ICE Is Using Fake Facebook Accounts To Entrap Migrants Even Though Facebook Has Warned The Government To Stop
Last September, Facebook said it told the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that it must cease using fake profiles on the social media platform to monitor undocumented immigrants. Facebook claims that the company prohibits fake accounts and that DHS was violating its policy.
“Law enforcement authorities, like everyone else, are required to use their real names on Facebook and we make this policy clear on our public-facing Law Enforcement Guidelines page,” a Facebook representative told The Guardian in April. “Operating fake accounts is not allowed, and we will act on any violating accounts.”
However, ICE and DHS have not stopped creating fake accounts, a tactic they began using in 2015. ICE has gone as far as luring in undocumented immigrants with these profiles and even creating a fake university.
ICE uses fake Facebook profiles to track undocumented immigrants.
According to the New York Times, ICE agents began to watch a largely Latinx community in Washington State’s Long Beach Peninsula, to properly identify the undocumented immigrants they created fake Facebook profiles.
Glady Díaz Tadeo, a mother of three, posted a photo of piñata in the shape of a cupcake her family made, selling it for $20. Tadeo posted the item on a private Facebook group made up only of local residents. A person responded to the ad, the profile had a “Hispanic name” and a picture of a dog.
Tadeo went to deliver the piñata and when she arrived two ICE agents showed her a printout of her Washington State driver’s license. Tadeo was taken to a private detention center, three weeks later she was deported to Mexico.
ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division created fake universities to lure in migrants.
The Guardian discovered that over 600 Detroit, Michigan students, nearly all from India, were caught up in an HSI plan where they created multiple Facebook profiles tied to the University of Farmington — a fake college to lure in foreign nationals.
The fake school had no employees save for undercover agents and described itself as “a nationally accredited institution authorized to enroll international students.”
ICE agents, posed as school officials from Farmington, would register students who had initially come to the U.S. on student visas but had them lapse. The intention, advocates believe, was to convince these migrants to commit crimes by allegedly making them believe they were legally obtaining student visas when they were not.
Faiza Patel, the co-director of the liberty and national security program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, believes that the students had no idea what they were getting into.
“Normally, we would like our law enforcement agencies to be investigating crimes that are already occurring as opposed to spending time and resources in creating elaborate sting operations,” said Patel.
However, a 2008 ICE handbook revealed, what would usually be considered entrapment for other law enforcers, is fine. According to The Guardian, the handbook stated that “while undercover agents are advised not to induce people to commit crimes, exceptions can be made and are internally regulated.”
In 2016, ICE did the same university stunt when 1,000 New Jersey students were lured in by fake school staffers who were really ICE agents. In both cases, ICE claims the students knew that they were committing fraud.
However, workers near the building of Farmington told WXYZ that students regularly came to the building asking when school would open and complained they could not get in touch with school staff.
“ICE knowing this or DHS knowing this tries to ensnare as many people as possible and get them wound up in an immigration system where they know that the cards are going to be stacked against the immigrant,” said Angelo Guisado, an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Facebook repeatedly condemns ICE’s behavior.
The Guardian reports that, “Facebook removed the University of Farmington accounts shortly after being contacted by the Guardian and a representative said it contacted the Department of Homeland Security about its policy on fake accounts.”
Facebook said it would take action against any law enforcement officials impersonating others. However, this was just a few days after the Associated Press reported the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services planned to create fake social media accounts again.
“An updated Homeland Security Department review of potential privacy issues… essentially reversed a prior ban on officers creating fake profiles,” the AP stated. “A USCIS statement explaining the change says fake accounts and identities will make it easier for investigators to search for potential evidence of fraud or security concerns as they decide whether to allow someone entry into the U.S.”
While the practice has always violated Facebook’s policy, and the company has consistently condemned it, it still remains clear if ICE will ever stop.