- Advocacy group Mijente brought a giant cage to Burning Man on Friday to criticise Palantir and Amazon’s involvement with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
- Palantir has an active contract with ICE to provide investigative case management software to the agency.
- Amazon provides infrastructure to Palantir, and more than 100 Amazon employees have asked CEO Jeff Bezos to drop the contract.
- Mijente aims to raise awareness of tech companies’ connection with the detention of children and families at the US-Mexico border.
Mijente, a national group for Latinx and Chicanx organising, brought a giant cage to Burning Man on Friday to voice concerns about Amazon and Palantir’s involvement with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Palantir has a roughly $US51 million contract with ICE to provide investigative case management software to the agency, which deems Palantir’s surveillance services “mission critical,” according to The Intercept. ICE relies on Palantir’s software to gather data on undocumented immigrants’ employment information, phone records, immigration history, and more.
Palantir uses Amazon’s cloud services for its operations, and more than 100 Amazon employees have circulated an internal letter asking CEO Jeff Bezos to stop providing infrastructure to Palantir. Mijente has also launched a petition asking Amazon to drop the Palantir contract.
Burning Man is a popular destination for tech executives; some of the known attendees include Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
Mijente chose to send representatives to Burning Man because so many executives, as well as employees from Palantir and Amazon, attend the festival, said Jacinta Gonzalez, senior campaign organiser at Mijente.
“It’s a festival, it’s a place where they can relax, let their hair down in the desert and have fun,” Gonzalez told Business Insider. “We thought that it was particularly ironic and a contrast to what’s happening in other deserts in this country, where children are being separated from their parents, where people are being detained indefinitely thanks to the technology that a lot of these companies are providing.”
As the Mijente representatives walk through Black Rock City with a giant cage on wheels (intended to raise awareness of Palantir and Amazon’s actions) they willgive out ice and fans to Burning Man attendees.
The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy to crack down on illegal entry across the US-Mexico border has separated thousands of families. Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their parents in the first six weeks of the policy, and The Washington Post reported that nearly 500 children are still in US government-funded shelters without their parents despite a July 26 deadline to reunite the families.
Most of the parents of the children who are still in custody have already been deported. Nearly 2,000 parents were arrested and placed in federal court proceedings near the border, and many remain in custody.
“We hope to really both raise awareness but also start to have folks understand how these tech companies are contributing to this in efforts to be able to get Amazon to drop Palantir from its cloud and stop collaborating with these tremendous human rights abuses that we are witnessing,” Gonzalez said.
Friday’s action is part of a recent rise in advocacy at Burning Man. Last year, a group of President Trump impersonators travelled to Black Rock City, and some attendees set up booths for voter education. The Temple, an annual Burning Man structure meant as a space for mourning, included signs saying “Trans Lives Matter.”
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