Careful, Homeland Security May Want to “Friend” You
Published: October 20, 2010

In recent years, government officials have increasingly been turning to high technology to gather information to assess marital relationships that are the basis of immigration filings, such as for green cards or expedited citizenship. From credit reports to utility bills, agents for the Department of Homeland Security, are tapping into the vast informational resources that flow freely from having an individual’s social security number in an effort to test claims that husband/wife immigration applicants are residing together and otherwise engaged in a bona fide relationship. Most recently the Department of Homeland Security, has taken the leap into social networking. A report was just released describing how DHS agents are utilizing social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and others to conduct covert surveillance of applicants for permanent residence or naturalization where eligibility depends on the applicant demonstrating a shared residence and bona fide relationship with a U.S. citizen.

To say the least, online behavior of many in the social networking context can best be described as peculiar, with networking site account holders letting complete strangers into their life without qualification and sharing all kinds of personal information, including the particulars of their social life, tastes and sexual habits. Taking advantage of this societal phenomenon, DHS agents are posing as “innocent strangers” looking to “friend” either or both the foreign national applicant and petitioning US citizen spouse. Once the friend request is accepted, the government essentially is given the open door to conduct a type of cyberspace “home visit” to assess the sincerity of the relationship at issue. Does the person list themselves as married on their site? Are they engaged in online activities that would present doubts about how genuine the relationship at issue is?

Clearly, the online, high tech world we live in is ripe for information gathering. But anyone who has ever seen their own credit report knows, big questions remain regarding the relevance of the gathered information, along with the accuracy of the government’s interpretation of the information.

Copyright © 2010, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois