The DHS Plans to Monitor Immigrants’ Social Media Accounts
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently posted a new rule in the Federal Register set to go into effect by October 18th, 2017. The update is largely to note that certain government electronic documents are also part of immigrants' official records as the DHS "moves to conducting more immigrant actions in an electronic environment." However, the DHS is also adding new categories to official records including "social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results." The collection of social media information will apply to all new-coming and existing immigrants including permanent residents and naturalized citizens.
Incorporating social media information into immigrant records has been a topic of conversation for a while. In 2015, the DHS began working on a plan to add social media searches into visa application protocol and in 2016 it proposed and implemented a new section in the travel form for foreign visitors coming to the U.S. under the visa waiver program to ask for social media handles. In February, the DHS announced that it was planning to start asking visitors from Trump's travel ban list of countries for not only their social account names, but their passwords as well. In March, there have been reports of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ordering social media checks on all visa applicants who had visited ISIS-controlled regions. Additionally, the Trump administration also introduced an expanded visa applicant questionnaire in June that asks for all social media handles used in the last five years.
In essence, the extreme vetting of non-immigrants have been ongoing at a greater speed at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates since President Trump took office and it will be a normal protocol for both immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants as well as green card holders and naturalized U.S. citizens at the visa post overseas and port of entry.