The Statue of Liberty once welcomed immigrants to our shores with a plaque reading…”give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” Soon they may be greeted with…”give me your cell phone, your log in ID and your passwords…”
According to recent reports, the Department of Homeland Security may start forcing immigrants and refugees to hand over their social media login details at the country’s borders. Once the “Land of Liberty,” is America on the road to becoming “Land of Invaded Privacy?”
Possibly. This is exactly what the new administration is looking into as part of its “extreme vetting” campaign for immigrants and refugees from the seven “banned” Muslim majority countries named in Trump’s travel restrictions. The proposed action would force these people to be vetted further at the border when entering the US. If they refuse to cooperate, they would be refused entry.
Supporters say that this action is necessary to keep America safe from “bad hombres” and terrorists who may pose a threat to the country. Critics say that these practices violate the basic human rights of these foreigners. The right to privacy is protected in US Constitution. Some see it as a blatant form of racism against Muslims, which is prohibited in the First Amendment.
Some opponents say that any new immigrants and refugees already go through intense scrutiny before even being allowed to board a flight for the US. But the DHS doesn’t think they have enough information and are seeking to add additional layers of security.
The Obama administration had already proposed a plan to access social networking sites to vet applicants, and dropped it in 2015. However, this new Trump plan pushed the idea further by denying entry right at the border.
To me, this extreme vetting seems like extreme stupidity. First of all, these newcomers should be thoroughly scrutinized before appearing at the border. And from some accounts they are. But secondly, if they were really evil doers intent on committing acts of terrorism, they probably wouldn’t be carrying such information on their cellphones as they tried to enter the US.
ISIS and other terror groups have demonstrated their digital sophistication and mastery of the internet through their global recruitment efforts on the web. So they are keenly aware that you could easily set up fake social media accounts to get around the vetting at the border. Only the most hapless and careless of criminals would be detained and denied entry. (Although some “lone wolf” terrorists have demonstrated extreme stupidity – like the “pressure cooker” bomber who used his cell phone as a detonation device, complete with his selfies and fingerprints all over it).
I believe America needs to defend itself from militant ideologies. But if America compromises its founding principles and rights to thwart anyone who could be a suspected terrorist, does it weaken the very thing that America stands for? When I think of the First Amendment, I think our forefathers got it right the first time. No second thoughts required.