Akal Security’s parent organization distanced the massive Española-based firm from its longstanding ties with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement last month in response to at least a year of internal backlash in the 3HO Sikh community to ICE’s human rights violations and family detention policies at the U.S.-Mexico border.
An Aug. 21 statement from the Siri Singh Sahib Corporation, a nonprofit which owns Akal through a chain of holding companies and acts as its oversight body, said Akal would not enter new contracts with ICE and that the Corporation is “actively exploring and evaluating” Akal’s current single contract with ICE and its business model in general.
Executive Director for the Corporation’s Office of Public Affairs Shanti Kaur Khalsa said Akal is currently about halfway through its 10-year security contract at the Krome Service Processing Center in Miami.
She said Akal’s profits have not gone to any of the Corporation’s nonprofit entities for five years, originally a business decision that is now bolstered by the move from the Corporation Board of Trustees.
In addition to the for-profit Yogi Tea empire and KIIT Renewable Energy, the Corporation owns a host of nonprofits around the world including Sikh Dharma International, Sikhnet, 3HO Foundation International, and the Kundalini Research Institute.
Khalsa, formerly vice president for Akal’s business division, said while the firm’s work at Krome a thousand miles from the Mexican border is not directly linked to family detention policies, the Corporation Board heard their constituents’ concerns and saw that the base connection to ICE had become problematic.
“We are not comfortable with this relationship,” she said. “We certainly will do nothing to further this relationship.”
The Board statement said Krome only detains adult men and provides a humane environment.
Fatehbir Kaur, a Kundalini Yoga teacher in Los Angeles, Calif., started a petition about a year ago for Akal to sever ties with ICE which garnered 726 digital signatures. She released a response to the Corporation’s recent statement calling it a breakthrough but still urging leaders to fully divest from ICE contracts and establish an improved system of transparency.
“We know there are many factors, organizations and viewpoints for the board to consider in its decision-making process and acknowledge the thought and consciousness that went into what we believe is the first major step in repairing our integrity as a spiritual community,” she wrote.
Kaur could not be reached for comment by press time.
Khalsa said she understood the statement was an intermediate step and while it is premature to say what the Board’s evaluation of Akal’s business model will bring, there would be more to come.
Akal holds a score of contracts with the federal government protecting military bases, courthouses and airports. Its subsidiary Coastal Security International provides smaller-scale protection and investigations and guards U.S. embassies, working in 25 countries, according to Akal Global’s website.
Khalsa said Akal has worked with ICE since the federal agency’s formation in 2002 and the contracts were not an issue until recent policy changes.
“We have a long, long history of working with them and it has never been anything of moral significance and that has all changed in the last couple years,” she said.
While the Siri Singh Sahib Corporation is registered in Oregon, its international Board members gather in person biannually at the broader Khalsa Council meeting in Española and seven of its 17 members are based in Northern New Mexico, the largest geographic concentration.