Cal Bears Against ICE organizes rally against actions of tech giant Palantir

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Members of Cal Bears Against ICE held an informational rally Tuesday on Upper Sproul Plaza to demand that UC Berkeley’s electrical engineering and computer sciences, or EECS, department cut ties with software company Palantir.

During the #StudentsvsICE national day of action — which occurred at more than a dozen campuses across the United States and the United Kingdom members of Cal Bears Against ICE rallied for the #NoTechForICE movement and handed out flyers with information on the relationships between the EECS department, Palantir and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Participants placed handprints on a banner in support of a petition against the partnership between the tech company and the EECS department.

“We’re calling on Palantir to cut ties with ICE and calling on (UC Berkeley) to cut ties with Palantir,” said campus junior Olivia Nouriani, one of the organizers of the event and a former news reporter for The Daily Californian. “We want to show solidarity and show that it is a growing movement.”

ICE agents currently utilize two of Palantir’s products: Investigation Case Management, which gives ICE the ability to share a person’s online information with other agencies, and FALCON, which is a tool used by ICE agents for real-time surveillance.

Palantir is also a part of the UC Berkeley EECS department’s Corporate Access Program, or CAP. According to the department website, members of CAP are able to hold campus recruiting events and conduct interviews with students for an annual fee of $20,000.

According to Richard Cai, campus senior and member of Cal Bears Against ICE, Palantir’s relationship with UC Berkeley is based on the campus’s talent pipeline and the various tools the company has to recruit prospective employees. Cai added that one goal of the event was to make students more cognizant of who their future employers might be and what they are involved in.

“Berkeley is a recruiting hotspot for a number of companies,” Cai said. “We’re trying to intervene and get people to engage with the way they enable the activities of these companies and consider whether their actions are ethical.”

On Nov. 12, the UC system expressed its support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, recipients and took to the U.S. Supreme Court to defend the rights of DACA recipients to stay in the country. In an email sent out the same day, Chancellor Carol Christ reaffirmed the campus’s commitment to its principles of inclusivity and justice for all.

Nouriani alleged, however, that the department’s continued partnership with Palantir creates an unsafe and insecure environment for DACA recipients. Cai alleged that the EECS department’s refusal to denounce the company and its actions continue to enable the actions of ICE.

Cai voiced concerns about the strength of UC Berkeley’s support for DACA recipients, alleging that facilitating a relationship with Palantir is a relationship complicit in ICE raids and deportations.

Contact Aditya Katewa at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @adkatewa1.