DHS to crack down on immigrants by searching social media pages

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A new rule calls for the Department of Homeland Security to collect social media information on immigrants, including those who are naturalized citizens and permanent residents.

Set to go into effect on Oct. 18, the rule was published in the Federal Register last week. It asks for social media handles and other aliases to be included in the department’s immigrant files.

In May, the Trump administration approved a new questionnaire for U.S. visa applicants worldwide. The questionnaire asks for social media IDs used during the previous five years and biographical information going back 15 years. The new rule is different because it expands the probe to people who have obtained a green card or gone through the naturalization process.

According to the new rule, “a combination of paper and electronic records and supporting documentation” is now necessary to complete the record for “an individual as he or she passes through the U.S. immigration process.”

The rule will expand the categories of records to include the following:

  • country of nationality
  • country of residence
  • the USCIS online account number
  • social media handles
  • aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results
  • Department of Justice (DOJ), Executive Office for Immigration Review, and Board of Immigration Appeals proceedings information

BuzzFeed News reports that some people are concerned about the new rule, writing that it’s a “move that has alarmed lawyers and privacy groups worried about how the information will be used.” They say the new rule could affect U.S. citizens who communicate with immigrants on social media, as their conversations could end up under government surveillance.

The information collected may be listed as: unclassified, sensitive, for official use only, and classified. According to the Federal Register, “The data may be retained in classified paper A-File or on classified networks.” Paper A-Files are “primarily located at the National Records Center in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and component field offices,” although they may be located in other places, including ICE and CBP offices and facilities.

It is indicated there will be a public comment period before the new rule is implemented.

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