Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a proposed rule requiring collection of all social media sites used for the past five years, including user names, not only to enter the U.S., but also on numerous immigration applications, including those for permanent residency and naturalization.
This is a proposed rule, and DHS is accepting comments up to November 4, 2019. Thus, it is not yet in effect. The rule proposes gathering information on all social media use for the past five years of all applicants for entry into the US, as well as immigrants filing for other immigration benefits.
DHS will use the following list, a drop-down menu, for all ESTA and EVUS applications, requiring the applicant to reveal any use of the following social media sites: Ask FM; Douban; Facebook; Flickr; Instagram; LinkedIn; MySpace; Pinterest; QZone (QQ); Reddit; Sina Weibo; Tencent Weibo; Tumbler; Twitter; Twoo; Vine and Vkontakte (VK).
However, this list is subject to change, and DHS will change it as needed to keep up with new social media and people’s preferences. Applicants for adjustment and other immigration benefits are expected to reveal all social media use in the past five years, not limited to those particular web sites.
DHS’s definition of social media is very expansive and vague, and is not limited to those mentioned on the list: “Social media takes many different forms, including but not limited to web-based communities and hosted services, social networking sites, video and photo sharing sites, blogs, virtual worlds, social bookmarking and other emerging technologies.”
Not only will social media information be required for applications to enter the US on the visa waiver program, using ESTA, EVUS, and visa applications from abroad, but it will also be required for foreign nationals and permanent residents already physically present in the US., applying for permanent residence, naturalization, asylum, advance parole, petitions for family members of asylees, removal of conditions on residency (for those who obtained the green card based on marriage to a US citizen) and petitions by entrepreneurs to remove the conditions on permanent residence (EB-5).
For applicants for adjustment to permanent residency, this new rule coincides with the new public charge rule. As a result, foreign nationals applying for the green card now face a much more arduous and lengthy process, as not only will they be required to provide their credit score, credit report, the amounts of any school loans, credit card debt and any and every other liability, as well as financial information on all the members of their household, but they will also be required to provide information on all social media use and user names for the past five years. This clearly is a strategy on the part of the Trump Administration of ‘looking for bad’, basically making an exhaustive search to try to find some reason to deny applications, and at the same time gather impressive amounts of data on the U.S. citizens connected to each foreign national. Our tax-payer money will be used up searching each and every foreign national’s social media, credit report and voluminous amounts of irrelevant data, to try to bar ordinary law-abiding people from the U.S. rather than focusing resources on actual threats to our national security.
While the proposed rule claims that DHS and its agencies, including CBP, ICE, and USCIS, will respect the First Amendment rights to free speech and association for residents and US citizens who also appear on the immigrant applicants’ social media, in practice this is nothing but lip-service. It is obvious that individual CBP agents, consular officers, and other government examiners have broad discretion and already violate our rights to privacy and free speech and association.
Prior to this rule, CBP (Customs and Border Protection) agents have already been checking the social media of people seeking to enter the US, as has the US State Department when people apply for visas. The other agencies of DHS, including ICE and USCIS, also research immigrants’ social media use, although up to now that information has not been requested on immigration applications
For example, the recent incident this September 2019, in which an F-1 student was initially denied entry into the US not even on the basis of what he himself posted or said on social media, but rather because of what other individuals posted. This Harvard student, who happens to be Palestinian, was interrogated for hours by CBP and was denied entry because of posts by ‘friends’ on social media, deemed to have political opinions contrary to the US by CBP officers. While this decision was reversed because of the intervention of Harvard University, most foreign nationals do not have Harvard or another powerful institution to go to bat for them, and will merely be turned away with no recourse. See, https://www.theverge.com/2019/8/31/20837448/social-media-dhs-cbp-surveillance-us-border-ismail-ajjawi-harvard
CBP’s current practice also affects US citizens, not just foreign nationals, as CBP has been demanding social media information and performing searches of cell phones and other electronic devices of US citizens returning to the U.S. See, https://reclaimthenet.org/us-citizens-gbp-social-media/
Individuals and organizations have the opportunity to submit comments on this new proposed rule, up to November 4, 2019, and make their voices heard to protect our beloved US Constitution. You may send your comments, which must include Docket # DHS-2019-0044 at http://www.regulations.gov, by following the instructions for submitting comments. See 84 Fed. Reg. 171 at p 46557 (Sept 4, 2019), at https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-09-04/pdf/2019-19021.pdf
As George Orwell described in the classic book 1984, “Always eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or bed—no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters in your skull.” Our founders believed in limited government, as all-powerful governments turn oppressive.
Copyright 2019 © Heidi J. Meyers, all rights reserved.