ICE renews contract with Palantir

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Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is signaling it will renew its contract with Palantir Technologies, a software company co-founded by a top adviser to President Trump, amid ongoing protests of the tech firm’s role in the U.S. immigration system.

ICE likely will continue to use Palantir’s software until 2022, according to a filing posted publicly on Monday, despite outcry from tech employees and immigration groups over the company’s immigration database system, referred to as the Investigative Case Management System.

{mosads}In the contract, ICE said it has not found another company to provide comparable services, though it has put out inquiries soliciting support from other firms.

“As a result of the market research conducted, the Contracting Officer has confirmed that Palantir, the software developer, is the only firm able to ensure the continued effectiveness of the ICM system,” the document reads.

There had been some speculation that ICE might cut ties with Palantir after the law enforcement agency solicited proposals from other tech companies.

Palantir’s current contract with ICE, which is set to expire in September, was worth $41 million at first and now costs around $51 million, according to government records. Though the documents posted Monday redact the new contract’s value, copying and pasting the redacted section reveals an amount around $49 million.

ICE’s homeland security investigations (HSI) division uses Palantir’s software to collect and sort through data on a variety of people – including immigrants – amid criminal investigations. HSI is tasked with handling a range of criminal investigations for the entire Department of Homeland Security, though it has become increasingly involved in investigating worksite immigration violations under the Trump administration. 

Palantir does not provide software to ICE’s enforcement and removal operations, which take the lead on enforcing civil immigration laws. 

“We condemn the renewal of the contract between Palantir and ICE,” immigration rights group Mijente said in a statement on Tuesday. Mijente has been at the forefront of the protests against Palantir’s relationship with ICE, putting pressure on the company for enabling the deportation and surveillance of immigrants.

“Mijente has been pushing for the cancellation of this contract for months, working with academics, students, tech workers, technologists, and ordinary citizens to ensure that Palantir knows it faces a broad opposition to its work violating human rights. The company has chosen to ignore every voice speaking out against this and pursue a contract worth tens of millions, tying it closer to the Trump administration’s record of abuse,” the statement adds. 

Palantir provides software used by ICE agents during domestic and transnational criminal investigations.

The protests against Palantir have increased in volume amid the ramping up of the Trump administration’s punitive immigration policies.

Documents obtained by immigration groups earlier this year showed that Palantir software was used to target and identify the families of unaccompanied children crossing the border in 2017. Palantir had previously claimed that its contracts with ICE did not aid the agency’s work deporting and detaining immigrants, but its software was used to aid a ICE program described as a precursor to the Trump administration’s so-called zero tolerance policy last summer.

Tech activists engaged in a multiday protest of Palantir’s ties to ICE earlier this year, following revelations that the company’s products helped facilitate the arrests of more than 400 immigrants.

And Amazon has found itself in hot water over its support for Palantir. Palantir relies on Amazon’s cloud computing services, prompting an activist push from within Amazon, where workers have been protesting their employer’s opaque relationship with ICE and the Department of Homeland Security for more than a year.

Under the new agreement, which includes a yearlong base period followed by two optional years, ICE will continue to use Palantir technology for services including “system architecture, data management, performance assessment, modeling and simulation” and more.

Palantir has often touted its defense contracts with the U.S. government. Earlier this year, the data-mining firm won an $800 million contract to an intelligence system for the army.
Updated Aug. 21 at 12:48 p.m. 
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