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Bloggings on Dysfunctional Government

by Angelo Paparelli

Editor's note: Here are the latest entries from Angelo Paparelli's blog.

December 11, 2008

Immigration Agencies All Atwitter over Intrusive Technology

These days, the news on immigration seems like one large and scary technology mashup. The evidence is everywhere:

  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) publishes a final rule that authorizes the taking of DNA specimens from persons merely detained (not necessarily found liable) for alleged civil violations of the immigration laws.
  • DHS reports to Congress on its data mining activities as the ACLU's Legislative Counsel, Timothy Sparapani, criticizes predictive data mining as a "categorical and unmitigated waste of taxpayer dollars . . . akin to alchemy or astrology in its relationship to science."
  • Congress considers legislation that would reign in the practice of a DHS unit (Customs and Border Protection) in seizing and searching the laptops and cellphones of U.S. citizens and lawful residents at U.S. ports of entry without any suspicion of wrongdoing.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) awards IBM almost a half billion dollar contract that the vendor claims will produce technology to "serve as a key piece to enable the Agency to speed benefits determination, combat identity fraud, and reduce processing time backlogs."
  • The American Council for International Personnel reports in unofficial minutes of its liaison meeting with the USCIS California Service Center that "USCIS is looking more on the internet for publicly available information to verify an issue to resolve it before issuing [a request for additional evidence (RFE)]" -- all the better to jump to a hasty conclusion and issue a mistaken RFE.
  • E-Verify offiials offer webinars to federal contractors (on December 11 at 10:00 AM EST, December 18 at 12:00 PM EST and December 22 at 2:00 PM EST) by calling (888) 464-4218 or emailing and providing your name, company's name, and phone number.
  • USCIS has gone all Web 2.0 on us by posting its tweets on Twitter.

Meantime, in the Luddite world of technophones, we learn that -- shades of Mitt Romney! -- DHS has fined the housecleaning service of its boss, Michael Chertoff, for employing unauthorized foreign workers, while the chief CBP officer in New England, Lorraine Henderson, is indicted for the felony of allegedly harboring an undocumented Brazilian house cleaner.

I guess the lesson from all of these ominous portents can be summed up in the secretly recorded warning that erstwhile CBP Chief  Henderson reportedly offered her housekeeper two days shy of the 7th anniversary of Sept. 11: "You have to be careful 'cause they will deport you. Be careful."