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Tech Employees Turn Activist Over Trump Immigration Policy

Silicon Valley

Trump’s aggressive immigration measures that separated thousands of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border crossing has sparked a round of protests from within companies that have, one way or another, been enabling the immigration forces, and the latest to join the fray are Salesforce employees.

Last week, more than 650 Salesforce employees signed a letter to CEO Marc Benioff asking him to reconsider company contracts with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, saying they were concerned that some products were being used by the agency in these border activities.  

"Given the inhumane separation of children from their parents currently taking place at the border, we believe that our core value of Equality is at stake and that Salesforce should re-examine our contractual relationship with CBP and speak out against its practices," the letter said. 

The employees weren’t outright asking Salesforce to drop the CBP, and neither does the company have any plans to do so, with Benioff saying his software isn’t involved in what’s going at the U.S.-Mexico border in any way.

The company added the border agency as a customer in March for a Community Cloud project to build custom software for hiring purposes. The contracts cover human resources software as well as tools for border-activities management and citizen engagement.

Trump has since halted the child-separation policy, over 2,000 children still languish in shelters with no clear way to return them to their deported or soon-to-be-deported parents. And Benioff’s delayed response gave him time to respond under improved conditions.

In a memo in response to the employee letter, Benioff said he was “very proud of all our employees for organizing actions supportive of families at the border”.

Chief Operating Officer Keith Block also chimed in on Twitter:

(Click to enlarge)

So employee protests work, to some extent, and Salesforce is the third tech company to come under similar pressure in recent days.

Last week, nearly two dozen Amazon shareholders asked CEO Jeff Bezos to stop selling facial recognition technology (Rekognition) to law enforcement agencies. Related: What’s Behind Facebook’s Flip On Crypto Ads?

Shareholders, which include the Social Equity Group and Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, wrote to Bezos about their concerns, pointing out to the recent scrutiny of Facebook over privacy and data as a cautionary tale.

Also last week, Microsoft was criticized after a blog post from January resurfaced, detailing its work with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).

Several hundred of Microsoft employees wrote open letter to the management after discovering the company has a $19.4-million contract with ICE. They asked CEO Satya Nadella to cut those ties immediately.

Nadella explained later that Microsoft was providing ICE with email, calendar, messaging and document management services, but wasn’t helping with any projects related to family separation.

In May, thousands of Google employees protested over its work with the US military, in a project known as “Maven” and concerns that Google’s artificial intelligence could be used to improve drone strikes. The project helps the US government analyze drone footage using artificial intelligence.

Following the employee outrage and media scrutiny, Google management said it wouldn’t renew its lucrative contract with the Department of Defense, but it will wait for it to expire next year.

By  Charles Benavidez for Safehaven.com

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