March 5, 2019
The Nation released an article today on the impact of ICE and DHS’s outdated methods of tracking files and communication on people, who are ultimately held accountable for ICE’s failure. From the article:
Lost files, poor communication, faulty technology, and seemingly endless delays: federal audits show that Mikhail and Bayley’s experiences weren’t unusual for the agency, which spends $300 million per year on paper and has disastrously mismanaged a 13-year effort to go digital—often leaving immigrants to deal with the consequences.
And what used to be a time-sucking, stress-inducing inconvenience is now a question of visa denials and possible deportation: a new USCIS policy automatically initiates removal proceedings for many whose applications are denied, which means minor errors—even the agency’s—can have serious consequences. That’s especially threatening for immigrants who lack legal representation and language skills, or who just don’t know how to navigate a convoluted immigration system that runs on hefty application fees.
Behind the delays and inefficiencies may lie an intentional effort to cause problems for immigrants:
But Michael Jarecki, former chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Chicago chapter, isn’t sure the agency wants things faster or simpler–especially under a government that doesn’t hide its hostility to immigrants. “Part of my cynical response, knowing what we’re going through now in the last year and a half, would be an invisible wall type of thing,” Jarecki said, “where the agency wants to slow things down, and actually is happy to slow things down.”
Amazon “backbone” of ICE data mining operations
Though this report came out in October 2018, it seems relevant to juxtapose ICE’s difficulty with delivering mail, with the billions spent on data storage and processing - and that Amazon is raking in big money as a result. From MIT Technology Review:
In 2017, an Intercept investigation found that ICM pulled together data from an array of federal and private law enforcement entities to create detailed profiles that were then used to track immigrants. That data could include a person’s immigration history, family relationships, personal connections, addresses, phone records, biometric traits, and other information.
All of that data and the algorithms powering ICM are now being migrated to Amazon Web Services (AWS) in their entirety; Palantir pays Amazon approximately $600,000 a month for the use of its servers, according to the report’s authors.
Though the money doesn’t flow directly from ICE to Amazon, the tech giant had the right incentives in place for Palantir to choose AWS. In order for Palantir to secure its contract with the government, ICM had to be hosted on a federally authorized cloud service. An online government database shows that Amazon holds the largest share, 22%, of federal authorizations under the FedRAMP program, which verifies that cloud providers have the necessary security requirements to process, store, and transmit government data. More important, Amazon holds 62% of the highest-level authorizations, usually needed to handle data for law enforcement systems.
Nothing speaks more clearly to the underlying agenda and orientation of our immigration laws than the simple fact that billions are spent on technology to monitor miles of desert, build walls, and track people through government databases, but those same agencies’ software can’t handle a zip code with a dash in it when it comes to processing an immigration claim from someone in the country legally.