Updated April 25, 2019​ 

Sri Lanka Express

 Officials can now collect social media info from immigrants entering U.S.

SLE News
October 21, 2017

A new rule allows United States officials to collect usernames and other social media information from all immigrants seeking to enter the country.

The new rule went into effect October 18 as an amendment to the U.S. Privacy Act. The Privacy Act establishes policies for how the government can collect and use information about individuals. The measure was enacted in 1974 after Richard M. Nixon resigned from the presidency.

The new amendment gives the Department of Homeland Security permission to collect “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information and search results.”

The rule affects both permanent U.S. residents and naturalized citizens. The collected information becomes part of the person’s immigration records.

The amendment also gives the government rights to monitor information on relatives of immigrants and doctors who treat immigrants. It also includes monitoring of law enforcement officials involved in investigations of immigrants, and lawyers and others who help immigrants.

The amendment says the information can be gathered “from the internet, public records, public institutions, interviewees or commercial data providers.”

The Department of Homeland Security, DHS, has yet to announce specific collection or processing methods for personal information from social media.

Joanne Talbot, a spokesperson for DHS, said in a statement to media last month that the amendment “does not represent a new policy.” She said the agency has already been able to “monitor publicly available social media to protect the homeland.”

 Sweeping changes to U.S. immigration policies

On October 8, 2017, the White House issued an Immigration Principles and Policies Statement, which was followed by separate supporting statements from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The statement focused on changes to border security, unaccompanied alien children, asylum reform, swift border return, the expansion of the definition of inadmissible aliens to the United States, interior enforcement, immigration authority, partnerships with states and localities, visa overstays and a merit-based immigration system.

Key points from the statement:

Border Wall

The statement advocated that a southern border wall should be constructed to protect the United States, as it presents a clear threat to national security and public safety.


Other issues addressed in the statement included the removing of protections of unaccompanied children who flee for safety to the United States previously extended to them in a trafficking law enacted in 2008. Asylum reform and the massive asylum backlog noted by the U.S. government has prompted the government to advocate for a full review of all asylee or refugee seekers, and closing for them the opportunity for a safe haven in the United States. In an unprecedented move, the statement promotes criminalizing visa overstays, which accounts for roughly 40 percent of all illegal immigration.

Sanctuary Cities

The statement puts pressure on sanctuary cities to follow the new immigration guidelines or else they may lose vital federal funding.

Family-Based Immigration

A severe limitation on family-based immigration through the elimination and termination of extended family chain migration through the family-based green card process was also proposed, thus limiting family-based residence cases only to the spouse and minor children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. The statement follows the lead of the RAISE Act in eliminating the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, and further limiting the number of refugees to prevent abuse of the refugee admissions system.

In a separate development, the White House has proposed to support a bill granting the young undocumented immigrants known as "Dreamers" a path to residence in exchange for the principles and policies enumerated above. Last month, the president abruptly ended an Obama-era policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in which former President Barack Obama had used his executive authority to protect about 800,000 of the young immigrants from the threat of deportation and provide them work permits.

Travel Ban Update
On October 17, a Hawaii federal judge blocked the Trump administration's revised travel ban one day before it was set to take effect. Judge Derrick Watson said the travel ban - President Trump's third version of the policy - "plainly discriminates based on nationality."

On October 18, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang of Maryland halted most of the president's travel ban attempt, issuing a preliminary injunction against restrictions for the same six countries, with the exception of people who "lack a credible claim" of a bona fide relationship with someone or an entity in the United States. Under both rulings, North Korea and Venezuela are still subject to travel limits.

Greencard seekers will face in-person interview

SLE News
August 30, 2017

Changing immigration status from employment based visa to green card?

You will have to undergo an in-person interview with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as part of President Trump’s “extreme vetting” policy.

The new requirement, set to take effect Oct. 1, will apply to anyone moving from employment-based visa to lawful permanent residency. 

“This change reflects the Administration’s commitment to upholding and strengthening the integrity of our nation’s immigration system,” said Acting USCIS Director James W. McCament. “USCIS and our federal partners are working collaboratively to develop more robust screening and vetting procedures for individuals seeking immigration benefits to reside in the United States.”

The added interview workload is expected to extend wait times for green card applications. As of June 30, the office was processing applications received more than six months earlier, according to the agency.

Interviews are already part of immigration process under the law, and conducting them was standard policy up to a decade ago. But in the last 10 years, the requirement has been routinely waived to shorten wait times for applicants.

Visa holders who are family members of refugees or people who receive asylum will also be required to undergo an in-person interview when they apply for provisional status, a stage that precedes receiving a green card, according to USCIS.  USCIS is planning an incremental expansion of interviews to other benefit types.

In fiscal year 2015, Sri Lankans obtaining lawful permanent residency from these categories totaled 1,746. 

Nauru, Manus Island Tamils could be denied asylum in U.S. due to LTTE ties

SLE News
July 22, 2017

More than 100 Tamil asylum-seekers on Nauru and Manus Island are likely to be excluded from Australia’s refugee deal with the US due to their links with the LTTE which remains on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.

According to Australian media a large number of Tamil asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus are expected to be denied entry to the United States under sweeping anti-terror laws.

There are roughly 240 Tamils on Nauru and Manus Island, from where America has agreed to take up to 1,250 refugees.The deal to take refugees from Manus Island and Nauru was brokered between Australia and the US in the closing weeks of the Obama administration.    In return, Australia agreed to resettle refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The swap will help Australia close both Manus and Nauru detention centers which are expensive to run. The company contracted to provide services in the Manus Island and Nauru centers is not expected to renew its contract with the Australian government beyond October.

Soon after taking office, President Trump promised to study what he called a "dumb deal": "Do you believe it? The Obama administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!" he tweeted.

However, in April, Vice President Mike Pence told Australian media his government didn’t “admire” the deal but would still honor it.

Pence said the new administration would honor the agreement but offered the significant caveat of “subject to the results of the vetting process that now apply to all refugees considered for admission to the USA”. There is no guarantee on how many, if any, refugees will be accepted.

“President Trump has made it clear that we’ll honor the agreement. That doesn’t mean we admire the agreement. Frankly looking back on the past administration, the president has never been shy about expressing frustration with other international agreements.”

Pence said the new administration would honor the agreement but offered the significant caveat of “subject to the results of the vetting process that now apply to all refugees considered for admission to the USA”.

There is no guarantee on how many, if any, refugees will be accepted.

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This photo of Sri Lankan Tamil Kabil Kumar waving the LTTE flag during a march in Melbourne, Australia in support of asylum seekers was taken by Charlotte Grieve and appeared in The Citizen.