The Department of Homeland Security posted a new rule in the Federal Register that is expected to go into effect next month. Read our original post about this from earlier in the week. The update targets immigrants in terms of their “actions in an electronic environment”. In addition to this, though, Homeland Security is also including new categories such as “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information and search results”. The part that I’m struggling to get my head around (well, one part) is that this applies to all immigrants including permanent residents and naturalized citizens. Which means, you could have come to this country as an infant, and still be subject to these rules.
If you weren’t aware, this has been something that Homeland Security has been incorporating for awhile now. In 2015, Homeland Security began working on a plan to add social media searches into visa application protocol. In 2016, they proposed and implemented a new section in the travel form for foreign visitors going into the U.S. under the visa waiver program that would ask for social media handles. I’m kind of appalled by this. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m trying to wrap my brain around how this is effective? Reading between the line, this tells me that the government thinks very poorly of immigrants. So poorly, in fact that they’re making a pretty big assumption about what they’re doing with their time.
Immigrants are going to have yet another right taken away. Which is certainly not fair. In Feburary, Homeland Security announced that it was planning to start asking visitors from Trump’s travel ban list for some extra information. This not only includes social media account names, but their passwords as well. We saw this a little bit as Canadian citizens (and residents) would try to cross the border into the United States and certain people were targeted. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that the targets were either based on the country they were born in, or perhaps even the colour of their skin?
It gets better. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson order social media checks on all visa applicants who had visited ISIS-controlled regions. After proposing this plan, the Trump administration introduced an expanded visa applicant questionnaire in June that asks for all social media handles used in the last five years. For real? Is this even necessary? Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney, Adam Schwartz had the following to say about these new rules:
“There’s a growing trend at the Department of Homeland Security to be snooping on the social media of immigrants and foreigners and we think it’s an invasion of privacy and deters freedom of speech.”
This new rule is open for public comment until October 18. I encourage you to put your comments in, but I honestly doubt that anything you say to discourage this kind of rule will have any impact. This gives the perception of a democratic process, but we know who is coming up with these rules. Ergo, this isn’t a democratic process. I will say this again and again, but Trump is using his position to keep people out of the country. It appears as if he hates immigrants. And yet, his family emigrated from Germany. Sure, it was many years ago, but how is that different than a lot of people coming into the country in the last 30 or 40 years? I honestly can’t figure this one out, other than it’s legislation to deter diversity.