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Tag: HLS Immigration Project

DHS Bid To Collect Social Media Info Sparks Privacy Concerns

Via Law360

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security‘s proposal to collect social media handles from foreign citizens has been met with backlash from civil rights and higher education groups that caution it will chill free speech and discourage international students from studying in the U.S.

DHS had indicated in September that the department planned to begin asking for information on foreign citizens’ social media accounts for the past five years on visa applications and traveler forms, opening its proposal up for public comment through Nov. 4.

But in dozens of comments filed over the following two months, national civil rights and legal and immigrant advocacy organizations, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association and American Civil Liberties Union, have urged DHS to withdraw that proposal, warning that it could suppress protected free speech and promote self-censorship.

“The proposed rule may pressure applicants to engage in self-censorship like deleting their accounts, disassociating with online connections, limiting their social media postings, or sanitizing their internet presence for fear of reprisal,” more than 40 organizations wrote in comments on the proposal.

This would affect not only foreign citizens seeking immigration benefits, like green cards, or considering a visit to the U.S., but also the American citizens who communicate with them online, the groups said.

“Consider, for example, how an American citizen who wants her brother in Iraq to visit or emigrate might think twice before posting tweets criticizing U.S. policy or remaining Facebook friends with someone who does,” the organizations wrote.

Their joint comment is one of 80 filed responding to DHS’ proposal to collect the additional information under President Donald Trump’s March 2017 executive order to ramp up screening and vetting practices.

The U.S. Department of State, which processes visa requests made from foreign citizens looking to move to the U.S. from abroad, already requests this information, after updating its forms in June.

DHS’ proposal would authorize U.S. Customs and Border Protection to request social media handles from any foreign citizen entering the U.S.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes visa petitions from within the U.S., would also ask for social media handles on permanent residency applications, applications for U.S. citizenship, and asylum and refugee applications.

Social media accounts that foreigners would need to disclose include Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, TwitterLinkedIn, MySpace, Reddit and YouTube. Vine, a video platform that was shut down in 2017, is included on the list, while TikTok, a newer short-video platform, is not listed.

DHS could not, under the proposal, request passwords for social media accounts. Immigration officers also may not follow or friend request users to gain access to private account information.

But the ACLU and other organizations argued that this will nonetheless undermine the ability to communicate anonymously online, which could be important for political activists or members of the LGBTQ community who hail from countries where they may not be safe to identify themselves publicly.

In its own comments, the New York City mayor’s office also raised privacy concerns, saying that it is “committed to upholding privacy protections for New Yorkers irrespective of their citizenship or immigration status.”

The Harvard Law School Immigration Project and Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program flagged a recent incident that made national news when a Palestinian student at Harvard College was denied entry to the U.S. because of political messages posted by his “friends” on social media, even though he had not posted any political messages on his own account.

“This example illustrates the potential dangers of the department’s proposed policy,” the school’s immigration clinic wrote in their comment. “If noncitizens can be denied admission or an immigration benefit based on their friends’ social media activity over the past five years, many would likely refrain from engaging in associational activity freely on social media or even from using social media at all — which in turn would seriously and impermissibly burden their First Amendment right of free association.”

The National Association for College Admission Counseling, the American Council on Education and other higher education associations also warned that the social media collection would deter foreign students from attending American universities.

It would likely also “further strain” USCIS’ resources, one group of education associations said, referencing recent work authorization processing delays for the Optional Practical Training program, which gives foreign citizens who just graduated from U.S. universities one extra year to live and work in the U.S.

“The goals of protecting our security while ensuring that the United States remains the destination of choice for the world’s best and brightest students, faculty and scholars are not mutually exclusive,” the associations wrote.

A DHS spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

–Editing by Orlando Lorenzo.

HIRC Submits Comments on Proposed Expansion of Family Detention

Via the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

Source: Pixabay

On November 6, HIRC, along with the HLS Immigration Project (HIP) and the Immigration Unit of Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), submitted comments on the Trump administration’s proposal to end the Flores v. Reno settlement, which requires that the government release children from immigration detention without unnecessary delay to their parents or other adults. The Flores agreement has been in place since 1997.

In their comments, HIRC and GBLS staff and HIP students used client stories to highlight the flawed logic in the Trump administration’s proposal:

“Last year, we represented a 21-year-old Salvadoran woman who, when fleeing abuse in El Salvador at age 17, was held for three days at gunpoint by gang members of Los Zetas in Mexico. Like the young Salvadoran, many of our clients often do not have the luxury of making a choice about whether to leave their home countries. Life-threatening violence related to powerful gangs and abusive security forces is a major problem throughout much of the Northern Triangle. This violence has pushed growing numbers of people from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to seek asylum. Furthermore, Central American women, children, and families often have no option but to flee the ongoing threat of gang or gender-related violence experienced back at home. New regulations will not deter these individuals who are trying to save their lives and the lives of their children.”

They also emphasized the dire effects of the indefinite detention of children, citing studies that show long-term mental and physical harm suffered by detained children.

The complete comments from HIRC, HIP and GBLS are available here.

Special thanks to Krista Oehlke ’20 for her work on this letter!

Hipper Than HIP: Harvard Law School’s Immigration SPO

HIP students participating in Citizenship Day in Boston on September 23, 2018

By: Austin Davis, J.D. ’19

The Harvard Law School Immigration Project (HIP) has been the best part of my law school experience. Nothing but respect for the other SPOs – HIP just can’t compete with calling a social event “PLAPpy Hour” – but I’ve found the most engaged, dependable, and passionate students anywhere at HIP.

I joined HIP because immigrants are the cornerstone of my family and my country, and immigrant rights are under siege. But I also joined because spending all my time in the classroom was giving me hives. I wanted to work with an actual person, dive into their story, and help bring some humanity to law.

HIP’s work provides the perfect outlet for that energy. Some members assist families with byzantine green card applications or work authorization forms. Others represent indigent clients at bond hearings, or provide Know Your Rights presentations to groups of non– United States citizens at local community centers.

Personally, I’ve spent most of my time working with HIP’s chapter of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). It’s an international organization with chapters at 28 law schools that works with refugees abroad and former war-zone translators for the United States. And during my 1L year, I had the chance to work on a case with a fellow 1L partner and lawyers from the New York City firm Cleary Gottlieb.

The stakes were high. Our clients were a same-sex couple tortured by their government and abused by their families in their country of origin. They had fled to a second country, where the revelation of their sexual orientation had led to further physical and sexual assaults. They were broke, they didn’t speak the language, and suffered ongoing harassment and violence.

As lawyers in touch via Skype and living an ocean away, our role was soberingly limited. But we could help them push through the refugee system, to get out of their situation and receive resettlement clearance for Europe or the United States. And to that end, we did successfully petition the United Nations for our clients to receive an expedited refugee determination. That was the first step they needed in order to activate the international resettlement mechanisms, and we cut their resettlement wait time down by well over a year – a year which, by our clients’ account, would have proved very dangerous.

But this case makes up just one part of my HIP involvement. I’ve also had the opportunity to attend “advice and counsel” sessions organized by HIP’s Community Outreach Initiative (COI). On one occasion, we students and our legal supervisors spent a couple hours in a Chelsea church basement talking with a gathered group of Haitian noncitizens. We helped provide honest, on-the-fly assessments of whatever concerns they had: their immigration status, the visa risks of leaving the country, or the president’s mood.

In addition, I’ve participated in Boston’s Citizenship Day with HIP’s Immigration Services Project (ISP), where we worked through the fine details of certain US citizenship forms with people preparing their applications. All in all, everything I’ve done through HIP has been client-centered, challenging, and immensely rewarding.

Plus, back at school, it’s been a delight to be surrounded by so many law students looking to do real work in the world. It was an essential community for me as a 1L, trying to navigate this gigantic law school. And over my three years with HIP, I’ve really valued how our members bring so many different perspectives, experiences, and motivations. It’s rarer than it should be to have people with a professional focus on the Central American humanitarian crises engaging with people focused on the Syrian civil war. In HIP, they come together, and we learn so much from each other.

HIP has provided the most meaningful experiences for me at law school, through the legal service work or making great friends. It doesn’t matter what year in law school you are or your background in immigration law: I’d highly recommend that all HLS students consider joining HIP.