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  • Dean Smith

Debate: Does the Department of Homeland Security Review Social Media for Security Checks?

Director of Federal Immigration Appeals Project, Laura Murray-Tjan, posted an article on HuffingtonPost recently regarding a topic of sincere concern throughout the United States of America today; whether or not the Department of Homeland Security reviews social media during security checks. With recent terror attacks across the world, and right here at home, we should almost expect that checking what people are talking about on their social media accounts before coming into the country would be common practice. People are saying that the government feels otherwise. Murray-Tjan writes, “It is difficult to express my astonishment on reading the news of a ‘secret’ Department of Homeland Security policy prohibiting scrutiny of visa applicants’ social media presence. My colleagues’ Facebook walls around the country are lit up with statements of disbelief.” It has also been said that the government thinks that we would be invading privacy by investigating social media accounts (haha!), which could be “embarrassing” for the United States. We find it embarrassing that the government wouldn’t consider using this tool to possibly prevent terror attacks in the future, right? So, does this policy exist or is it bogus? Murray-Tjan says, “Too many of us have had our clients questioned about social media posts to buy into the sincerity of this policy.” She also notes (and we can surely attest to this) that, “Lawyers regularly screen potential clients through web searches. Trial attorneys, no matter what their areas of specialty, are familiar with strategies for tearing down witnesses based on Internet footprints. Immigration officers are no different from the rest of us. They know how to conduct a Google search.” If this entire debate within the Department of Homeland Security is figuring out whether or not reviewing public social media posts is appropriate, Murray-Tjan says, “Sorry, but we are not that gullible. The Department of Homeland Security has no qualms about arresting the undocumented at 5 am in the morning — surrounding homes, banging on doors, chaining and shackling mothers and fathers, and brandishing weapons in front of small children. The neighbors are free to watch. When I visit clients in immigration detention, they are strip-searched for contraband afterwards. Privacy and likability are not front-of-mind.” What Murray-Tjan is trying to say is that we should not believe the hype. The “hype” is trying to tell us that the Department of Homeland Security thinks we are invading the privacy of visa applicants. “I simply cannot swallow what the Department of Homeland Security has told us thus far about its social media policy. Nor should the press, and nor should you. Immigration attorneys know as a profession that the Department of Homeland Security reviews social media posts, notwithstanding government officials’ current protestations.” The only problem here may be that some things (in recent cases, some really, REALLY important things), slip through the cracks.

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