Polarizing Government Work: McKinsey & Co. and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

by: Andrew Hoffman

Publication Date: April 21, 2022
Length: 12 pages
Product ID#: 3-951-926

Core Disciplines: Ethics, Leadership/Organizational Behavior, Social Impact, Strategy & Management, Sustainability

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Teaching Note

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When Donald Trump announced his run for president in 2015, he placed immigration front and center in his campaign. He promised to drastically expand U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and build a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Immigration quickly became a critical and divisive issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.

This case places students in the role of a fictional partner at McKinsey & Co. who must determine whether to pursue a multimillion-dollar contract extension with ICE. The potential extension comes in the weeks after Trump began pursuing a “zero-tolerance” border policy, which led to the separation of almost 3,000 children from their families in the span of a few weeks. The policies resulted in an international outcry, making the question of the contract extension controversial, even before a prominent New York Times article drew attention to McKinsey’s previous questionable work with another country’s government. The protagonist must weigh public perception, potential profits, staff morale, McKinsey’s reputation among its other clients, and her own career advancement as she decides whether to extend the contract.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Understand the role federal contractors play in supporting executive branch policies.
  • Articulate issues and stakeholders relevant to the protagonist’s dilemma.
  • Debate the ethical considerations of situations when businesses support or oppose government policies.
  • Discuss why the protagonist must make a decision, and which factors weigh most heavily upon that decision.