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US will collect social media information from immigrants

There is no shortage of immigration news in recent months. In late Sept., the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a policy to review social media and online usage by immigrants with personal residency status and even some naturalized citizens. The data collection begins on Oct. 18.

The new policy follows a pilot program focused on fiancé visas after the mass shooting in San Bernardino in 2015. There were similar discussions of applying the requirement to foreign visitors earlier this year.

What does the policy include? What does it mean?

The new policy’s goal is to reduce extremism in the United States, using digital resources to identify security threats. It permits the collection of “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information and search results” as part of an immigrant’s file. DHS says information will be gathered using public resources.

Critics contend that the policy threatens free speech. In addition to First Amendment rights, the collection will affect US born citizens as well, as anyone who communicates with an immigrant online will be subject to observation. The new policy lacks transparency, critics add. Given the stressful position immigrants are in, the lack of details about how information will be used is cause for concern to immigration groups, who want to know how it will affect their status in the country.

Protecting rights and legal status

There are many reasons for immigration, whether you were forced to leave your home country, came here to seek opportunity or to be with loved ones. In any of these situations, an immigrant’s legal status is a continuous source of stress, where a single infraction or misstep can have serious consequences.

Anyone dealing with immigration status concerns should consult with an experienced attorney who knows the US legal system and the complicated, ever-changing dynamics of the immigration system. Whether you need help understanding the new social media policy or need help with your individual status, you have rights that cannot be denied.

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  • American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • State Bar of California | California Board of Legal Specialization
  • Avvo
  • Orange County Bar Association
  • Irvine Chamber