U.S. State Department hopes to begin collecting immigrants’ social media handles


As we wrote about in January, the Department of Homeland Security was initiating plans to monitor the social media of all immigrants to the United States as part of the Trump administration’s “extreme vetting” objective. As of last week, the State Department has published its intention to begin requiring the vast majority of immigrants to reveal their social media handles as part of the application process.

While certain diplomatic and official visa applicants will be exempt, the vast majority of immigrants—from those seeking most types of visas to those applying for legal permanent residency—will be required to submit social media handles from the last five years, including from such popular platforms as Twitter and Facebook. Aside from specific requests, there will be optional spaces for applicants to volunteer other platform handles. In addition to social media information, applicants will also be required to list their five-year telephone number and email address history. There will be a 60-day period for public comment before the Office of Management and Budget decides whether to approve the policy.

President Trump has long championed a nebulous policy of “extreme vetting,” often citing the San Bernardino mass shooting of 2015 as a turning point. Despite an already rigorous immigration process that includes detailed applications, interviews, and background checks, the administration claims monitoring social media of all immigrants is key to investigating and potentially preventing terrorist activity in the United States.

Critics, however, argue that the move further diminishes the privacy rights of all residents of the U.S., citizen and non-citizen alike, by limiting free speech. In addition, the policy has the two-fold effect of intimidating potential immigrants so that fewer apply in the first place, and slowing down the process for everyone else to inconvenience immigration applicants and potentially force some to give up midway. It’s one more sign of the Trump administration’s open hostility towards immigrants in general.

We at Soberalski Immigration Law know that the vast majority of immigrants are seeking to reunite with family members, make better lives for themselves in a land of opportunity, escape dangerous situations, or all of the above. We share your frustration with the changes and roadblocks this administration is setting down in front of immigrants. We are dedicated to always helping our clients make their best possible case. Please call our office at 414-533-5000 to set up an appointment or if you have any questions.

For more information on the new policy, please see: https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/29/politics/immigrants-social-media-information/index.html