Visitors to the U.S. may soon have to hand over their social media passwords

FOX 32 NEWS - As federal courts sort out the future of President Trump's Executive Order on Immigration, the administration is looking into new ways of "extreme vetting.”

If you are trying to visit the United States, you may have to soon hand over your Facebook and Twitter passwords.

This is not a new idea, looking at the social media accounts of visa applicants and refugees, but the Trump administration seems to be taking it a step farther.

Local immigration attorneys say they’ve already heard that this is happening at some ports of entry while the confusion continues over the president’s travel ban.

“If they don't want to cooperate with the additional vetting, just like if they don’t want to cooperate now, then they don't come to the United States,” said Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

He says extreme vetting is in the works for visitors and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, the same countries targeted in the president's travel ban.

Visa applicants and refugees may soon have to hand over their social media passwords, something immigration attorneys say should not be happening.

“If the search of social media accounts leads to somebody being excluded from the country because of the religion they practice or the people they associate with, that's very concerning,” said Ian Wagreich, an attorney with Hughes Socol Piers Resnick Dym, Ltd.

Secretary Kelly called the current vetting "loose" in some countries and added it would be helpful to monitor their online activity and what websites they are visiting.

“I believe the vetting on the other end is not adequate to protect the nation and then of course we are considering other measures adding to the vetting on the other end,” said Kelly. “So, that we can ensure even more so that the right people are coming to the United States and not bad people.”

Wagreich said the Obama administration tried something like this, but the extra step was never fully adopted and was not this severe.

“There was a rule that visitors to the U.S. might have to they would be asked about the social media passwords and cell phones,” he said. “It wasn't mandatory so individuals could voluntarily give up that info, but it sounds like at some ports of entry its being more vigorously pursued.” 

Immigration attorneys said during the confusion of this travel ban that some of their clients were forced to give up their passwords and were asked about religious and political affiliations.

Secretary Kelly made it clear that no decision has been made on this example of extreme vetting.

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