A new proposal from the Trump administration would increase screenings on visitors from China.
The notice from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection details a proposition to ask Chinese visitors on business or tourism visas for their social media handles before they travel to the country.
Customs and Border Patrol officers could use the social media information, which is optional to disclose, for examination.
“This data will be used for vetting purposes, as needed, providing highly trained CBP officers with timely visibility into publicly available information on the platforms associated with the social media identifier(s) voluntarily provided by the applicant,” the notice stated.
Through the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS), an electronic system in which international visitors with 10-year U.S. visas must enroll, Chinese travelers would be asked for their social media handles and corresponding platforms, the CBP proposes.
An officer would review the accounts, staying consistent with the user’s privacy settings, the notice says. And the information obtained would help discern between individuals with “similar characteristics, such as similar names,” and also provide another means to contact the applicant.
Those who choose not to reveal their social media information wouldn’t be negatively affected, according to the proposal, which will be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday.
“The collection of social media identifiers will not be used to prevent travel based on an applicant’s race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation,” Jennifer Evanitsky, CBP spokeswoman, elaborated to Politico. “The social media provider will not be asked to violate any privacy settings or policies.”
The outlet points out that the Obama administration also employed a similar screening check. However, it gave visitors from a variety of countries ― including several European and other developed nations ― the option to disclose their social media handles through the Visa Waiver Program.
The proposal to include Chinese visitors in social media screenings has become cause for alarm among some groups like Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles (AAAJ-LA), which says it’s concerned that there’s more to the idea than meets the eye.
“As a civil rights organization, we fear that proposals such as the proposed social media check will be largely ineffective as a national security screen and will serve primarily to allow the discriminatory targeting of Chinese immigrants and visitors at border checkpoints,” the group wrote in a statement to The Huffington Post.
Moreover, AAAJ-LA fears that the “scrutiny” of Chinese visitors could fuel anti-Chinese sentiment in the country.
A 2015 LA hate crime report released by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations revealed that anti-Asian hate crimes in the county had tripled. Most of the incidents were anti-Chinese and the nonprofit suspects that the spike had to do with President Donald Trump’s painting of China as a threat during the election.
Karin Wang, the group’s vice-president, explained to the Huffington Post last month that there were several statements made during his campaign that reflected this message including a 2015 announcement, in which Trump said that “ISIS, China, Mexico are all beating us.” He also brought up China’s trade and military powers.
Wang told HuffPost that Trump’s note “really reinforces the dangerous foreign enemy image, even though he describes China’s threat as one of trade.”
There will be a 60-day comment period, starting on Tuesday, during which people can voice their concerns and suggest revisions. AAAJ-LA hopes those in the Asian-American community will take part in airing their opinions.
“In the month since the inauguration, we have seen that mass protest and resistance works in pushing back on the current Presidential Administration’s efforts to vilify and target non-white and immigrant communities,” the organization said in its statement to HuffPost. “The regulatory comment period invites public comment and we encourage the public to take full advantage of that process.”