The United States government has announced a proposal to track the social media use of all immigrants, which will include international adoptees.
It’s chilling for its ramifications on free speech, privacy, and individual rights, with very little evidence to support ostensible benefits in terms of national security or anything else.
International adoptee enter the United States on visas, as the adopted children of U.S. citizens. They were not granted automatic citizenship until 2000, and even then their parents have to complete more paperwork for proof of citizenship. Meanwhile, as a result of the intercountry adoption process, the U.S. government and the sending country have files of information about the adoptee, the birth/first family, and the adoptive family. Info on the birth/first family may be limited, in the case of abandonment. Still, there will be police reports, the location of where the child was found, efforts made to locate parents, that sort of thing, some of which may be accurate. My point: The government has information about all adoptees at their time of entry into the United States.
Now, our government would like additional access to the social media use and more of all immigrants, which will include permanent residents and naturalized citizens.
According to Buzzfeed, which may have been the first to report on this, “The Department of Homeland Security published the new rule in the Federal Register last week, saying it wants to include ‘social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results’ as part of people’s immigration file. The new requirement takes effect Oct. 18…This would also affect all US citizens who communicate with immigrants.”
I don’t want to be paranoid, but nor do I want to be naïve. This is as slippery a slope as we have been on in years, and the likelihood of perilous sliding is frightening.
Here are my thoughts on how the new requirement could affect adoptees and adoptive families:
- While the federal government already has a lot of information about adoptees, this requirement opens many new doors. I belong to a Facebook group of parents of internationally adopted children and some were commenting on how ridiculous to track the Musicly and other social media accounts of their young children.
Probably. But here’s the thing: we all leave permanent footprints on the World Wide Web. More than that, children grow up. As teens and as young adults, adoptees–like every other teen/young adult–might make stupid choices in their social media use. The difference is that their use could be tracked, and potentially used against them, because they are immigrants, not beloved family members, in the eyes of our government.
- The adoptive parents of some adult international adoptees failed to get citizenship for their children. Some adoptees are painfully aware of this, having been arrested and/or deported. Some adoptees think they are citizens but may not be. Some adoptees find out they are not U.S. citizenship when they register to vote, or apply for Social Security benefits, or get arrested. This new requirement could create a database which flags the social media use of international adoptees who are not citizens, and the ramifications are deeply troubling.
- Parents and friends of immigrants could be surveilled for their social media interactions with adoptees and other immigrants. I am guessing this could happen regardless of the citizenship status of the parents and friends. See: slippery slope.
- In the case of international adoptees, this requirement subjects U.S. citizens to be monitored because they legally entered the U.S. as immigrant children. The same government that approved them to be citizens is now singling them out to be monitored and surveilled. Is this what it means to be a citizen of the United States now? Is it simply a matter of time that *all* citizens, such as those of us born here, will also have our social media use monitored? Who knows? Who thought we would be at this point?
Here’s an excerpt from Fortune magazine:
“The proposal to collect social media data is set out in a part of the draft regulation that describes expanding the content of so-called “Alien Files,” which serve as detailed profiles of individual immigrants, and are used by everyone from border agents to judges. Here is the relevant portion:
The Department of Homeland Security, therefore, is updating the [file process] to … (5) expand the categories of records to include the following: country of nationality; country of residence; the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Service) Online Account Number; social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results.
The proposal follows new rules by the Trump Administration that require visitors from certain countries to disclose their social media handles, and allow border agents to view their list of phone contacts.
Those earlier measures alarmed civil rights advocates who questioned whether they would do much to improve security, and worried other countries would introduce similar screening of Americans. In response to the latest effort to collect social media data, the American Civil Liberties Union warned of a “chilling effect.”
“This Privacy Act notice makes clear that the government intends to retain the social media information of people who have immigrated to this country, singling out a huge group of people to maintain files on what they say. This would undoubtedly have a chilling effect on the free speech that’s expressed every day on social media,” the group said in a statement.
The new rules are currently subject to a comment period until Oct. 18 but, if they go into effect as planned, they will add yet more data to “Alien Files” that can already contain information such as fingerprints, travel histories, and health, and education records.”
So what to do? We all need to comment. You can comment anonymously (though these days, I wonder it that is actually possible; apologies for the cynicism but there we are.) You can post comments on behalf of someone else.
You may submit comments, identified by docket number DHS-2017-0038, by one of the following methods:
Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
Mail: Jonathan R. Cantor, Acting Chief Privacy Officer, Privacy Office, Department of Homeland Security, Washington, DC 20528-0655.
My closing thoughts for today:
Please comment on the new rules, and share the information.
Adoptive parents should make sure that their children have all possible proofs of citizenship, especially the Certificate of Citizenship issued by the Department of Homeland Security, the same agency issuing these new rules.
Adoptive parents should join adult adoptees in demanding that citizenship be granted to all international adoptees. More information is available here, here, and via the Adoptee Rights Campaign.
If you are tempted to dismiss this as overly reactive, keep in mind that many internationally adopted children have been deported as adults. Some adoptees are in detention centers. Who would have thought that international adoptees, brought here as children with the approval of two governments, could be deported back to countries where they had no family, no language, no connection for help?
As we get more information from ACLU, from attorneys, and from immigration policy specialists, I will post information here or on Twitter (@LightOfDayStory).