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#NoTechForICE: CMU Students Urge University To Bar Palantir From Campus

A banner at a #NoTechforICE event at Carnegie Mellon University on Tuesday, November 19, 2019.

On Tuesday, 16 universities across the United States and United Kingdom held #NoTechforICE events, urging the company Palantir to drop a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

ICE used Palantir's FALCON software in an August workplace deportation raid in Mississippi, where nearly 700 people were arrested. 

The #NoTechforICE movement, organized centrally by Latino advocacy group Mijente, is meant to pressure campuses to cut ties with Palantir until they cease the ICE contract. The Tuesday day of action also urged Palantir to drop its FALCON contract with ICE, which is up for renewal at the end of the month.

Bonnie Fan, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University and a primary organizer of anti-Palantir actions on campus, said she's found there are some students who feel very strongly about ICE's actions, but also a large percentage of students, many international, who don't know what ICE is.

"That's a prime example of why we want to build a movement on campus," Fan said. "It's not just about being noisy, it's about educating."

Palantir has come to CMU's campus twice in recent months for information sessions and recruitment. More than 230 people have signed a petition urging CMU to cut ties with the company. 

Credit Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
CMU graduate student Maggie Oates speaks to the crowd gathered at Pittsburgh's #NoTechforICE event.

"Freedom of speech, thought, expression and assembly are core to Carnegie Mellon University's educational and intellectual mission," a CMU spokesperson wrote in a statement. "We support the rights of students protesting."

Anti-Palantir events at other college campuses have led to action by universities. In recent months, Yale, Duke, Harvard and other schools have dropped Palantir sponsorship for events and paused partnerships.

Laura Perkins, emergency response organizer for Pittsburgh Latino advocacy group Casa San Jose, said increased use of technology by law enforcement is scary for undocumented immigrants, leading them to not even engage with organizations that collect any personal information. She said she hopes CMU stops allowing Palantir to recruit on campus.

"They sugarcoat the work, saying you're doing a service for your country," Perkins said. "But it's not a service. You might be behind a computer, but you're part of that system."

Palantir did not respond to a request for comment.

Kathleen J. Davis covers news about just about anything at WESA. She’s also the primary reporter and producer of WESA’s weekly series Pittsburgh Tech Report. Kathleen originally hails from the great state of Michigan, and is always available to talk about suburban Detroit and Coney Island diners. She lives in Bloomfield.