Activists protest ICE grant for data on weapons trafficking
- An activist group is rallying Northeastern University students for a protest Wednesday against a research grant provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
- The grant is intended to fund research into data mapping that could help combat weapons trafficking, but the protesters fear it "could just as easily be used to expand mass surveillance of immigrants and communities of color."
- NU says the protesters concerns are "completely uninformed and ludicrous," adding that it would go against academic freedom to restrict faculty members from accepting funding from certain government agencies.
Activists are protesting Northeastern University’s multi-million dollar research contract with ICE, calling the affiliation “irresponsible and immoral.”
NU students and independent activists are organizing a protest on Wednesday to demand the university cut all ties with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, a government organization they believe is “immoral.”
NU’s contract with ICE to study “Exploratory Methods Mapping” (EMM), which is designed to track or map large data sets over a geographic area, began in September 2016 and runs until August 2021.
The contract’s total “potential award amount” at the end of the nearly five-year contract is $7,758,040, of which the university has already received $2,711,012.
A petition protesting the contract, which had been signed by nearly 2,000 people as of press time, declares that “having any kind of contract with ICE at this moment in history is irresponsible and immoral,” demanding that Northeastern “immediately end all contracts with ICE.”
“The US government is tearing families apart. Children have been kept in cages,” the petition reads. “There is more evidence every day that ICE is engaged in widespread human rights violations. And Northeastern University is helping them.”
The form letter also claims that while EMM technology is intended to help combat weapons trafficking, it “could just as easily be used to expand mass surveillance of immigrants and communities of color” and give ICE a method to track illegal immigrants for deportation.
NU Vice President of Communications Renata Nyul, however, told Campus Reform that such fears are unfounded, explaining that the research grant was “obtained by a Northeastern University professor” who has been studying “data related to the import and export of weapons of mass destruction.”
“Any assertion that this grant-funded project is or could be related to the current immigration policies in any way is completely uninformed and ludicrous,” Nyul declared.
“Our commitment to academic freedom goes beyond protecting what professors say; it also means allowing faculty members to freely pursue research funding in their fields of expertise,” she added. “Efforts to restrict which federal agencies a faculty member can approach for research funding are antithetical to academic freedom.”
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