Concerns amid feds adding social media to ‘immigration history’ records

Homeland Security
FILE - In this June 5, 2015 file photo, a view of the Homeland Security Department headquarters in Washington. Analysts at the Homeland Security Department’s intelligence arm found insufficient evidence that citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries included in President Donald Trump’s travel ban pose a terror threat to the U.S. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Starting Wednesday, October 18, the Department of Homeland Security has added social media accounts of immigrants to its applicable records for those going through the “immigration process.”

The idea of this has many concerned.

The amendment to the Privacy Act of 1974 was announced via the Federal Register by DHS in September. Wednesday, it goes into effect, expanding the official records of someone’s immigration history to include social media handles.

“Immigration history” means everything considered record as someone passes through the U.S. immigration process to become a naturalized citizen.

DHS essentially says including social media handles in its records is the way of the future, where “immigrant actions” are being conducted in an online electronic environment.

Peter Simonson with the ACLU New Mexico says while this might be meant to combat terrorism, there’s no clarification on how else tweets, Facebook posts, etc. could be used. The ACLU questions first amendment rights.

“Are they [DHS] only selecting out those people who show genuine evidence of being inclined towards doing harm to this country? Or are they weeding out people who have particular political views or particular religious views?” Simonson said.

Simonson called this a fishing expedition that only chills online activity, as well as a waste of resources given an already rigorous process that immigrants go through waiting to become naturalized.

Simonson also posed the question: Should an American citizen post to the social media page of someone under DHS’s surveillance, are they, too, now implicated in something?

KRQE News 13 reached out to DHS Wednesday afternoon and was provided with the following statement:

This amendment does not represent a new policy.  DHS, in its law-enforcement and immigration-process capacity, has and continues to monitor publicly-available social media to protect the homeland.  In an effort to be transparent, to comply with existing regulations, and due to updates in the electronic immigration system, DHS decided to update its corresponding Privacy Act system of records.  DHS published this notice in the Federal Register on Sept. 18 to comply with the administrative requirements of the Privacy Act to help address these requirements, not launch a new policy initiative.

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