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Employees Demand Google Publicly Commit To Not Work With ICE


More than a thousand Google employees have demanded that the company publicly commit not to work with U.S. immigration enforcement agencies, and that includes the Border Patrol and ICE. This petition is forcing Google's hand at a time when it's risky for big tech to criticize the Trump administration. Here's NPR's Aarti Shahani.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced it's looking for a cloud provider, a tech company at the cutting edge of big data storage, to give IT support to its mission of securing the nation's border. Mark Egerman, a product manager at Google and an author of the petition, says while his company has not yet applied for the job, it's not too early to protest.

MARK EGERMAN: There's the old parable that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is today.

SHAHANI: Googlers (ph) asked their bosses to commit to not applying, but Egerman says the bosses wouldn't. And given the enormous scale of the job - Border Patrol collects extensive data, including biometrics on millions of people coming in and out - he says it's very likely Google would apply.

EGERMAN: There are about three companies in the United States capable of providing the cloud computing resources that CBP is asking for. Google is one of them.

SHAHANI: Amazon and Microsoft are the others he's referring to. Those two companies are competing for a lucrative Pentagon contract. Google, which makes money from ads, wants to take a lead in the cloud business. It's a huge financial opportunity, as governments and companies move data online. But many rank-and-file Googlers are critical of Trump's immigration track record, the imprisonments of asylum-seekers, separating migrant children from their parents, the alleged death of children in custody and sexual abuse.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Let them out. Let them out.

SHAHANI: Google founder Sergey Brin turned his company into a prominent voice against the administration when he showed up to San Francisco International Airport in 2017 to protest the president's ban against travelers from certain Muslim countries. Google did not respond to NPR's request for comment to this new employee petition. Egerman says he knows it's putting a spotlight on the company that leaders don't want, especially given the right-wing charge that Silicon Valley giants have an anti-conservative bias.

EGERMAN: I am not envious of them for having to figure out how to best navigate this situation.

SHAHANI: In an interview with Fox News, acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan called the Google petition absolutely irresponsible.

Aarti Shahani, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOULAR ORDER'S "KEYFRAMES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Aarti Shahani is a correspondent for NPR. Based in Silicon Valley, she covers the biggest companies on earth. She is also an author. Her first book, Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares (out Oct. 1, 2019), is about the extreme ups and downs her family encountered as immigrants in the U.S. Before journalism, Shahani was a community organizer in her native New York City, helping prisoners and families facing deportation. Even if it looks like she keeps changing careers, she's always doing the same thing: telling stories that matter.