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Citizens will be subject to the new DHS social media searches too, not just aliens. By Nolan Rappaport

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Homeland Security searching some social media doesn't violate privacy.
By Nolan Rappaport

© Getty

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has posted a new rule on the Federal Register which authorizes adding information from an alien’s social media sites to the files that are kept in his/her official immigration records, such as “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results.”

The official immigration records are known as “A-Files.”

The social media sites will be searched for information which pertains to granting aliens a visa or some other type of immigration benefit, and this almost certainly will lead to social media searches of the American citizens and lawful permanent residents who sponsor them.

For instance, if a citizen files a visa petition to accord immediate relative status to his alien spouse, and information on the spouse’s Facebook site indicates that the marriage is a sham, DHS will search the citizen petitioner’s Facebook site for additional information to assist in determining whether the marriage really is a sham.

But the most important reason is to identify terrorists, and this is the reason that prompted 26 senators to ask DHS to search social media sites after the San Bernardino terrorist attack.

Social media sites provide a record of contacts with terrorist organizations.


Published initially on The Hill.

About the author.Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years; he subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years.

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Updated 10-02-2017 at 05:34 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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  1. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    What exquisite timing on Nolan's part! His article stigmatizing "aliens" (a legal term to be sure, appearing throughout our immigration laws - but now generally used pejoratively by much of the public as well as by avowedly anti-immigrant organizations to refer to illegal or criminal immigrants) as potential social media "terrorists" was published on the same day that America experienced the full shock and horror of 59 innocent people gunned down by a white, native born US citizen in the worst mass shooting in our entire history!

    This is not to argue with Nolan's point that social media should not be considered off limits as "private" - there is nothing private in sharing a comment with the entire world, which is the purpose of social media.

    But is all the focus on scapegoating immigrants as potential terrorists, criminals and "job-stealers" that we are seeing in the "Donald Trump Era" really making America safer or helping the living standards of average Americans (as opposed, for example to the billionaire 1 percent who would benefit most from Trump's proposed tax cuts while he and other leaders in his party try to deprive millions of Americans of urgently needed health insurance and minimum wage protections)?

    If Donald Trump and his supporters really want to make America safer and protect the lives of the American people, which would be more effective - trolling Facebook for negative comments by non-US citizens (or US citizens), or enacting gun control laws to keep dangerous and destructive weapons out of the hands of deranged madmen of all nationalities, ancestry and ethnicities, including those who belong to the white, native-born American majority?

    I have no doubt what the answer would be by the surviving families of of the 59 mainly, if not exclusively, Americans killed in this latest gun incident, one of more than a thousand gun murders that take place every year in America - not to mention the more than 500 Las Vegas victims who were injured, some of them critically.

    How reassuring would they find the thought that, at this time of national shock and mourning for the victims of an evidently crazed white, native-born American citizen, we need to concentrate on trying to find foreign terrorists on social media?

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 10-03-2017 at 09:49 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  2. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Roger says I stigmatized aliens as potential social media terrorists. How does writing an article about using information that can be found on social media to prevent terrorist attacks like the one in San Bernardino stigmatize aliens? Would writing an article about intelligence efforts that could have prevented 911 stigmatize aliens too?

    I also wonder why he is saying that Trump isn't really trying to make America safer with his regulation to screen social media statements of people involved in immigration processes like visa petitions (the example I used). He had the power to authorize social media screening. He doesn't have the power to get gun control laws enacted. If you doubt me, ask Obama. He did his best to get gun laws enacted and gave up, and he wasn't faced with a Republican congress that controlled both houses.

    Or is Roger just saying that Trump shouldn't waste time on trying to protect us against terrorist attacks because the failure to enact gun control is causing more deaths than terrorist attacks? If that's Roger's point, he should have blamed Trump for not finding a cure for cancer, or preventing deaths caused by drunken drivers, etc. Many things cause more deaths than the failure to enact gun control laws.

    The Las Vegas killer did not have a police record or anything else in his background that would have prevented him from buying guns if there had been gun laws in effect when he was arming himself for the attack. Also, I think the automatic rifles he used are illegal already.

    His final comment is a sarcastic statement about finding foreign terrorists on Facebook. I explain in my article that social media checks could have prevented the San Bernardino terrorist attack. Is Roger saying that attack wasn't bad enough to be worth preventing, or what?

    Nolan Rappaport
    Updated 10-03-2017 at 10:13 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  3. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    I do not mean to minimize the potential dangers from terrorist attacks. Nor am I arguing against using social media as a tool in the effort to prevent terrorism or violence against our citizens - either from foreign jihadists or from home-grown American neo-Nazis and white supremacists, as in the case of Charlottesville.

    My point is that the president's obsession with using the terrorist threat as a means to demonize and stigmatize immigrants, while doing nothing to protect Americans from equally serious home-grown dangers (as Trump has been adamantly opposed to promoting any kind of gun control laws, and refuses now even to talk about this topic) winds up hurting the very Americans whom Trump has promised and is obligated as president to protect.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 10-03-2017 at 12:20 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  4. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Trump hasn't used terrorism to demonize and stigmatize immigrants. And it is absurd to say he has done nothing to protect Americans from home-grown dangers because he has opposed gun control laws.

    Are you disagreeing with my comment that he doesn't have the ability to get gun control laws enacted? If so, how do you explain Obama's failure to get them enacted.

    The problem with your position is that you interpret everything Trump does as demonizing and stigmatizing immigrants. Even now, you are accusing him of that for authorizing DHS to screen social media sites even though you acknowledge that there is nothing wrong with it.

    Trump can't win with you. Your attacks on him remind me of the joke about the Pope's hat.

    President Trump invited the Pope for lunch on his mega yacht, the Pope accepted and during lunch, a puff of wind blew the Pontiff's hat off, right into the water.

    It floated off about 50 feet, then the wind died down and it just floated in place. The crew and the secret service were scrambling to launch a boat to go get it, when Trump waved them off, saying "Never mind, boys, I'll get it."

    The Donald climbed over the side of the yacht, walked on the water to the hat, picked it up, walked back on the water, climbed onto the yacht, and handed the Pope his hat.

    The crew was speechless. The security team and the Pope's entourage were speechless. No one knew what to say, not even the Pope. But that afternoon, NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, CNN all knew how to cover the story. Their banner headlines read,


    Nolan Rappaport

  5. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    I don't think that America has ever had a president who was so focused on blaming immigrants, especially those from targeted ethnic groups, for all the problems of America as much as Donald Trump has. At least not since the time of Calvin Coolidge, who, as we all know, signed the infamous 1924 "Nordics-only" National Origins quotas Johnson-Reed immigration act which inspired Adolf Hitler so much because of its premise that immigrants from certain ethnic groups were racially and genetically superior to those of other ethnic groups.

    While Trump's Warsaw speech did not refer to that law specifically, it contained strong echoes of its basic premise that European "culture", "civilization" and "ancestry" were superior to those of all other parts of the world.

    Moreover, Trump appointed an attorney general and top immigration adviser, Jeff Sessions, who is on record as praising that openly racist, bigoted 1924 law (which, among other things, increased the Holocaust death toll by excluding most of the world's Jews from immigrating to the US, just as Trump has been trying to bar Muslim immigrants through his campaign speeches and his Muslim ban executive orders, as numerous federal district and circuit court judges have determined to be the fact in recent court decisions, which the Supreme Court is now deciding whether or not to review).

    That same attorney general is now overseeing a program of ethnic cleansing against mainly Hispanic and Asian immigrants through mass arrests and incarceration, intended to lead to increased deportations as soon as possible, while Trump does everything in his power to bar non-white immigrants from coming to the US legally through his "Hire American" and "Extreme Vetting" executive orders and his support of the Eurocentric RAISE Act, which would take this country a long part of the way back toward the discredited, openly bigoted, immigration policies of 1924.

    Nolan may claim that Trump's above agenda does not meet Nolan's own definition of what constitutes "demonizing" or "scapegoating" non-white, non-European immigrants. I will not argue with Nolan over semantics - he is free to define English vocabulary any way he likes.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 10-03-2017 at 08:55 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
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