ICE says it hasn't heard from Vancouver's Hootsuite that it has backed out of contract

Is Hootsuite out or not?

The U.S. law enforcement agency at the centre of employee backlash at a Vancouver tech company says it hasn’t received notice from Hootsuite Inc. that it’s backing out of its contract.

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement recently awarded a US$500,000 contract for Hootsuite through a third-party vendor.

But multiple employees at the social media management company took to Twitter and Facebook this week to express exasperation at the business arrangement.

CEO Tom Keiser, who joined in July, revealed Thursday Hootsuite was backing out of the deal amidst a “divided company.”

“This is not the kind of company I came to lead. I — and the rest of the management team — share the concerns our people have expressed. As a result, we have decided to not proceed with the deal with ICE,” he said in a statement.

But no formal notice of backing out of the contract has been issued to ICE, a spokeswoman says.

“At this time, ICE has not received formal notification from the contract awardee that the company is unable to meet the contract requirements,” Mary Houtmann said in an email Friday.

“But if true, it’s disappointing that they would not support our workforce that is committed to protecting the homeland; taking gang members, drug traffickers and rapists off the streets; and protecting children from trafficking and exploitation.”

The American law enforcement agency has been the focus of criticism, controversy and outcry the past two years amid Trump administration policies separating migrant parents from their children at the U.S.-Mexican border.

Hootsuite’s products had been tapped to manage ICE’s social media accounts “that help educate the public about the work done every day by our law enforcement officers,” according to Houtmann.

“That we are eagerly accepting money from an organization that is allegedly subjecting its female detainees to forced hysterectomies, that has a documented history of locking children in cages, that tears families apart and destroys lives is devastating and disgusting in a way … that I can’t effectively put into words,” Hootsuite product trainer Sam Anderson tweeted Wednesday, referring to recent media reports of forced procedures.

“Even more heartbreaking is that multiple members of our Mexico City support team have relayed their personal experiences being targeted and harassed by ICE and our leadership team chose to push this deal through anyway.”

Hootsuite has not responded to follow-up inquiries.

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