Human rights abuses occur at an alarming rate. Today there are more slaves around the world than at any time in human history. News reports - of human trafficking, police brutality, and torture - assault our sense of empathy and compassion, leaving us frustrated and desperate for answers. "Not our fight" we say, retreating into our disconnected lives.
Our charge is data privacy, and we make an effort to separate our personal politics from our public conversations. But there are some human rights abuses so terrible they must be addressed, no matter the cost to our business or reputation.
I have heard people ask how we, as a country, allowed the forced relocation and incarceration of over one hundred thousand Japanese Americans, including orphaned infants, in internment camps for four years. How had we abandoned our moral principles on such a horrific level?
In 2014, the Guardian reported over 50,000 unaccompanied children crossed into the US, a 250% increase from 2010. At that time, minors were returned back across the border, "provided they are not potential human trafficking victims or have a possible asylum claim" or handed over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The ACLU alleged widespread abuse ("verbal, sexual and physical abuse; prolonged detention in squalid conditions; and a severe lack of essential necessities such as beds, food and water") at the hands of border officials.
The complaint describes Border Patrol agents denying necessary medical care to children as young as five-months-old, refusing to provide diapers for infants, confiscating and not returning legal documents and personal belongings, making racially-charged insults and death threats, and strip searching and shackling children in three-point restraints during transport.
In 2016, a US Senate report found the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had placed immigrant children into the hands of traffickers, and failed to conduct background checks.
The traffickers would threaten the victims and their family members with physical harm, and even death, if they did not work or surrender their entire paychecks. The traffickers punished another minor victim when he complained about working at the egg farm by moving him to a different trailer "that was unsanitary and unsafe, with no bed, no heat, no hot water, no working toilets, and vermin." The traffickers then called the minor victim’s father and threatened to shoot the father in the head if the minor victim did not work.
On May 7, US Attorney General Sessions announced a new "zero tolerance" policy to forcibly separate illegal immigrants from their children, and to detain those children even in cases where their parents are returned back across the border. The policy has been criticized as a political tactic designed to force politicians to negotiate in favor of a proposed border wall.
If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border. In order to carry out these important new enforcement policies, I have sent 35 prosecutors to the Southwest and moved 18 immigration judges to the border.
Attorney General Sessions, ASCIA 2018 Conference
Today there are twelve thousand minors in HHS custody, forcibly removed from their families. They are being held in makeshift prisons described as "cages" (concrete walls and steel fences). Children sleep on the floor, locked inside for 22 hours a day. As a country, we have kidnapped children from their parents and imprisoned them. Our tax dollars pay our government to carry out these actions, our corporations directly contribute, and we are all culpable. If a country is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable, be they citizens or asylum seekers, we have failed the test.
One might argue for long-term solutions to our manufactured immigration "crisis" (end the drug war, reinstate asylum protections, provide a realistic path toward productive citizenship) but this detatched and insensitive position glosses over the physical and emotional pain we are inflicting on innocent children right now. We do not have unlimited resources, but we plan to volunteer with the MIRA Coalition over the next few months, we plan to vote the proponents of this policy out of office, and we will continue this discussion whenever and wherever possible.
A Note About Microsoft
Let me preface by saying we have a strong bias against Microsoft. As a member of the NSA's PRISM surveillance program, Microsoft's actions are antithetical to our data privacy mission. Their flagship product is, in our view, purposefully designed to spy on its users.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella downplayed his company’s work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a company-wide email sent this evening, saying that Microsoft’s contract with ICE deals only with email, calendar, and messaging—not with separating children from their parents.
This morally bankrupt excuse bears a striking parallel to IBM, which once built computing machines explicitly for the Nazis (the machines were used to orchestrate the Holocaust, tracking oil supplies, train schedules for death camps, the victims themselves, and their bank accounts). In 1939, when confronted with the news that three million Jews would be killed in Poland, IBM released an internal memo:
The German managers of IBM Berlin sent a letter to Thomas Watson ... that, due to the "situation," they need high-speed alphabetizing equipment. IBM wanted no paper trail, so an oral agreement was made, passed from New York to Geneva to Berlin, and those alphabetizers were approved by Watson, personally, before the end of the month.
Published June 20, 2018We depend on the support of readers like you to fund research initiatives and product development.