In this week’s episode, we talk to Cata Santiago of Movimiento Cosecha, an immigrant rights organization that is spearheading a campaign against Amazon for its cooperation with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Donald Trump’s deportation machine. The world’s biggest retailer, with the world’s richest man at its helm, is lending technology that is mostly used to crack down on low-wage workers while exploiting its own low-wage workforce. As Amazon workers went on strike in Europe for better treatment, Cosecha launched actions in the US to pressure Amazon to stop cooperating with ICE.
Sarah Jaffe: We are talking because Cosecha has a campaign that is targeting Amazon. Can you tell me about Amazon’s role in the immigration system?
Cata Santiago: Yes. Amazon is a corporation that is profiting off of the suffering of the immigrant community, where they are selling their surveillance to ICE, and that is something that we are not being complicit to.
During this week, while we are talking, it is supposed to be Amazon Prime Day and they appear to have extended it, but around the world, actually, workers are taking action against Amazon. Tell us a little bit about how your part of the campaign took shape?
We are basically calling people — we have a choice as a customer, and at the end of the day, customers are the one who made Amazon successful. Without customers, they are nothing. Therefore, we are asking for customers to make that decision of no longer being complicit in the atrocities that Amazon directly supports and enables. So, we are basically asking people to not shop there and asking Amazon to end their collaboration with ICE.
Some people might be surprised to find out that Amazon has technology that they are selling to ICE. How did you all find out about that and what is it that they have that they are selling?
It is their technology and just this way of just targeting the immigrant community as part of the deportation machine that definitely targets the community intentionally to destroy families. So, in this whole wave of family separation, we came across different corporations that do that in an intentional manner. The message is that Amazon is the target right now. It is time for people to just make that conscious decision to just be aware of where they shop and not watch shows that Amazon has, or those good book deals, and so forth.
Today we also learned that Jeff Bezos … the founder of Amazon is now the world’s richest person. He has over $150 billion. When we are talking about their technology being used to crack down on immigrants who come to the US to work, mostly for very little money, what does it mean to immigrant workers to see how rich this person is and what kinds of things he is profiting off of?
It definitely personifies the immigrant experience. Because of our status, a lot of our community members are afraid of speaking up. They are exploited workers who, at the end of the day, sustain so many industries across the country. That is why it is so important for us to focus on that economic power and not shop at places like Amazon, and it is also good to remember the power of our labor, which is why we are shooting for a week-long strike.
In addition to calling for the boycott, you have had some actions targeting Amazon. Tell us about that.
Yes, we went in New York City where we shut down Amazon, where we saw customers not be able to go in, where they locked the doors and … the lights went off. This action was to come out and be vocal about what is happening, and also have this bigger invitation to the immigrant community and to anyone who thinks … what is happening for years against families is not right…. An action is planned for July 31, where we are asking people at the local level to bring the mounting pressure through, to ask for ICE contracts to end and calling for local county jails to not be used as detention centers. There are different industries that are also in partnership with ICE. So, it is basically exposing that.
How can people get involved with all of these actions, other than not shopping at Amazon? What else can they do?
There is the national day of action, which is July 31, where people can come together and say, “We won’t be complicit,” and there is a toolkit that they can find at www.NoBusinessWithICE.com. People can follow us on Facebook at Movimiento Cosecha. Because we are not trying to make a career out of what we are doing, any monetary support means a lot. It is through the community support that we actually have been able to do the work we have been doing in the past three years.
Are there other corporations besides Amazon that this campaign is targeting for their involvement with ICE?
So, there are many corporations … that have that cooperation with ICE. At the local level, people are being called to identify those people … like the lobbyists … just following the money contacts, and … [pressing] mayors [to be] like the one in Atlanta, Georgia, who was like, We are not using the county jail as a detention center. So, those are different ways that local people can address a national question at that localized level and also, we have calls, we have a support system. There is a team that can support those local leaders and we have weekly talks at 8 pm where people can just plug [in] and ultimately be able to share learnings in a coordinated manner.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast on iTunes. Not to be reprinted without permission.