Money

AT&T Has Received $14 Million From ICE This Year

The company joins Amazon, Palantir, Wayfair, and many other businesses in profiting from the government's inhumane treatment of immigrants.
October 11, 2019, 3:36pm
photo of AT&T logo on phone and child holding a sign at an ICE protest that reads "ICE kills"
Left: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images. Right: Ronen Tivony / SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
A look at the companies profiting from their work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

AT&T lists “standing for equality” and “making a difference” among its core company values. A video on its website, entitled “We Stand for Equality with Our Words and Actions,” includes footage of people wearing “Refugees Welcome” T-shirts and features congresswoman Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.)—who has introduced legislation to abolish ICE—speaking about gender equality.

“Inclusivity, diversity, equality,” a narrator says at the beginning of the video. “Let’s go make that world.”

But quietly, AT&T, the world’s largest telecommunications company, is making millions off of its work with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—at least $14.3 million so far this year to be exact, according to the government spending tracker USAspending.gov.

AT&T has been in business with ICE since at least 2008. But the amount of money it has received from the agency has grown substantially in recent years. In 2014, by comparison, the company only took in $590,000 from ICE.

The ICE contracts represent only a small fraction of AT&T’s bottom line. In July, the company reported its second quarter profits, bringing their total profit for the first half of 2019 to $7.8 billion.

ICE has mostly funneled money to AT&T in exchange for cellular data service, though some has also been allocated to “purchasing telematic devices for ICE vehicles.” AT&T did not respond to VICE when it asked how its telematic devices serve ICE, nor did it respond to multiple requests for comment. However, the company advertises telematic devices that record and report car data that includes vehicle performance, location tracking, and driver behaviors.

Protests and boycotts against companies working with ICE escalated this summer as increasingly harrowing reports continued to emerge about the agency’s family separation policy, faulty and insufficient family reunification plans, and inhumane conditions inside detention facilities, including denying beds, soap, adequate food, and medical care to detained immigrants. Campaigns against GitHub, Amazon, Wayfair, and Palantir—all companies that have worked with ICE in one way or another—have garnered attention online and offline. But while those and a small handful of other ICE-associated companies have faced pressure to cut business ties with the agency, AT&T has not been subjected to the same level of scrutiny.

They’re not alone either. For now, hundreds of other businesses that profit from ICE’s $6 billion tax-funded budget are flying under the radar.

Do you work at ICE or one of the companies that works with them? We want to hear from you. Email Leila Ettachfini from a non-work computer at leila.ettachfini@vice.com.

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