Employees at Deloitte are calling for the firm to end its consulting for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, circulating a petition saying they have “moral objections” to the work. Their bid comes on the heels of a decision by a competitor, McKinsey & Company, to sever ties with the immigration agency after employees raised questions about the work.
Deloitte employees have appealed to the company’s chief executive, Cathy Engelbert, to end the company’s contracts with both ICE and United States Customs and Border Protection, and to take a public stance against the Trump administration policy that resulted in migrant children being separated from their parents, according to the petition and screenshots of internal emails seen by The New York Times. Deloitte said its work had played no role in the separation of migrant families.
The stands taken by Deloitte and McKinsey workers underscore the rise of employee activism as a potent voice of protest against Trump administration policies. Last month Google, responding to employee anger over the company’s work with the Pentagon on artificial intelligence, issued new rules barring the company from using A.I. technology for weapons or for surveillance that violates human rights.
The petition, along with an employee email to Ms. Engelbert on Tuesday, pointed to a Times article reporting that McKinsey, a rival consultancy, had ended its work with ICE. That article, citing federal contracting records, said that Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers Public Sector L.L.P. and Booz Allen Hamilton also did work with the agency. As of Thursday afternoon, more than 750 names had been added to the petition, records show.
“We believe that Deloitte must take a stand against the mistreatment of human beings as a result of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agencies’ continued family separation,” Deloitte employees wrote to Ms. Engelbert. The email also stated that Deloitte “must question how its services and offerings to these agencies contribute to ongoing injustice.”
In an email response to employees, Ms. Engelbert said she appreciated their voicing concerns to her. “We often talk about fostering courageous conversations,” she said. “That is what our culture of courage is all about.”
Daniel Helfrich, who leads Deloitte’s government practice, told his employees in an email on Thursday that the company had been working with the immigration and border agencies for many years and that the firm’s work “does not directly or indirectly support the separation of families.”
“Any such work would be inconsistent with our values,” Mr. Helfrich said in the email, which was provided to The Times by a Deloitte spokesman. The email noted that Deloitte had chosen not to bid on many “high value contracts” that were considered out of step with the company’s values, goals or “risk thresholds.”
Mr. Helfrich also asked that employees “remember that these high-visibility situations create stress for our clients too,” adding that “our empathy in these moments is essential.”
Neither Ms. Engelbert nor Mr. Helfrich indicated that the company would end its work with ICE. Jonathan Gandal, a Deloitte spokesman, said in a statement that the employee response to the management’s explanation of the work “has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Deloitte’s contracts with ICE include one for “administrative and data/records management support services” for the division dealing with detention and removal of unauthorized immigrants. It was signed in 2015 and is worth as much as $5.3 million, federal records show. Deloitte’s government and public services practice has about 13,000 employees.
The outcry among some Deloitte employees echoes concerns raised at McKinsey after The Times reported in June that McKinsey was working with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations division. After that report, McKinsey ended its contract with the agency.
McKinsey’s new managing partner, Kevin Sneader, said in a note to former employees that the news of McKinsey’s ICE contract had “rightly raised” internal concerns. The firm, he wrote, “will not, under any circumstances, engage in any work, anywhere in the world, that advances or assists policies that are odds with our values.”
Agustin Armendariz contributed reporting.