The Department of Homeland Security instills paranoia within the immigrant community

2015 redesigned Pioneer logo.

Tam Duong Jr.

2015 redesigned Pioneer logo.

Erika Martinez,
Staff Writer

In September, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a document on the Federal Register website detailing their plan to expand the system of records on file for immigrants. On Oct. 18, the DHS began to gather immigrants’ social media information.

What Homeland Security claimed to have been doing before with immigration services was collect certain information on anyone who passed through the U.S. immigration process, including permanent residents and naturalized U.S. citizens.

According to the DHS document published on the Federal Register, “DHS primarily maintains information relating to the adjudication of benefits, investigation of immigration violations, and enforcement actions in Alien files (A-files).”

They have not specified why collecting social media information is necessary besides it being considered by the department as an expansion of their ongoing immigration files and research.

In the Federal Register, the DHS states that they will “expand the categories of records to include the following: country of nationality, country of residence; the USCIS Online Account Number, social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results.”

This means that not only will the DHS be able to obtain immigrants’ social media information, but also anyone who is in contact with a U.S. immigrant.

Lorena Luna, an ethnic studies and international studies major, told The Pioneer, “I am not surprised, first of all, that measures like these are being taken by the current presidency.”

She strongly opposes this expansion of the DHS, but is not surprised by the collecting of immigrants’ social media information, insinuating that they have most likely been doing this already.

Luna did not have to go through the naturalization process when she came to the U.S. at the age of 16. Thanks to her father, who is a naturalized citizen, she had automatic citizenship.

She still feels a strong connection with the immigrant community, and acknowledges her advantage due to her status. “Because I am a U.S. citizen, I can say that I feel okay. I’m not scared or anything, but I do worry and I do think about undocumented people and activists, they are the targets a lot of the times.”

Cal State East Bay political science professor Dr. Craig Collins states that “the whole policy in general is an invasion of people’s privacy, it should be illegal.” According to Collins, the DHS should not have the power to access immigrants’ social media information because it violates people’s privacy.

Collins’ views the general policy as a means to get as many immigrants as they can out of this country. “The Department of Homeland Security wants the ability to kind of tap into as much information as possible because their goal is to deport as many people who are undocumented as they possibly can.”