Most visitors and immigrants to the U.S will now need to turn over their social media histories as the State Department releases new rules this week.
Following up on President Trump’s executive order calling on enhanced vetting of those entering the U.S. legally, documents set to be published Friday set out key security changes and even include a bold human rights element, The Washington Times reported.
Travelers and potential immigrants would be warned in no uncertain terms that female genital mutilation is illegal in the U.S. Those from countries where the practice is more common – such as in some African countries – would be directed to a website that will clarify and reinforce the U.S. law.
“This upgrade to visa vetting is long overdue, and it’s appropriate to apply it to everyone seeking entry, because terrorism is a worldwide problem. The aim is to try to weed out people with radical or dangerous views,” Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies, said.
“The message needs to be sent that ‘we don’t do that here,’ ” she added, referring to the “innovative” effort to discourage female genital mutilation.
The proposed new information that will be collected will go beyond the limited information the State Department currently gathers on visitors’ travel histories and family relations.
Travelers will be required to provide previous phone numbers, email addresses and international travel in the preceding five years, as well as note details of immigration problems they have had. Ties to family members with potential connections to terrorism will also be addressed.
According to the Washington Times:
Security experts have demanded the government collect more information from visitors and immigrants for years, but civil liberties groups have been wary of the move.
Homeland Security had floated plans to track social media of immigrant applicants, but the State Department’s new proposal would apply to tourists and others coming on temporary visas. Some 14 million people would be affected by the request for information, the department’s documents say.
Don Crocetti, a former senior fraud investigator for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said it makes sense to collect the information — but said officers need to stay within privacy rules, too.
“Collecting this additional information from visa applicants will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity,” the department said.
The State Department did not include questions on the visitor application to female travelers on whether they intended to enter the U.S. for the purpose of having a child, which Vaughan admitted would have been a positive change. The requirement may have led to a decrease in what’s known as “birth tourism,” which the Washington Times described as when “women in the late stages of pregnancy visit the U.S. in order to give birth on American soil, which secures citizenship for the child.”
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