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Tech by VICE

I’m a Mother of Four. Palantir’s Tech Helped Put Me in an ICE Detention Center

An immigrant mother writes about the role the Silicon Valley company has played in separating her family—and countless others.

by Maria Domingo Garcia
Dec 20 2019, 1:00pm

ICE agents conduct a raid on a food processing plant in Canton, MS. Image: Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Maria Domingo Garcia is a factory worker and mother of four who is currently incarcerated at an ICE detention facility in Jena, Louisiana.

This summer, I was one of the nearly 700 immigrants arrested in the massive ICE raid at a Koch Foods poultry plant in Morton, Mississippi, where I have worked for the past four years. It was the largest single-state workplace immigration raid in our nation’s history. As I found out later, this raid would not have been possible without technology provided by the private data firm Palantir. This is why I felt so angry when Palantir CEO Alex Karp argued that Silicon Valley companies like his are not responsible for making policy—all while providing the tools that enable the Trump administration’s mission to terrorize immigrant communities.

I am from Guatemala, and I have been living in the US for 13 years. I have a partner, with two sons, aged 3 and 11, and a 5-month-old whom I was still breastfeeding up until the time that ICE tore her away from me. Currently, I am in a detention center in Jena, Louisiana, writing my truth to share with you. My husband is now having to raise our young children on his own. He tells me that they go to the playground often so that they don’t miss me too much. You have no idea what hearing that does to a mother. My children are suffering because they don’t understand why I’ve been taken away. At least they know I’ve done nothing wrong.

But Palantir has done something wrong. They’ve received over $90m in contracts from ICE to provide technology that allows ICE to investigate undocumented workers that lead to workplace raids. This technology helped with the 7-11 raids in New York City last year, and the raids that led to my arrest.

Maria Domingo Garcia
Image courtesy of the author

The morning of the raid, we heard the sound of helicopters and witnessed many children cry out for their parents as hundreds of workers were loaded into buses and taken away for processing. Similar scenes played out at six other food processing plants in Mississippi, resulting in nearly 700 arrests. In one fell swoop, hundreds of families were devastated.

I’ve tried telling the detention center staff I was breastfeeding before being detained, but ICE simply called me a liar. They are anxious to prove I was never breastfeeding, but I know in my heart and God knows the truth. Not being able to breastfeed or pump has caused me a great deal of physical pain, and I am depressed from being torn away from my baby and my family. It should come as no surprise that these basic rights are being abused in ICE detention facilities. There have been countless stories reported about the inhumane conditions to which immigrants and asylum seekers are subjected.

The CEO of Palantir would have everyone believe that his company plays no part in this cruel reality. In his recent Op-Ed, Alex Karp argued that we need to pressure the government to change policies, not companies like his. But the charge against me is that I was working. Is it a crime to support my family, to provide them a better life than I experienced growing up? Why am I now being treated like a criminal, and at times worse, like a useless animal? Is he proud his technology can be used to keep poor, hardworking people like me from my children?

I came to the US over a decade ago, because I believed that my family would have access to opportunities to make a dignified life. What does it say about U.S. democracy that those who have some power in society are not willing to use that power to stand up and say, “not in our name?”

You can’t easily wring your hands of this affair, Mr. Karp. This administration treats immigrants as less than human, and your company makes it possible for them to advance their racist agenda. Mr. Karp, you must respond to the American people and to the 12 million immigrants living in fear under the Trump administration for deciding who gets to use your tools to violate human rights. I ask you to stop enabling a racist agenda and drop Palantir’s ICE contracts. No more raids, no more mothers who cry themselves to sleep at night, and no more children who are angry and in pain without their parents’ love.

Tagged:
immigration
Silicon Valley
ICE raids
immigration raids
immigration customs and enforcement
Alex Karp