Why is GitHub supporting Child Separation Agency?

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I love using GitHub products, but was shocked when I found out they do business with child separation agencies like ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement). Will you join GitHubbers (employees of GitHub) and I in asking @GitHub and their CEO Nat Friedman to drop ICE as a client and never work with such agencies again?

GitHub sponsorship logo with smiling cat and heart, modified with text "Drop ICE"

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My opinion is that if you don't support ICE that you vote in a way to show that. Any other attempt to attack any government bureaucracy is an attack on democracy. We have a system that allows all of us to be a part of the decision, whether you're the type of person who want to abolish public lands or the type of person who wants to abolish ICE.

GitHub, anyone has no place stopping a democratic government from pursuing it's job no matter what you or I opine.

EDIT: Just to be clear, my position is that it doesn't matter if you think it's wrong or not, because democracy is the only way an opinion about government operation can be validated.


If you go the GitHub page and read the open letter they are not trying to stop ICE from pursuing its job. They are simply asking GitHub to cancel it's contract with ICE because it does not represent the values of its employees and consider profiting from it to be reprehensible.


Employees, as stakeholders, have a right to hold the company to personal standards, but I strongly believe that the general public does not. I'm nearly certain that we here are all general public.

EDIT: I understand that as customers we are also stackholders, but ICE is a custom also. I, as a customer, do not want to see GitHub become choosy about what code they host. Even if North Korea hosts code on GitHub I will not be upset. I just don't know what qualifies GitHub or internet activists to determine what's right or wrong, regardless of my position.


The big question to me here is, can you call ICE a democratic institution? Most of what we know about it is thanks to whistleblowers and or detainees themselves, as opposed to government accounts. edition.cnn.com/2019/10/24/us/ice-...


You can call it an institution that is subservient to a democracy. It answers to the executive branch of the United States Government which is duly elected. Congressional oversight is also applicable, and when a law is passed to stop or inhibit (or ebbed) actions for the institution, it's done at the behest of elected officials from the governing country.

Now if they violate international law, that's slightly different. But I don't think they have at this point. Every country separates children from their families, so I would assume if that's a violation of international law. Like the Jugendamt in Germany.

So if there is an actual violation of human rights, that's the place to start. But interpretation is malleable as anyone who understands "legislating from the bench" would know. That means using "human rights" without considering the implications of the argument only weakens the strength of the actual cases that involve human rights such as those in North Korea where children are worked to death in prison camps.

Once again, I'm not saying I support it or that I don't. I'm simply saying that if they deem it neccessary and/or a law tells them they have to or a no law tells them they can't (and it's a reasonable action) then they are acting as the hand of a democratic government.

Also, to my knowledge, human right violations always have direct tangible (physical) effects that are life altering to the individual, and the individual is not in any form responsible for the harm done to them. If it is a human rights violation, then we should consider if we need some sort of system to determine severity and seriousness of these allegations, because a holocaust can't be defined as in the same category as temporary family separation caused by parental misconduct (because in the eyes of my government it's detaining a criminal, so they derive authority to separate the child just as in incarceration of a criminal).

Let me stress that I'm not speaking to what I emotionally believe. This is just how it works in our system. It sucks. But they system isn't killing, maiming or raping anyone, so I am currently not emotionally involved to a level that would persuade me to favor action over democracy.

But they system isn't killing, maiming or raping anyone, so I am currently not emotionally involved to a level that would persuade me to favor action over democracy.

About that:


This isn't systematic. It happens in non-institutional environments. Do you know if the date is lower or higher for these facilities when compared to the general public?

I do not, and furthermore, I don't particularly care. Institutions on which detainees are wholly and directly dependent are not meaningfully comparable to society at large. I think that the scope of the abuses which has been documented so far constitutes, in and of itself, grounds for sunsetting our current immigration enforcement agencies with expedience and putting a lot of people on trial.

Whether or not you are aware of it, your position appears to have shifted in the course of two posts from "these institutions can be tolerated, so long as they don't have a body count" to "these institutions can be tolerated, so long as they are not explicitly organized toward murder and/or rape on an industrial scale". There's a lot of room between those two statements.

No, my position is that as long as it isn't work camps or concentration camps, then it is a matter to be taken up by our democracy and not activists directly attacking the enforcement of policy.

My only other argument is against shifting the definition of the US facilities to something similar to a North Korean labor camp, a concentration camp, or even a Japanese Internment camp is a terrible way forward.

I just want to make it clear that at some point the democratic process becomes an excuse for crime, but this is clearly not it.

I support your right to hate it and to speak against what you feel is wrong, but I do not support anything that defiles the democratic process.

Please vote, yell, and convince because that breeds an environment of intelligent concensus. Please don't use espionage (for lack of better vocabulary) tactics against random bureaucratic organizations.

Not getting what we want is something we have to accept when living in a society. People die in prison from mistreatment, and that is something I feel strongly about it, but I do not see boycott or forced increased expense as a viable solution.

Just convince people your argument is correct. Any other tactic beyond logic is, in my opinion, hostile to democracy.

"a place where large numbers of people, especially political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities, sometimes to provide forced labor or to await mass execution. The term is most strongly associated with the several hundred camps established by the Nazis in Germany and occupied Europe in 1933–45, among the most infamous being Dachau, Belsen, and Auschwitz."

They aren't this. Word games aside, they aren't designed for extermination or even penal purposes as was with the Japanese Internment camps.

Large numbers of people, check; deliberately imprisoned, check; relatively small area, check; inadequate facilities, check. If you look, "concentration" doesn't mean or even necessarily suggest punishment or extermination.

You may additionally want to investigate the distinction between "penal" and "penile", while you're at it.

Thank you for correcting my spelling. That could cause me a lot of embarrassment in a less forgiving environment.

Right, but all of those boxes are also checked for any prison that currently exists or has existed. So we're in a discussion about connotation.

Do you personally believe these are camps equivalent to the ones found in Nazi Germany?

To be clear, I wish ICE would spend more time and resources on busting sex trafficking, but it's a political thing in my view point. If you can successfully convince me that these are literally death camps, then I'll be the first to rise up in force and the first willing to give my life to stop it.

But that's not what it is. It's just finding and recording people who didn't stop at customs from what I've read.

Again, you've gone from saying that there's a problem worth organizing against if our immigration system has a human cost to insisting that there's only such a problem if we're overtly attempting genocide on the border. This is not the strategy of a reasonable person open to being convinced. There isn't much more I could or would say without being openly contemptuous of a worldview which insists that the vote is the one and only legitimate exercise of political pressure (as the old saw goes, if voting changed anything they'd outlaw it; and it bears remembering that this was happening under Obama, too) and splits hairs about how much concentration camp is too much concentration camp.

Depriving "concentration camps" of resources will make the lives of the individuals within better or worse?

You seem to mix the practical with the political issues. Voting is the only legitimate way to interact in a democracy. Anything else: the few attempting to govern the many.


And lastly... Corporate America is the LAST group I want to dictate government policy. Petitioning GitHub (Microsoft) to help form government policy is a deal with the devil at best.


I don't support ICE. I want to make that clear. This is playing the devil's advocate because it's a discussion worth having imo.

Anyway.. GitHub providing an Enterprise level service to ICE, which group does bad things, is hard to boycott without implying that lots of others need similar treatment.

Take a look at Google and their work with censored search in China. If everybody's gung ho about Hong Kong right now then why on Earth would they support Google? Even if they stopped the project after it went public (and would probably totally try it again?)

Oh wait. It's Google. Cancel culture doesn't work too well on a company that runs the systems (Google search, suite, Youtube, etc) that facilitate the majority of people's internet usage.

It's a similar issue with ICE. No, they should not be separating families. That is wrong. I agree with you.

But how do you specifically target and address THAT without denigrating the need for making sure our incoming citizens and visitors are safe and sound? We have to do it somehow. I don't have an answer beyond "child separation bad." That's why I'm not in politics.


I appreciate the hard questions.

I have sympathy for the difficulty companies face, when the legal context makes it nearly impossible for them, for example GitHub's restrictions in Crimea, Syria and Iran. They could have handled some of it differently, but overall the onus is on US Dept of Treasury/Justice.

In the case of Google, they are not compelled to censor/provide a censored version of Google search in China. And their employees have been successful in getting them to cancel Project Dragonfly.

Making larger tech companies accountable is certainly a challenge, whether it's Amazon, Google or Microsoft and yet people still do. Whether it is Google employees staging a massive walkout, or community organisations stopping Amazon from staging a new HQ in New York City.


As someone who has been paying for GitHub's(and to a lesser extent Microsoft's) services for years, what is the best way to reach out and let Nat Friedman, GitHub and parent company Microsoft know that its customers are not on board with them profiting via ICE contracts?


They do not appear interested in hearing about it. Microsoft's been chasing government contracts for a while, militarizing HoloLens and just now winning JEDI. I moved my public GitHub projects to GitLab (which has been having its own ethics fiascos of late, if at least on a much smaller scale) early this year after it was clear they were ignoring the original let-GitHub-know-how-you-feel project and hoping it'd blow over.

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