Published February 24, 2016


After the terrorist mass shootings in San Bernardino, California this past December, it was discovered that the couple carrying out the attack had an online footprint, via Facebook private messenger, outlining disturbing beliefs and inclinations to commit acts of jihad and terrorism.

In the wake of this major act of terrorism and others around the world, leaders in our federal government and Congress are looking for improved ways to insure that foreign nationals looking to enter the U.S. do not intend to engage in terrorism.  The new rules being considered may or may not have prevented the San Bernardino attacks, especially since the policies being contemplated only apply to the scouring of a prospective entrant’s public activities and not private communications.  However, pre-entry scrutiny of the public social media activities of the immigrant involved in the San Bernardino attack may have revealed statements or actions to prompt a closer look or investigation.  

At present, social media scrutiny, along with other investigative tools, are already applied closely to refugee applicants seeking to live in the U.S., such as from Syria.  Additionally, it has become known that public social media profiles and activities of marriage-based applicants for U.S. residence are also already scrutinized in an effort to confirm the sincerity of the subject marriage, especially in the context of stateside processing of adjustment of status applicants now living in the U.S. 

But in developing appropriate guidelines for implementation of such a plan, critics are urging caution, such that innocent speech (e.g. sarcastic comments, legitimate civil criticism), or activities are not misinterpreted or overreacted to.  Caution in this regard is particularly important since much of the preliminary work will be left to automated social media review and the sometimes inaccurate algorithms employed to dig up meaningful activity.   Welcome to the 21st century.



PUBLISHED February 24, 2016– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2016, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois