ADC, Brennan Center for Justice, & CDT Question Use of Discriminatory Border Screening Policy in Letter Submitted to DHS

In a Letter to DHS, 40 Civil Society Groups Challenge Intrusive Social Media Screening


Washington, D.C. – Today, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), in coalition with the Brennan Center for Justice, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), and 40 other civil society organizations, submitted a letter to acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, urging him to address the risks of the Department’s intrusive and discriminatory social media inspections at ports of entry. The coalition also requests a meeting with Acting Secretary Wolf’s office and the acting Privacy Officer to discuss their concern and obtain information from the Department about its training protocols, the procedures for admissibility determinations, and the impact of its policies. Read the full letter here.


Earlier this year, the State Department implemented an extreme vetting policy that requires visa applicants to submit their social media account information for inspection. The coalition’s letter refers to reports that CBP has penalized individuals for others’ online speech, using social media content as a basis for denying student and other visas.


Iman Boukadoum, Senior Staff Attorney, ADC:  “DHS has an aggressive social media screening policy at the border that disproportionately harms Arabs and Muslims in particular, as we saw with the case of the Palestinian Harvard student back in August. It is vital that constitutional protections are put in place to avoid further harm which continues to be visited upon so many in our communities.”


Mana Azarmi, Policy Counsel, CDT: “Screening the social media information of travelers and immigrants to aid highly consequential immigration decisions jeopardizes the exercise of fundamental rights like freedom of speech and association. DHS is obligated to be transparent about their practices and assure travelers and immigrants that their rights will be respected.”


Rachel Levinson-Waldman, Senior Counsel, Liberty and National Security Program, Brennan Center for Justice. “Freedom of speech and association are fundamental American values. DHS’s expanding use of social media to assess who is permitted to enter the country undermines those values, and will harm not only people trying to visit and immigrate to the U.S. but also the American citizens and residents who benefit from interacting with them in person and online. We call on DHS today to disclose more information about how it is collecting and using social media data to vet visa applicants and how it will protect core constitutional and human rights.”

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