IT automation startup Chef says it will not renew its contract with ICE, days after an open source programmer brought the service to a temporary halt in protest

Chef CEO Barry Crist Chef

Chef will not renew its current contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection after they expire next year, CEO Barry Crist wrote in a blog post on Monday.

On Thursday, Seth Vargo, a former Chef employee, removed some of the open source code he had written from repositories hosted by the company – code that was crucial to the operation of Chef’s services – in protest of Chef’s $US95,500, year-long contract with ICE.

Vargo’s actions caused service outages for Chef customers, though it quickly brought things back to normal.

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Crist wrote that Chef plans to fulfil its obligations to ICE and CBP under its current contracts. But also, it will donate an amount equivalent to its 2019 revenues from those contracts to charities that help people impacted by the border agencies’ family separation and detention policies.

Within the company, Chef plans to create a team to decide how these funds will be allocated, which will be charged with creating a more “systematic approach” and ethics policy to evaluate customer contracts that could potentially be problematic.

“Chef, as well as other companies, can take stronger positions against these policies that violate basic human rights,” Crist wrote. “Over the past year, many of our employees have constructively advocated for a change in our position, and I want to thank them.”

Last week, in the immediate wake of Vargo’s actions, Crist had said that Chef preferred to keep personal politics out of its business decisions, and that it would not decline to work with any legitimate authority.

However, in Monday’s blog post, Crist apologised for not initially taking a position on Chef’s work with ICE, despite being privately opposed to ICE’s policies and despite employees’ recommendations.

“I apologise for this,” Crist wrote. “I had hoped that traditional political checks and balances would provide remedy and that our relationship with our various government customers could avoid getting intermingled with these policies. However, it is clear that checks and balances have not provided relief to the fundamental issues of the policies in question.”

Chef first started working with the U.S. government in 2014.

“The overarching goal was to help them modernise their computing infrastructure and create a cooperative community of IT professionals inside the government that could share practices and approaches in a similar way to many open source communities,” Crist wrote.