Deloitte, one of the world's largest consulting firms, has inked tens of millions in contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) since Trump took office. The company is desperate to convince the public and its staff that this work is "consistent with our firm’s values" and "brings positive impact to our clients, our people, and our communities."
What does that mean? Mike Canning, who leads Deloitte's Government & Public Services (GPS) practice, provided more detail in a July 18 teleconference with Deloitte staff. During that call, Canning told staff that Deloitte does not do any work related to the physical border wall, according to sources inside Deloitte who listened to the call.
But another Deloitte source and internal email communications shared with Popular Information reveal that Canning’s claim was false.
In January 2019, Deloitte staff helped prepare a high-profile presentation for the White House advocating for increased funding for a physical border wall. "Our Deloitte team put together the stats and briefing material for the White House presentation on border security," a Deloitte staffer emailed colleagues in January. Another staffer responded with a link to a CNN article about the presentation.
The document prepared with Deloitte's assistance was presented by then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a January 4 meeting at the White House with Congressional leaders. The presentation took place amid a government shutdown over Trump's insistence on funding for the border wall. The slide deck was later released to the public.
The presentation repeatedly marshalls government statistics to advocate for the construction of the border wall. "A dramatic spike in illegal drugs at the southern border makes clear the need for an effective physical barrier," it says.
The presentation was widely criticized for making a flawed and misleading case for a physical wall. The slide on increasing drug smuggling, for example, fails to mention that the "majority of hard narcotics seized by Customs and Border Protection come through ports of entry either in packages, cargo or with people who attempt to enter the U.S. legally." That smuggling would be unaffected by the construction of a border wall. Another slide highlighted the number of suspected terrorists attempting to enter the U.S. in 2017, without noting that virtually none of those individuals attempted to cross through the U.S.-Mexico border.
Deloitte's involvement in the White House presentation has raised concern among numerous Deloitte staffers who participated in or became aware of the work. The Deloitte sources cited in this piece all insisted on anonymity because they believe they would be fired for talking about internal communications.
Popular Information contacted five representatives at Deloitte for comment last week, including Mike Canning, but did not receive a response. Four hours after Popular Information sent its inquiry to Deloitte, however, a top executive at a global crisis communication firm that has worked with Deloitte, Hill + Knowlton Strategies, subscribed to this newsletter.
The $18 million question
In 2018, Deloitte brushed off an effort by its employees to convince the firm to drop ICE and CBP as clients. Deloitte attempted to thread the needle by continuing to work with ICE and CBP while implicitly acknowledging the cruelty of Trump's immigration crackdown. A Deloitte spokesperson said at the time that it "does not directly or indirectly support the separation of families" because "any such work would be inconsistent with our values."
This year, the company has intensified its work with the agencies responsible for implementing Trump's immigration policies. One of Deloitte's biggest new contracts with ICE, which began in April and is worth up to $18,206,950 over one year, is to provide "professional analytic support services" to the Pacific Enforcement Response Center (PERC) in Laguna Nigel, California.
What is PERC?
ICE describes PERC as a "tactical force multiplier" for enforcement and removal operations (ERO) that "operates round-the-clock 365 days per year." PERC operates a "hodgepodge of databases that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers rely on when issuing so-called detainers, which are requests made to police agencies to keep people who have been arrested in custody for up two days beyond the time they would otherwise be held." These detainers allow "ICE agents additional time to take people suspected of being in the country illegally into federal custody for possible deportation."
PERC's activities have been subject to an ongoing lawsuit because the databases are often incomplete or inaccurate and the detainers issued by ICE are not approved by a judge.
Jessica Karp Bansal is a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California who has been involved in the litigation for several years. Bansal told Popular Information that Deloitte's contract with PERC means the company is involved in the separation of families.
PERC's whole business... is separating families and putting mothers and fathers and brothers and people's kids in detention centers and sending them away without regard for how long they've been here or what they've been doing. So there is no way they have an $18 million contract with the PERC and they are not doing something that conflicts with their values if their values are to keep families together.
Other consulting firms have taken a different approach. In July 2018, consulting giant McKinsey announced it would no longer do any work with ICE in response to complaints by its staff.
The LinkedIn link
On the July 18 Deloitte teleconference, Canning also claimed that "the work we do has nothing to do with the [detention] centers." Apart from their contract with PERC, which helps send thousands of people to detention centers, there is other evidence that suggests Deloitte has been recently involved in the administration of ICE detention facilities.
Josh Malloy worked at Deloitte from August 2013 to March 2019. On Linkedin, Malloy includes this description of his work at Deloitte.
Supported budget formulation and justification by developing accurate forecasts of the ICE detainee population across a portfolio of ~230 detention facilities and performed sensitivity analysis on model outputs by simulating seasonal surges and enforcement activities
Popular Information's July 16 report on Deloitte highlighted the LinkedIn page of Jim Brown, a "Specialist Master at Deloitte Federal Consulting." Brown's page included a detailed description of his work on ICE detention facilities while at Deloitte since February 2018, including working with the "ICE facilities management group" on "detention bed space utilization and optimization processes."
Deloitte responded to inquiries for that report and said that Brown's page "does not accurately reflect his responsibilities since joining Deloitte."
Popular Information followed up last week and asked why, if Brown's LinkedIn page was inaccurate, it has not been updated. There was no response, but since that inquiry, the lengthy description of Brown's work at Deloitte on LinkedIn was deleted. It was not replaced by any updated description of Brown's work at Deloitte.
Image credit: Roy Blumenthal
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