrants cannot be allowed to continue.
(If you want to skip the specifics and get right to the “to do” list, scroll down to the bottom of the post.)
Those corporations are Amazon, Microsoft, and Greyhound.
Amazon Web Services sells facial recognition technology to ICE’s parent organization.
For those less technically inclined, understanding how Amazon Web Services works can be a headache. The simplest possible explanation is that it works like a cafeteria. AWS customers get access to online processing and storage space and a host of tools that they can activate or deactivate any time it suits them.
One of these services is called Rekognition and it has creepy potential applications. In this video, the general manager of Amazon Rekognition, Ranju Das walks his audience through a scenario in which real time facial recognition of streaming video from live street cameras is able to identify a “person of interest” in a crowd and automatically notify law enforcement via text message.
Amazon claims that Das “got confused and misspoke” about a law enforcement partner’s use of the technology; but regardless of whether or not real time facial recognition is currently being used by law enforcement, the slide Das was referencing is an accurate representation of this technology’s capabilities.
AWS operates like a cafeteria, so this capability is available to any Amazon Web Services client – and that includes the Department of Homeland Security, which is directly responsible for the horrific human rights abuses currently being perpetrated at our Southern border.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the capacity to scan real time video from live street cameras and identify persons of interest to fall into the hands of an organization whose depraved actions have permanently scarred thousands of children and families, and whose current stance on border security contains a terrifying dog whistle to American Nazis.
Our demand of Amazon is simple: cancel your contract with the Department of Homeland Security. Regardless of whether or not they are currently using Rekognition, they have proven themselves to be untrustworthy enough that they should never get the chance.
Here’s some video from our protest outside the Amazon Spheres:
Our goals with this protest (including the banners over the freeways) were:
- Reach rank and file Amazon employees who are in the best position to persuade AWS to drop DHS as a client. We need more brave Amazonians who don’t want to be complicit with these human rights abuses to connect with the Tech Workers Coalition.
- Attach the issue of family separation directly to Amazon’s brand with the use of their logo, fonts, and colors.
Microsoft provides the communication tools ICE uses to coordinate human rights abuses.
Like Amazon, Microsoft also provides information technology services to the Department of Homeland Security. In this case, their contract is directly with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which is increasingly behaving like Trump’s personal immigration police force.
Microsoft executives have tried to downplay their involvement with the organization, saying, “Our current cloud engagement with [ICE] is supporting legacy mail, calendar, messaging and document management workloads.”
What this means in plain English is that Microsoft provides e-mail, messaging, and calendaring services to ICE. That means that when ICE wants to schedule or coordinate the separation of families, they do it using Microsoft technology.
Our demand of Microsoft is simple: Do not allow your technology to enable human rights abuses. Cancel your contract with ICE.
Here are some photos from our protest at Microsoft:
Dear @satyanadella: Decline ICE’s contract. ICE is bad for business!! We are proud to be united for Immigrants and against ICE. #familiesbelongtogether #freedomforimmigrants #ICEisbadforbusiness pic.twitter.com/8t9l6rdbBz
— Seattle Indivisible (@SEAindivisible) July 6, 2018
Our goals with this protest were:
- Reach rank and file Microsoft employees who are in the best position to persuade Microsoft to drop ICE as a client. We need more brave Microsofties who don’t want to be complicit with these human rights abuses to connect with the Tech Workers Coalition.
- Refute the attempt to downplay Microsoft’s complicity by making the point that their calendaring tools can be used to schedule human rights abuses.
- Attach the issue of family separation to Microsoft’s brand with the use of their logo, fonts, and colors.
Greyhound does not adequately protect their passengers from unreasonable searches by immigration officials.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects anyone on American soil from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” In practical terms, this means that law enforcement can’t search your personal or private property without a warrant unless they see direct evidence that a crime is in progress. A person’s race or skin color, language, accent, and other factors cannot be considered evidence of a crime.
Greyhound routinely allows agents from ICE as well as Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to board their buses and harass their passengers for immigration documents. Accounts of such incidents abound online, but my favorite is the one where a black woman who is an American citizen stood up for her Latino busmates when CBP boarded her bus.
Our demand of Greyhound is simple: Exercise your constitutionally protected rights. Demand a warrant before allowing immigration officials to board your buses or speak to your passengers.
Here are some photos from our protest outside the Greyhound bus depot.
— SEIU6 (@SEIU6) July 6, 2018
Our goals with this protest were:
- Reach Greyhound passengers and drivers and raise their awareness of Greyhound’s actions.
- Attach the issue of family separation directly to Greyhound’s brand with the use of their logo, colors, and fonts.
Our next steps:
These companies are hoping that short attention spans and a spate of fresh outrages from the Trump administration will draw public attention away from their complicity with ICE, but it’s going to take pressure from within these companies and from the outside to make change happen, so we need to make sure to keep public awareness on this issue.
Here’s what you can do:
- If you are a customer of any of these companies, call their customer service or user support and let them know that you haven’t forgotten what they’re doing and that you want them to stop or you’ll take your business elsewhere. (Amazon: 1 (888) 280-4331, Microsoft: 1 (800) 642-7676, Greyhound: 1 (214) 849-8966)
- If you’re an employee of any of these companies (or you know one) send them this post or any of the linked articles and ask them to speak with their managers about their company’s complicity with human rights abuses.
- Post this article to your social media channels and remind people that these companies are complicit with ICE whenever they come up in conversation.
The Seattle Families Belong Together Coalition is comprised of:
Washington Dream Coalition
Casa Latina – Mujeres Sin Fronteras
WA Immigrant Solidarity Network
MAPS-AMEN (American Muslim Empowerment Network)
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Church Council of Greater Seattle
Seattle Womxn Marching Forward
Washington State Labor Council
Colectiva Legal Del Pueblo
Black Lives Matter King County
Refugee Women’s Alliance
Council on American Islamic Relations – WA
Our Revolution Ballard
Truman National Security Project
Faith Action Network
Neighborhood Action Coalition
World Without Hate
Washington Community Action Network
El Centro De La Raza
Democratic Socialist of America – South King County
Tacoma Rainbow Center
Kids 4 Peace
North Seattle Progressives
Save The Children Action Network
Wallingford United Methodist Church
Tax March Seattle
Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Asian Counseling and Referral Service
Latino Community Fund of Washington State
Social Justice Fund NW
If I had a dollar for everyone who has asked me what they should be doing to help immigrants this week, I’d have at least $100 more to give to the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project this very minute. Aside from giving generously to NWIRP and other immigrant rights causes, here’s what I recommend everyone do this coming week:
1. Re-frame the Conversation
Too often, conversations about immigration are framed in terms of United States hospitality and generosity; but that frame ignores some pretty fundamental historical truths. The reality is that there are only five countries on the entire planet that were never colonized by white people.
Colonialism wasn’t benevolent. It was about the extraction of value from the colonized nations in the form of slave labor, gemstones, precious metals, and other natural resources. Nations that were colonized were left traumatized, with dysfunctional leadership and impoverished economies. Meanwhile, the “first world” developed our infrastructure and economies using stolen resources and enslaved labor.
It’s no coincidence that the bulk of undocumented immigrants come from countries that were colonized or controlled by Europe. Ever notice how there’s no such thing as a rich undocumented immigrant? That’s because rich people, and people from rich, stable countries can afford to wait for years and pay lawyers to deal with the ridiculously complicated US immigration system. People living with the poverty and instability that naturally result from colonialism do not have the luxury of time or attorney’s fees. They turn up at our borders as refugees and asylum seekers, or else they overstay tourist visas or cross deserts in the dead of night for a chance at a better life.
People don’t do this kind of thing for fun. There’s no nefarious ulterior motive here. The simple truth is that many immigrants are in desperate circumstances because our ancestors took everything from their ancestors. They are coming to benefit from the systems and infrastructure our ancestors built using those stolen resources. When you think about immigration in those terms, you suddenly realize an inescapable fact: we owe them. We must popularize this understanding and ensure that every decision we make with regards to immigration reflects historical reality.
2. Familiarize Yourself with the Movement’s Demands
The Seattle Families Belong Together Coalition is comprised of dozens of groups and is led by communities most impacted by our increasingly xenophobic and white supremacist immigration policy. Our leadership has directed us to release these four demands:
- No Washington National Guard troops will enforce immigration policy here or at the border for the foreseeable future.
- The Washington State Legislature and Governor Inslee will make passing the Keep Washington Working Act (SB 5689, HB 1985) their top priority for the new legislative session. This legislation, originally crafted by Senator Lisa Wellman (District 41), will limit Washington State law enforcement’s involvement with immigration enforcement and will prioritize keeping Washington’s economy functioning over deporting hardworking, valuable members of our communities.
- Washington corporations Amazon and Microsoft will stop providing digital communications and surveillance infrastructure to immigration enforcement. Greyhound and it’s locally-based subsidiary Bolt Bus will stop allowing ICE and CPB officers to board their buses and demand immigration papers from their passengers.
- All Washington Members of Congress will support the Keep Families Together Act (HR 6135). The holdouts are Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R – WA 5), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R – WA 3), Dan Newhouse (R – WA 4), and Dave Reichert (R – WA 8).
The Coalition is organizing a week of protests, starting Saturday June 30, to bring these demands forward in our communities.
3. Protest! (Even if it Makes You Uncomfortable.)
Big crowds are overwhelming and protests are inherently risky environments. It’s easy to understand why many people do not enjoy protesting; but… we really need you in the streets right now. Protests become safer the more people show up. It’s harder to push around a crowd of 100 than a group of 10, and that becomes exponentially more true when the crowd gets larger, so please come and bring your friends.
If you really can’t make it, there are of ways to help us prepare. (And a few ways to say “I love you” to the activist in your life.) Here are the protests and protest-related events I’m aware of so far this week. I will keep this list updated as more information becomes available:
Friday (6/29): Preparation and Learning Events
- Pramilla Jayapal’s office is doing an “Art Build & Teach-In” about ending family detention from 4-6pm at the School of Visual Concepts: 300 7th Ave, Ste B, Seattle, Washington 98121. (Facebook event.)
- The Riveter, Seattle’s feminist co-working space, is hosting a sign making party for Saturday’s big protest from 4-6pm at their Capitol Hill location: 1517 12th Avenue Suite 101 Seattle, WA 98122. (More info on the Riveter website.)
Saturday (6/30): Families Belong Together in Sea Tac
- The Seattle Families Belong Together Coalition is organizing a protest outside the Sea-Tac Federal Prison at 11am. (Facebook event.) This is part of a nationwide day of action on family detention and separation. The Federal Prison is at 2425 S 200th St, Seattle, WA 98198, one block from the Angle Lake light rail station. Parking there is scarce, so I highly recommend taking the Light Rail and leaving plenty of time because it’s going to be crowded.
Sunday (7/1): Solidarity Day at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma
- The Northwest Detention Center Resistance is organizing a Solidarity Day protest from 1:30 – 4pm at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. The Northwest Detention Center is located at 1623 E J St, Tacoma, Washington 98421. (Facebook event.)
Monday (7/2): Ponte en mis Zapatos (“Put yourself in my shoes”) at US Customs and Immigration Services in Tukwilla
- One America, Casa Latina, and the Washington Community Action Network will be putting thousands of pairs of baby and children’s shoes out in front of the USCIS building at 2500 Tukwila International Blvd, Tukwila, WA 98168 to make it clear how many kids are being devastated by this horrific family separation and detention policy and demand that immigrant children be reunited with their parents immediately. (Facebook event.)
- If you cannot attend, please drop off or mail the shoes to Casa Latina, 317 17th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144. Shoes will be donated to WestSide Baby, which will distribute them to immigrant and refugee children.
Tuesday (7/3): Daily Vigils at ICE Court
- The Community Alliance for Global Justice has been hosting a vigil for human rights every weekday morning from 8-10am outside of the ICE Court offices at 1000 2nd Ave, Seattle, Washington 98104. The Seattle Coalition will be hosting extended hours on July 3 until 1pm at the site. (Facebook event.)
Wednesday (7/4), Thursday (7/5), and Friday (7/6) – TBA & Saturday (7/7): Activist Symposium at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound
- Stay tuned for announcements from the coalition for these dates. This post and the Facebook event for the 6/30 event at Sea Tac will be updated with more information about the back half of the week.
This week has been brutal. Five things you can do to support your activist friends when you’re not the protesting type.
Not everyone is a “get in the streets” and “get arrested” type of person, and it truly does take all kinds of people to make a movement function. If you’ve got some activist loved ones in your life, here are some things you can do for us that would be really appreciated right about now:
- Food! Make a big batch of soup or a casserole and bring it over. Make sure there’s veggies and protein in the mix. Activists often forget to feed ourselves when we’re in the thick of things, or else we eat a lot of nutritional bars on the run. Having reliable, healthy food is an amazing gift to us.
- Housework! Offer to do a household task like unloading the dishwasher, feeding the pets, or running a load of sheets and towels. It’s amazing how fast household tasks can go out the window during periods of heavy activity.
- Give us rides to actions! Finding parking near protests is a special kind of hell, and there are often creepy, intimidating, or outright abusive people who follow us back to our cars or on public transit. Having a trusted ride home from an action is a huge relief.
- Get sign making supplies! Buy us a fresh batch of sign making supplies. Go to an office supply store and get foam board, sharpies, and clear packing tape. Bonus points if you stop by a hardware store and ask for as many free paint stirring sticks as they’ll give you.
- Do your own emotional labor! Don’t ask us what you should do or unload your feelings about the current climate on us. We’re stressed out and exhausted enough as it is as it is. Instead, head over to Indivisible.org and the Poor People’s Campaign to find out who you should be calling and what you should be saying. Then find some other loved ones to process your feelings with.
BONUS ROUND: Ask yourself what step you are willing to take that you wouldn’t normally take because we are in an emergency. This could be something as simple as making a phone call to lawmakers and encouraging your friends – especially those in Republican-held districts and states – to do the same. It might be going to your first protest or rally. It might be hosting a fundraiser for your loved one’s group or project, or making a donation of any size to an organization you know they care about.