Monday, October 9, 2017

Comments needed: Trump’s DHS is spying on immigrants

The comment to the Department of Homeland Security reads:
“The Department of Homeland Security’s new rule on recording, and sharing the social media activities of all immigrants and anyone who interacts with them online with other federal agencies, is xenophobic and unacceptable. I strongly oppose this policy. The DHS and other federal agencies should not be singling out or surveilling any American simply because they were born in another country.”
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Comments needed: Donald Trump’s fascist regime is spying on immigrants
Donald Trump’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is taking the federal government’s online surveillance of immigrants to new and dangerous levels.
The DHS just introduced a rule that would expand the immigration records of visa holders, permanent residents and naturalized citizens to include their social media accounts, search results and online conversations.1 We cannot remain silent while an administration led by a bigot who thinks Nazis and white supremacists are “very fine people,” scapegoats, criminalizes and spies on immigrants.
The DHS is accepting public comments on its new rule until Oct. 18. This is a timely opportunity for us to document the massive public opposition to Trump’s craven attempts to undermine the civil rights and civil liberties of immigrants. Help us flood the DHS with comments opposing this new anti-immigrant policy now.
To be clear: The DHS has been monitoring the online activities of foreign nationals for years, but its new rule extends online surveillance records to include the social media activities of lawful permanent residents, naturalized citizens and anyone who interacts with them online. This is an unprecedented and dangerous new step. The DHS should not spy on Americans just because they were born in another country. Its new policy could prevent immigrants from exercising their right to free speech, voicing dissent and communicating with family members and other support systems online.
There is no reason to suspect the millions of immigrants in the United States of criminal behavior, but that has not stopped Trump from data mining immigrants’ social media profiles in the name of public safety.2 After the election, Customs and Border Patrol quietly began asking foreign nationals for their social media handles at border crossings throughout the country.3 Then in February, Trump’s DHS unveiled a new visa survey that requires applicants to provide 15 years of detailed travel history, a complete work history and social media handles and email addresses going back five years.4
Trump's xenophobic administration is intentionally making an already extensive visa vetting process even more complicated to keep immigrants out of the country. With new administrative barriers, like Trump’s visa survey, and increased online surveillance, the DHS is positioned to jam up and reject more visa applicants because of minor mistakes on their forms and ungrounded assumptions about their potential threat to public safety based on their social media activity.
Trump’s DHS is so committed to violating the civil rights and civil liberties of immigrants, and every person who interacts with them online that it is already planning to ignore the public comments on its rule-making. The public comment period for its new rule closes on the same day the rule goes into effect. CREDO will work with allies to challenge this anti-immigrant policy on every front once the DHS starts to enforce it, but we are also teaming up with our friends at Center for Media Justice, Demand Progress, Presente and United We Dream now to draw as much attention as possible to Trump’s deplorable actions and put our opposition into the public record.
Reject Trump’s xenophobic profiling of immigrants. Click the link below to submit your comment:
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  1. Joel Rose, “Federal Plan To Keep Files Of Immigrant Social Media Activity Causes Alarm,” NPR, Sept. 30, 2017.
  2. Lily Hay Newman, “Feds monitoring social media does more harm than good,” Wired, Sept. 28, 2017.
  3. Edward Helmore, “US government collecting social media information from foreign travelers,” The Guardian, Dec. 26, 2016.
  4. Drew Schwartz, “You Need Superhuman Memory to Fill Out Trump’s New Visa Survey,” Vice, June 1, 2017.

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