Amazon, ICE, and Global Trade

-Kason Hudman, PJC Volunteer & Facilitator

For people interested in resisting large corporations, the many sins of Amazon are discussed so often that it has almost become cliché. However, due to its unusually broad influence on the marketplace and our lifestyle, a constant reminder of the real human cost that comes with supporting Amazon is perhaps necessary. From horrifying labor abuse, a shocking factory workplace culture, and a long-standing record of environmental degradation and resource extraction, Amazon has done more than its fair share to contribute to our current planetary crisis. All of this further enriches Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos who is already far and away the richest person on the planet.

One area of abuse that has received less attention until quite recently is Amazon’s relationship with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and their profiteering off the mistreatment and abuse of immigrant families. In our current moment of increased attention to the struggles faced by immigrants and the fight for migrant justice, it is imperative that we cast our gaze at the way that Amazon is again contributing to the problem. We should rethink our financial relationship with Amazon and focus on supporting fair trade and local producers.

Nearly every week there is another story about ICE detention centers, concentration camps, and violent Border Patrol agents disregarding the basic dignity of migrants and their families. In response to these conditions, activism and direct action demanding migrant justice has arisen across the country. From ICE facility occupations to economic boycotts of ICE investors, there are multiple avenues activists can take in demanding the better treatment of immigrants.

In recent weeks, some activists across the country have rightly focused their attention on Amazon. Amazon provides significant technological support to ICE, including developing harmful facial recognition technologies and providing logistical support. Amazon Web Services also supplies the cloud platform for Palantir (a private American software company that specializes in big data analytics) to maintain their massive database of undocumented people As we have seen in Vermont, those databases are inaccurate, racially biased, and particularly focused on targeting activists who stand up for immigration justice. Any financial support that you give to Amazon, including merely visiting their website, provides some monetary support for ICE and their attack on migrant families and human rights. Boycotting Amazon is a key tool in the broader fight against borders and our horrific and racist immigration system.

Due to the fact that Amazon commands such a large presence in our broader culture, a complete boycott seems difficult. Luckily, the Peace & Justice Store provides a local place to shop that, in contrast to shopping on Amazon, gives a voice to those fighting for migrant justice and provides direct monetary
support to people in the global south. There are many fair trade products at the Peace & Justice Store made by people living in Central America, from many of the countries migrants are coming
from. The Peace & Justice Center has also been directly involved with local efforts to support immigrants and undocumented people, and will continue to be involved as long as human migration is criminalized and migrant families are denied justice. Boycotting Amazon and supporting fair trade and local producers therefore goes beyond anti-consumerism; it’s a key part of demanding basic human rights for all humans and demanding respect for immigrants.