Lawsuit challenges Trump administration's social media screening for visa applications
Under current U.S. laws, anyone applying for a U.S. visa from abroad is required to register their social media accounts with the U.S. government, including accounts that are run with a pseudonym.
As the New York Times reports, the law requires people from countries run by authoritarian governments to disclose all of their online identities, potentially exposing themselves if they post content on social media that their government censors. The social media disclosure law has prompted a lawsuit from a pair of documentary film organizations on the grounds that disclosing pseudonyms can endanger people if the information gets back to their home country’s government.
Under the Trump Administration’s law, applicants for U.S. visas must disclose their identity across 20 social media platforms they have used in the past five years, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The New York Times reports about 14.7 million people who apply for a visa every year are affected by this rule.
The lawsuit also argues that the database holding the social media accounts could be accessed by rights-abusing governments, or that the U.S. government itself could release the information.
Immigrants faced tough legal scrutiny before the Trump Administration. If faced with a criminal conviction, a non-U.S. citizen can become inadmissible or deportable, making him or her subject to removal from America.
Before an individual is removed or deported from the United States however, he or she must go through a removal proceeding, where a non-citizen can apply for certain forms of relief like asylum, adjustment of status, cancellation of removal, and more.
Forced removal from the United States can be devastating to the individual and his or her family. Retaining an immigration attorney can help non-citizens navigate the complex laws around U.S. immigration and help him or her obtain visas. Part of that process, for now, includes disclosing all social media accounts, even if they’re operated under a pseudonym.