UC Berkeley students demand tech giant Palantir drop contracts with ICE

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In an effort to disrupt immigration authorities’ tech talent pipeline, more than 1,400 students are vowing not to work for Silicon Valley software giant Palantir until the company cancels its contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

In a letter made public Monday, students from 24 universities across the country, including UC Berkeley, Yale and Harvard, have pledged not to apply for, interview for or accept jobs at Palantir while the company has ties to ICE. More than 270 UC Berkeley students have signed the letter as of press time.

“We call on the company to cancel its contracts with ICE and we call on all students to join us in withholding our talent from Palantir,” the letter reads.

The software giant is one of 43 companies participating in the UC Berkeley EECS department’s Corporate Access Program, or CAP. For an annual fee of $20,000, Palantir is given “unique access” to recruiting opportunities with EECS students, including interviews on campus, promotional events and recruiting events.

Sarah Yang, assistant dean of marketing and communications at the College of Engineering, said in an email that aside from verifying that companies participating in CAP are real, the EECS department does not place restrictions on which companies join the program.

“Instead, we feel that it is important that our students have the ability to make their own judgments about which companies they want to join,” Yang said in the email.

Palantir currently sells two tools to ICE. The first, dubbed Investigative Case Management, or ICM, allows ICE to share a person’s online information with other agencies. The second tool, FALCON, is used by ICE agents to surveil people in real time.

The ICM contract, which is worth about $50 million, was renewed Aug. 20 and is set to go into effect Sept. 20. The FALCON contract is up for renewal Nov. 27 and is currently worth $42 million.

Palantir did not immediately respond to the Daily Cal’s request for comment regarding the letter.

This is not the first time Palantir has come under fire this year for its ties to ICE. In June, the tech giant was dropped from the Privacy Law Scholars Conference co-hosted by the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology after several participants cited their discomfort with Palantir’s ties to ICE.

The letter is part of a larger movement called #NoTechForICE, which aims to raise awareness regarding the role of certain tech companies in immigration enforcement. Though Palantir is at the forefront of this controversy, tech giants including Amazon and Salesforce have also been criticized for their role in providing tools for immigration authorities, according to campus junior Liza Mamedov-Turchinsky, lead organizer at Coalition to Close the Concentration Camps Bay Area.

The #NoTechForICE movement has spurred the creation of the new campus group Cal Bears Against ICE, which is calling upon the campus and the EECS department to drop Palantir from CAP.

“It’s imperative that as students and educators, we have a serious conversation about the implications of the partnerships that this campus offers,” Mamedov-Turchinsky said. “If we do claim to be representing and serving our undocumented community members, it’s imperative for UC Berkeley to act and drop this (partnership) with Palantir.”

Contact Amber Tang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ambertang_dc.