One of the most prominent immigration advocacy organizations has officially declined a $250,000 donation from Salesforce, claiming that the company’s existing contract with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) helps separate families at the US-Mexico border.
Like Google and Microsoft before it, Salesforce has come under fire over the past month for its contract with the US government. Internal employees suspect that these contracts support efforts by the federal government to separate families as they attempt to cross the US-Mexico border. Microsoft and Salesforce responded to employees’ calls to end their government contracts by stating they were not directly supporting the actions of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or CBP, saying they only provide basic computing or staff management services to the agencies as a whole.
Salesforce has worked with CBP since March to provide staff recruiting and communications services. Last month, over 650 Salesforce employees signed a letter calling the company’s deal with CBP “inhumane.” Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff responded by releasing an internal memo that stated that the contract would continue, but he was “opposed to separating children from their families at the border.” He continued, “It is immoral. I have personally financially supported legal groups helping families at the border. I also wrote to the White House to encourage them to end this horrible situation.”
In response to continued pressure, Salesforce COO Keith Block announced in a tweet that the company would donate $1 million to organizations working to reunite separated families. A quarter of that money was offered to Texas’ largest immigration legal services nonprofit, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Service (RAICES). RAICES, which previously had a rather low profile, was brought into the spotlight last month when a Facebook fundraising campaign gathered over $20 million for the organization.
In a letter released today, RAICES said it would decline the donation unless Salesforce killed its contract. “When it comes to supporting oppressive, inhumane, and illegal policies, we want to be clear: the only right action is to stop,” the letter read. “Your software provides an operational backbone for the agency, and thus does directly support CBP in implementing its inhumane and immoral policies.” The letter was initially sent to Salesforce on Monday as an attempt to get the company to end its contract before the organization decided to go public with the decision to turn down the money.
When asked for comment, Salesforce pointed to tweets from Benioff that claimed the company doesn’t “work with CBP regarding separation of families.” Benioff tweeted, “CBP is a customer & follows our [terms of service]. We don’t have an agreement with ICE. I’m Proud of the Men & Women who protect & serve our country every day.”
As reported by Gizmodo, at least some Salesforce customers are prepared to end their relationship with the vendor if it does not end its CBP contract. Evan Greer, spokesperson for digital-rights group Fight for the Future said, “If Salesforce doesn’t do the right thing here, we are prepared to stop using them, as well as Heroku, which they own.” Greenpeace International said in an email to The Verge that it plans to “review” its relationship with the company if the contract continues as well. The Icarus Project said in an email that it was prepared to cut its ties.
Salesforce always will be true to our core values. We dont work with CBP regarding separation of families. CBP is a customer & follows our TOS. We dont have an agreement with ICE. I’m Proud of the Men & Women who protect & serve our country every day & I’m Proud of our Ohana.— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) July 8, 2018
Salesforce has now donated $1M to organizations helping families separated at the U.S. border. I'm proud to work with 30K employees who make their voices heard and serve their communities. @SalesforceOrg will match employee donations to increase our impact.— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) July 7, 2018
On a call with reporters last month, RAICES said that a majority of the $20 million raised through Facebook would be used to pay for the bond fees of detained immigrants, along with the travel costs of reuniting parents with their children. The organization has also used the money to build a confidential web portal for attorneys and legal professionals to use in order to reunify families.
“There is no way around this,” RAICES said in the letter. “And there is no room for hair splitting when children are being brutally torn away from parents, when a mother attempts suicide in an effort to get her children released, and when an 18 month old baby is separated from their mother in detention.”
Update July 19th, 8:15 PM ET: This story has been updated to include organizations that plan to cut relationships with Salesforce if it doesn’t end its CBP contract as well. It has also been corrected to reflect that Greenpeace said it is prepared to “review” its relationship with Salesforce. A previous version of the article said Greenpeace would “end” its relationship.