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Immigration activists urge Amazon to stop cooperating with ICE

Group of immigration activists standing and holding a sign
Bryce Huffman
Michigan Radio
Group of immigration activists standing in front of the Amazon distribution center in Walker, MI

A small group of immigration activists blocked nearly 40 delivery vans from leaving and entering an Amazon distribution center near Grand Rapids Thursday.

The protesters want Amazon to end its business relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement because the agency allegedly uses Amazon technology to surveil undocumented immigrants.

Gema Lowe, an immigration activist with Movimiento Cosecha GR, says the group interrupted business because ICE does the same to them.

“Families separated, people end up being deported and all of their family life is being interrupted forever,” Lowe said.

Workers and drivers from the Amazon distribution hub yelled from their vans, some even drove on the sidewalks to get around the ten-person barrier.

Lowe says she does not feel bad for causing the disruption, which lasted for about 10 minutes until officers from the Walker Police Department arrived.

“A little bit of discomfort, which these drivers experienced, does not compare to what our families go through every day,” she said.

ICE, the agency responsible for detaining undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., allegedly uses facial recognition software from Amazon to track undocumented immigrants.

Walker police officer talking to protesters
Credit Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
A Walker police officer talking to the protesters after he told them to move out of the way of the delivery vans

Lowe says the protesters will continue disrupting Amazon’s business until they end the contract with ICE.

Representatives from Amazon and ICE did not respond to requests for comment, but there is no proof of a physical signed contract between the two parties.

There are, however, documents obtained by a non-profit watchdog group called the Project on Government Oversight which show Amazon wanted to sell or license its technology to the agency.

The documents detail in-person meetings and other communication about the facial recognition system – or Rekognition as it is dubbed – and how ICE could use it for its mission.

News outlets such as The Washington Post have reported on the meetings between Amazon officials and ICE, and multiple protests that have emerged as a result.

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.