NYC Council Member Brad Lander issued the following statement in response to comments made by Mayor Bill de Blasio on the Brian Lehrer Show today, in which the mayor said that if Amazon has a contractual relationship with ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), he would call on them to end it:

“Last month, the New York City Council held a hearing with Amazon executives. Anyone listening attentively to what Amazon’s VP of Public Policy, Brian Huseman, said under oath would acknowledge that Amazon made clear it is providing facial recognition technology to ICE, in furtherance of Trump’s deportation machine.  

As was reported in the Daily Beast in October, documents obtained by the Project on Government Oversight show that Amazon pitched ICE on its controversial facial recognition technology last summer. In addition, a group of Amazon employees, troubled by an ACLU analysis showing that the technology is faulty and characterized by implicit bias, called on the company to sever its ties to ICE.

When Council Speaker Corey Johnson asked what relationship Amazon had with ICE at the City Council hearing, Amazon’s Huseman responded, ‘We think the federal government should have access to the best technology.’

I followed up directly on this point, telling Huseman that I understood his answer to be an affirmation that Amazon provides facial recognition software to ICE, and giving him the opportunity to correct the record. Huseman did not correct the record or deny the relationship. In response to further questioning from Buzzfeed, Amazon would not say outright that it does not work with ICE. Instead, Husemen placidly said, “We have not been able to replicate the ACLU’s analysis.” This was more than a “non-denial.” This was a non-denial which anyone listening objectively should take as a confirmation.

Amazon has expressed that it wants to be a “good neighbor” in Queens, one of the most heavily immigrant places in the country. But a good neighbor does not help to facilitate the deportations of family members and neighbors by a xenophobic President for corporate profit.

I appreciate the Mayor acknowledging the serious concerns that a relationship between Amazon and ICE poses, but I urge the Mayor to watch the video from the City Council hearing. The only possible conclusion is that there is a standing relationship between the two.

It is not enough for the Mayor to call for Amazon to end its relationship with ICE. If the Mayor and Governor Cuomo are truly committed to New York City being a sanctuary city, they should not proceed in negotiations with Amazon unless Amazon severs its relationship with ICE.”