A US cloud computing and AI company whose systems power the US Unified Immigration Portal
Salesforce.com is an enterprise cloud computing company focusing on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems based in San Francisco. It provides cloud, mobile, social analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) services. The company generated $21.3 billion in revenue during 2020.
Salesforce is a major cloud services provider for the U.S. government, including for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As of 2021, Salesforce was authorized to provide cloud services to 55 U.S. federal agencies, placing it among the 10 most important providers of cloud services to the federal government. Although the company itself has held some direct federal contracts, its services to DHS agencies are provided through third-party contractors.
This is the case, for instance, with the Unified Immigration Portal (UIP), which privately-owned consulting firm Deloitte has built on the Salesforce CRM platform for Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The UIP facilitates information sharing between CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), as well as Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice.
The system provides real-time information across immigration agencies in order to “help to better track individuals as they move along through the immigration journey.” The platform uses advanced analytics capabilities, which may include machine learning, AI tools, network analysis, and “other advanced analytics platforms,” according to contracting documents. CBP notes that in the future more agencies might share information through the UIP, such as the Department of State, Department of Labor, and even some Non-Governmental Organizations.
In February 2021, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that UIP was used to track unaccompanied children “from the time of apprehension to their referral and placement in HHS-funded shelters.” The Portal also shares biographic data and will eventually automate the tracking process.
Work on the UIP started in 2019 as part of a blanket purchase agreement that CBP awarded Deloitte. In February 2021 it awarded the company another $10 million contract to “continue data analytics for UIP” through January 2022. The UIP is powered with data storage and analytics, processing, and AI from Databricks, a company whose investors include Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft, and Salesforce.
Beyond the Unified Immigration Portal, CBP spent an additional $100.7 million on Salesforce products and services between 2018 and June 2021. For example, in 2020 CBP awarded two contracts worth a potential $13 million to Steampunk, a company with close ties to the Trump administration (see below), for Salesforce products. Another $13 million contract was awarded to Accenture in the same year for similar purposes.
In June 2018, 650 Salesforce employees demanded the company cancel a contract the company has with CBP, citing “the inhumane separation of children from their parents” by the agency. CBP awarded the $836,000 contract to Agility Technologies, for Salesforce planning, training, and testing, three months earlier. In July, Texas immigrant rights organization RAICES turned down a $250,000 donation from Salesforce CEO Marc Benoiff. After not showing up to a scheduled meeting with RAICES, Benioff said he was busy scuba diving.
Benioff argued that Salesforce products were not directly related to family separation and decided to continue working with CBP, although he later claimed to have “struggled with the decision.” However, later that year Salesforce took its relationship with CBP to a new level, selling over $48 million in Salesforce licenses to CBP and millions more in third-party contracts for Salesforce-related services, including the “use of Salesforce Platform as a Service (PAAS) throughout CBP.”
Salesforce has a Political Action Committee (PAC) that has spent $448,398 on campaign contributions from 2011 to June 2021, through direct contributions and other PACs. From 2005 to June 2021 It has also spent $16.6 million in lobbying expenses on issues related to cybersecurity and IT modernization, artificial intelligence, encryption policy, cloud technology and EARN IT (a controversial bill that threatens first amendment rights of Internet users), cross border data flows and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
Former U.S. Secretary of State during the Bush administration Colin Powell has been a board member since 2014.
Kevin McAleenan, Commissioner of CBP and Secretary of Homeland Security during the Trump administration, is a board member of Salesforce strategic partner Steampunk, which held contracts worth up to USD 13.1 million to provide Salesforce products to CBP as of 2021.