Washington, DC | www.adc.org | April 6, 2018 | The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is alarmed by the U.S. State Department’s decision to collect social media information on the nearly 15 million people who apply yearly to enter the U.S. on non-immigration visas.
Applicants will have to submit their social media usernames for the past five years on over 20 platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Beyond social media, applicants will also have to turn over past email addresses, phone numbers, and passport numbers. Moreover, they will need to report their past international travel. Lastly, they will need to disclose whether any relatives have been involved in terrorism.
These overly broad demands raise deep concerns about how the State Department will process visa applications. The Trump administration’s past practices of arbitrary discrimination against visa applicants, including Yemeni Diversity Visa winners, and the use of discretionary power to strip Arab-Americans of Global Entry passes, places a high burden on the State Department to uphold transparency and impartiality.
The State Department needs to make it absolutely clear that criticism of American policy – such as the Iraq war or military aid to Israel – will not be used to reject applications. Moreover, the Department needs to clarify how it will assess “terrorism.” Authoritarian governments, and military occupiers such as Israel, opportunistically label non-violent activism “terrorism” in order to malign opponents and secure rubber-stamp convictions from disreputable courts. The State Department cannot take at face value the self-serving propaganda of illiberal governments.
ADC will continue to monitor the State Department’s visa application process to ensure that the fair and equitable treatment of all applicants remains the guiding principle and practice.