Ask Dell about its long-standing business relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the computer company will quickly note that it openly advocates for reforming the U.S. immigration system.
“Dell has long been a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform in the United States,” a Dell spokesperson told VICE. “We continue to advocate for reform through direct and ongoing conversations with policymakers and through our trade associations.”
Nevertheless, the company has no plans to end its work with ICE, which dates back to when the federal agency was first founded in 2003. This year alone, Dell has made more than $15 million working with ICE, mostly by providing ICE with IT equipment and software—like Microsoft Azure, a cloud platform designed exclusively for the U.S. government and created as a partnership between Microsoft and Dell, according to government spending tracker USAspending.gov. Specifically, ICE works with Dell Federal Systems, the division of Dell responsible for the company’s government contracts.
On the company website, Dell proclaims its commitment to improving the human experience. Part of the company’s “Who We Are” page reads: “Powering Human Progress: developing technology to transform lives.” But in recent years, ICE has been heavily condemned by organizations including the Southern Poverty Law Center for dehumanizing brown immigrants and destroying the lives of those in its custody through tactics like family separation and unlivable conditions.
In spite of the criticism leveled against the federal agency, Dell appears proud of its work with ICE. “Since 2003, Dell has provided infrastructure technology to ICE’s Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) and their Cyber Crimes Center,” the spokesperson told VICE.
According to the company, the technology it sells to ICE helps the agency with “investigating crimes including art and drug smuggling, human trafficking, child pornography and other criminal activity conducted online.”
When asked if the company could say with certainty that its technology is not used to facilitate family separation, Dell did not initially respond.
Dell is not alone in continuing its work with the law enforcement agency. Amazon, Palantir, Motorola Solutions, Thomson Reuters, and numerous other companies have all continued working with the agency despite well-established human rights concerns.
Update 11/22/2019: After publication, a Dell spokesperson sent along this additional statement: “Dell Technologies has not pursued any contracts, or knowingly participated in any activities related to the humanitarian crisis on the border.”
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.