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Green and Spiegel - An Immigration Law Firm - United States
Oct 2, 2017

DHS to Collect Social Media Information and Search History

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin expanding the collection of social media information. This policy change was announced as a notice of regulatory modification of the Privacy Act of 1974 System of Records and was published in the Federal Register by the Trump administration September 18, 2017. The comment period for this proposed change ends October 18, 2017.

Under the proposed alteration to the Privacy Act, the specific language used allows the expansion of the categories of records to be stored in an immigrant “Alien File” or “A-File,” to now include: “social media handles and aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results.” This expansion of the kind of evidence collected by DHS effects not only new applicants for admission to the United States, but also existing visa holders, lawful permanent residents (green card holders), as well as naturalized U.S. Citizens. The ambiguity present within the proposed modification, regarding what constitutes DHS review of immigrant, “search results” raises significant constitutional concerns. Among them are broad privacy implications, questions of an unreasonable or warrantless “search” of an individual, and a lack of clarity regarding the scope of the information to be collected.

Although social media information has been viewed by U.S. immigration officers for several years, under this change, the standard practice will be to collect and store this information permanently. Privacy advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), as well as Leslie Holman, the former President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), question the Constitutionality of this proposed change.

Immigrating to the United States is a complex and time-consuming process, only further complicated by this proposed change. If you plan on beginning this process, consider the value added by utilizing an experienced immigration attorney and contact the offices of Green & Spiegel U.S. to review your case.

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