There’s a ton of debate among political theorists and common citizens alike these days about the risk of international immigration when it comes to terrorism. The deep question for governments regards how to properly screen visa applicants without violating basic personal privacy. The question is a veritable razor’s edge, with error on either side being dangerous. This week, the Trump administration has approved a new milestone that some say is far too imbalanced, and others approve wholeheartedly.
In a decision that, like the rest of the Trump administration, has led to substantial public debate, immigration officials will now have the power to screed visa applicants via social media handles. This new measure was approved on May 23rd via the Management and Budget office. The sweeping reform requires applicants to provide information including social media handles, past email addresses, phone numbers, and travel history for the past 15 years. The form also includes extensive additional employment information. While the questions are voluntary, the State Department has already indicated that a failure to answer the questions would result in a lengthy delay or potential rejection of the visa application. So the word ‘voluntary’ is apparently used in it’s loosest lexical sense.
Critics of the new laws contend that they are unnecessarily intrusive into personal and private lives and will only lead to lengthy processing and approval delays for would-be visitors, further discouraging international students and others from coming to the US. Many immigration officials and attorneys were deeply concerned that the new policies were related far more to religion and nationality (similar to Trump’s previous attempt at an immigration ban) rather than the normal security screening questions which have been written to determine the purpose of the applicant in the country. The new questions, they argue, would only grant unprecedented power to immigration officials to make arbitrary
The government reserves the right to add these additional questions onto a visa request when they decide that such questions are necessary to perform the proper level of security screening and vetting for an applicant. These procedures are designed to increase the level of security for applicants who seem to be a risk for terrorism or other risks associated with national security.
Advocates are encouraged by the more stringent policies, as the global fear of terrorism increases constantly. They argue that these sorts of questions provide a level of security necessary for those who are entering the country but under some level of questionable motives. They argue that if the applicant really wants a visa, the slower process should not hinder that desire, but will provide a suitable level of protection for citizens and law abiding residents of the US. Because social media has been used by terrorist groups in the past for communication and recruiting, they argue that this should be a simple process to build trust with the US government.
The nature of social media is in question, as the Trump administration rolls out the new policy. Should social media remain private? Or does the very name social indicate that there should be government access?