SSNDs, Immigration Policies,
and Shareholder Advocacy
Ethel Howley, SSND
“The gift of our internationality
sharpens our consciousness of universal needs
and calls us to foster within ourselves
concern for the people of the world.”
(YAS, GD 36)
School Sisters of Notre Dame have been involved with immigrants since our arrival in North America when we set out to educate German immigrant children in several east coast cities. Today, our ministries include the recent newcomers from many countries to the United States and Canada. At the same time, as shareholders, we are prompted to address the support given by many international corporations to the current U.S. immigration policies which are contradictory to our national tradition of welcoming immigrants. Through our membership with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and as investors, we believe that just immigration policies are critical to a stable and prosperous business environment, and will also promote sustainable communities. Therefore, we are committed to take action with these companies through shareholder engagements.
Very little is being brought to the public’s eye concerning the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and their quiet building of what will likely become the largest database of biometric and biographic data on citizens, immigrants, and foreigners in the United States. The agency’s new Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) database will include multiple forms of biometrics—from face recognition to DNA, data from questionable sources, and highly personal data on innocent people. It will be shared with federal agencies outside of DHS as well as state and local law enforcement and foreign governments. This type of information can be detrimental to immigrants in our country, those who are here with permanent residency and citizenship, as well those admitted as refugees and those awaiting asylum hearings. Through its $95 million contract with DHS, Northrup Grumman Corporation may be linked with or contribute to these adverse human rights impacts through the development of the necessary technology.
Therefore, the SSND Cooperative Investment Fund, along with two other religious congregations, filed a resolution, Report on Implementation of their Human Rights Policy, and entered into dialogue with appropriate company executives. All Northrup Grumman shareholders will vote on this resolution at the annual meeting in May indicating to the Board of Directors their concern for its human rights course of action. Ultimately, this will determine what contracts Northrup Grumman will accept.
ICCR members have also issued a proposal with Amazon Web Services calling for an end to the sale of facial recognition technology to government agencies, including ICE and state law enforcement, unless independent evidence concludes there is no violation of human rights.
Private for-profit prisons in the U.S. are used to house immigrants, particularly women and children. The conditions are very crowded, lacking facilities for education and necessary health care. Because of investor influence through dialogues and investor pressure, J P Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and US Bank are pulling back from financing this sector. J P Morgan Chase is withdrawing totally from this sector. Wells Fargo will not renew any existing agreements or sign new ones. With this decrease in funding for private prisons, it is hoped that the US government will look for more humane ways of dealing with people waiting for their asylum hearings.
Engaging in dialogues with companies proves to be an effective way to bring change to corporate policies. Immigration themes such as human rights guidelines and data collection technology have been introduced with Microsoft and Accenture. Financing the Border Wall and private prisons have been dialogue issues with General Dynamics. Successful results are slow in coming. Yet socially responsible investors believe in staying with the process because what is good for people and for the Earth is also good for business.