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  • Amazon and the DHS has a contract which lets immigration authorities use the company’s software to target migrants for deportation.

    Amazon and the DHS has a contract which lets immigration authorities use the company’s software to target migrants for deportation. | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 July 2019

Amazon is helping ICE carry out raids by pitching its Rekognition facial identification technology for "deportations without due process.”

Amazon is enabling the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain and deport migrants from the United States according to a report by Al-Jazeera published Wednesday. 

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According to the activist group Mijente which demands the multinational company “stop powering ICE,” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has contracts with Amazon

The DHS uses the Palantir software that helps them track would-be-deportees. Amazon Web Services host the database and Palantir provides computer program to organize the data. 

Palantir, a data analytics firm can be described as a mix between Google and the CIA. It provides algorithms for government agencies for counterterrorism or immigration enforcement and receives taxpayers money. 

Activists have pointed out that the firm sells “mission-critical” tools used by ICE to plan raids. The contract between the two is worth US$51 million. 

"Amazon and Palantir have secured a role as the backbone for the federal government's immigration and law enforcement dragnet, allowing them to pursue multibillion-dollar government contracts in various agencies at every single level of law enforcement," says a petition on Mijente's website.

This week, while ICE agents were rounding up immigrants, Mijente delivered 270,000 petitions to the New York residence of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demanding he cut ties with the immigration authorities. 

The immigration authorities launched small-scale operations seeking to arrest undocumented immigrants over the weekend in an apparent start to President Donald Trump’s vow to launch mass deportation round-ups across the country.

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The operation, which Trump revealed on Twitter last month, was expected to target hundreds of recently-arrived families in about 10 cities whose deportation had been ordered by an immigration judge. 

The removal operations are meant to deter a surge in Central American families fleeing poverty and gang violence in their home countries, with many seeking asylum in the United States.

On Monday, Trump said the raids were “very successful” even though immigration activists and lawyers said that only a few arrests took place. Nonetheless, the crackdown is not over. ICE informed that more arrests will be made later this week. 

Jennifer Lee of the American Civil Liberties Union said during a rally in front the company’s headquarters in Seattle that Amazon is helping the authorities carry out the raids by pitching its Rekognition facial identification technology which could result in  "deportations without due process.”

Last week, activists interrupted the Amazon Web Services Summit in New York by playing recordings of migrant families being split up while the Amazon Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels was giving a keynote speech. Activists have also called for boycotting Amazon’s products like Prime Video, Whole Foods, Kindle, etc. 

"Companies and government organizations need to use existing and new technology responsibly and lawfully. There is clearly a need for more clarity from governments on what is acceptable use of AI and ramifications for its misuse, and we've provided a proposed legislative framework for this," said an Amazon spokesperson in a statement responding to the accusations. 

"We remain eager for the government to provide this additional clarity and legislation," continued the statement, "and will continue to offer our ideas and specific suggestions.”

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