News Americas, FORT LAUDERDALE, FL, Fri. June 7, 2019: In case you missed it, as of June 1, 2019, the Trump administration’s State Department will begin asking most new applicants for US visas to submit their social media details under newly adopted rules that were pushed into law without any congressional oversight.
The State Department simply issued a statement over the weekend saying the forms for both immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants had been updated “to request additional information, including social media identifiers.”
According to the official statement, the move is a result of a memorandum issued by the US President in 2017 on “vetting” for people coming to the US.
The State Department said the additional information it’s now requesting — alongside its previous requests for “certain contact information, travel history, family member information and previous addresses” — will bolster its efforts for “vetting these applicants and confirming their identity.”
This comes on the heels of a 2018 notice published in the Federal register in which the State Department said it would require almost all visa applicants to submit social media information for review in order to travel or immigrate to the United States.
Now the notice has become law – just like that – and applicants will now be required to report the identifiers for social media accounts that they have used in the previous five years. They would also be required to report whether certain family members have been involved in “terrorist activities.”
The bottom line of this new rule is that people travelling to the US as visitors or to work or to study will have to hand over their account names on a list of social media platforms and also volunteer the details of their accounts on any sites not listed.
The only exemption will be certain diplomatic and official visa applicants.
The department explained the new rule by stating simply: “We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect US citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”
Anyone who lies about their social media name could face “serious immigration consequences,” an official told The Hill.
This is clearly another way this administration continues to target and scape goat immigrants and violate their rights without any due process.
This new rule is an infringement on the rights of foreign travelers, immigrants and even further, could be perceived as a violation of the constitutional right to free speech.
Many will now have to wonder if what they say online will be misconstrued or misunderstood by US government officials who will monitor their social media pages before deciding if they qualify for a visa to travel here or not.
More frightening, is that this administration has failed to disclose how this information may be shared across government agencies and what possible consequences it could have for individuals living in America, including the U.S. citizen relatives of the applicants.
As the ACLU pointed out in 2018, “There is a real risk that social media vetting will unfairly target immigrants and travelers from (especially) Muslim-majority countries for discriminatory visa denials, without doing anything to protect national security.”
This administration continues to push the envelope when it comes to the violation of immigrant rights. It is a dangerous precedent that continues to run unchecked as the Democratically controlled Congress continues to battle with the question of whether to impeach or not to impeach.
In the meantime, black and brown foreigners and immigrants are the ones paying the price as the xenophobic tentacles of the Trump administration continues to reach around the globe and across the United States and ravage them like a cancer.
The writer is publisher at NewsAmericasNow