Here’s How Github Justifies Making Money from ICE

A leaked email from CEO Nat Friedman attempts to placate employees who opposed doing business with the agency.

Here’s How Github Justifies Making Money from ICE
Microsoft announced it was acquiring Github on June 4, 2018.

Github, a Microsoft subsidiary that hosts version control systems for software developers, recently completed a $200,000 sale of its Enterprise Server product to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal government’s deportation force with a mission to “remove all removable aliens.”

In a “confidential” company email that was posted to Twitter on Tuesday evening by Fight for the Future deputy director Evan Greer, CEO Nat Friedman and the Github leadership team addressed employees’ concerns about doing business with ICE and explained why the company decided to complete the transactions with the agency.

“While ICE does manage immigration law enforcement, including the policies that both GitHub and Microsoft are on record strongly opposing, they are also on the front lines of fighting human trafficking, child exploitation, terrorism and transnational crime, gang violence, money laundering, intellectual property theft, and cybercrime,” Friedman and the leadership team wrote. “We do not know the specific projects that the on-premises GitHub Enterprise Server license is being used with, but recognize it could be used in projects that support policies we both agree and disagree with.”

“Attempting to cancel a purchase will not convince the current administration to alter immigration policy. Other action, such as public advocacy, supporting lawsuits, meaningful philanthropy, and leveraging the vast resources of Microsoft will have the greatest likelihood of affecting public policy. Our voice is heard better by policymakers when we have a seat at the table.”

The recent sale was a renewal of a license the company originally sold to the agency in April 2016, according to the email. The renewal and the recent sale were made through an undisclosed partner company that has a reseller agreement with Github.

Github’s parent company Microsoft has made at least $14.6 million from contracts with ICE for consulting and software since 2010, according to a Sludge investigation. Microsoft has also earned at least $1.7 million since 2010 from Customs and Border Patrol, the agency that detains immigrants and refugees seeking asylum, including children, in inhumane conditions.

Over 300 Microsoft employees have signed a letter calling on the company to cancel its contracts with ICE. “As the people who build the technologies that Microsoft profits from, we refuse to be complicit,” the letter states. 

Related from Sludge: ICE Contracts Are Booming. See Which Vendors Are in Your State.

Friedman and the leadership team wrote that Github would “continue to participate in policy and advocacy efforts to change the current administration’s terrible immigration policies” and would donate $500,000 to nonprofits working to support immigrants. 

Immigrant rights group RAICES wrote on Twitter that it is “deeply disappointed” that Github is doing business with ICE, which it says “has done such harm to our community.”

The group urged Github employees to take action. “We’re asking you on behalf of all the immigrants ICE has terrorized to protest the hell out of this.”

As scrutiny over the Trump administration’s harsh immigration tactics has intensified, many companies that do business with ICE and CBP have faced backlashes from employees, causing some companies to cancel their contracts with the agencies.

In July, employees at the ad firm Ogilvy confronted their boss after learning from a Sludge report that their company had earned $12.7 million from contracts with CBP since 2010. “We’re willing to work with companies that are allowing children to die and that are running concentration camps,” an employee said at the meeting, audio of which was made available to Buzzfeed News. In July 2018, consulting firm McKinsey & Company told The New York Times that it would end its work for ICE following considerable unrest among employees and alumni.

Related on Sludge:

These Nonprofits and Businesses Are Making Millions From Detaining Immigrant Children

Revealed: How U.S. Senators Invest in the Firms They’re Supposed to Regulate

Ogilvy Employees Confront Boss Over CBP Contracts Following Sludge Report