Things That Matter

US Immigration Officials Are Using Google Translate To Read Migrant’s Social Media Posts Instead Of Hiring Actual Translators

The Trump administration’s cruel and unjust immigration policy continues to permeate every aspect of the refugee admittance infrastructure. The International Refugee Assistance Project and ProPublica shared internal documents from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that revealed the organization uses online translators to review refugees’ social media posts. A practice that is problematic in and of itself, only made worse by unreliable machine translation tools. 

The organization argues reviewing social media posts is “common sense” vetting, while human translators, language experts, and immigration advocates strongly disagree. Many feel poor translations can be make or break for refugees who are in dire need of admittance into the U.S., and even Google concedes their best tools are no substitute for human translators. 

Advocates expose USCIS for using Google translate to vet refugees’ social media posts.

International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) obtained an internal manual used by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the federal agency responsible for admitting immigrants. IRAP released the manual to ProPublica who revealed the manual advises officials to use free online translation services from Google, Yahoo, and Bing. While the document is mostly redacted, the visible parts show a step-by-step process for using Google Translate. 

“The most efficient approach to translate foreign language contents is to utilize one of the many free online language translation services provided by Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines.” the manual states. 

“It defies logic that we would use unreliable tools to decide whether refugees can reunite with their families,” Betsy Fisher, strategy director at IRAP, told ProPublica. “We wouldn’t use Google Translate for our homework, but we are using it to keep refugee families separated.”

Even Google says Google Translate is unreliable.

In the company’s disclaimer, they urge users to remember Google Translate is no substitution for a human translator. 

Users should be aware, “reasonable efforts have been made to provide an accurate translation, however, no automated translation is perfect nor is it intended to replace human translators.”

The issue with poor translations is, simply put, the stakes are too high. Online translators cannot capture the subtleties and nuances of language that a fluent or native speaker can. Yet, officials rely on these poor translations to determine the fate of refugees. Particularly when slang is used, the government takes the risk of misinterpreting innocuous comments as being harmful or threatening. 

“It’s naive on the part of government officials to do that,” said Douglas Hofstadter, a professor of cognitive science and comparative literature at Indiana University at Bloomington. “I find it deeply disheartening and stupid and shortsighted, personally.”

USCIS defends “stupid and shortsighted” policy.

You might be asking yourself: why are they looking at refugees’ social media posts in the first place? 

 “Social media reviews include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, along with general internet searches (e.g., Google). Social media checks are designed to identify publicly available information in applicants’ social media postings that may impact eligibility for their immigration filing,” according to the Department of Homeland Security.

“This could include information related to their claim for refugee status, information indicating potential fraud (such as identity fraud or document fraud), or information regarding criminal activity or national security concerns that would impact eligibility and admissibility. USCIS may only look at publicly available information and will respect users’ privacy settings.”

As ProPublica points out, in 2017, Facebook apologized after it translated a Palestinian man saying “good morning” as “hurt them” in English, and “attack them” in Hebrew. It’s so transparently racist, you almost want to laugh. 

USCIS admits they’re wrong but continues to be a mess. 

ProPublica claims an undated draft of an internal USCIS document, published by the Daily Beast, states their pilot social media program found that, “automatic foreign language translation was not sufficient.” 

In another review of the pilot conducted in 2016, USCIS found that  “native Arabic language and subject matter expertise in regional culture, religion, and terrorism was needed to fully vet” two cases to determine if there was truly threatening information. 

Online translators have failed Latinx people before.

In 2017, a Kansas highway patrol trooper conducted a warrantless search of a Mexican man’s car by using Google Translate to ask for consent in Spanish. The U.S. district judge threw out the evidence gathered in the search, determining the man did not understand the officer’s commands or questions. 

Language requires more than an understanding of grammar and vocabulary, it requires cultural literacy, an understanding of satire and irony, and knowledge of slang. Under the Trump administration, social media auditing has increased to the extent that visa forms require applicants to include social media handles. This is a part of a disturbing trend in which citizens’ and non-citizens’ freedom of speech is being counted against them. 

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

Gerald Herbert / Getty Images

In what many are calling a landmark decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just handed a major victory to migrant’s rights advocates. Although the major ruling seems simple on paper, it has major legal implications and could truly change the way that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrest undocumented immigrants.

However, the decision is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court – where it would face an uncertain legal future given the possible future makeup of the nation’s highest court.

The 9th Circuit Court just issued a landmark legal decision that could greatly affect ICE arrests.

Credit: Eric Risberg / Getty Images

Long-standing rules for arresting migrants may soon need to change, thanks to a recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court says that ICE needs to align its arresting and detention procedures with those of all other law enforcement agencies in the country, which are guided by rules within the U.S. constitution. When police arrest people for suspected crimes, the constitution requires them to show probable cause to a judge within 48 hours. But ICE does not do that. When ICE arrests people, it typically holds them for weeks before any judge evaluates whether ICE had a valid legal basis to make the arrest.

But ICE’s policies may no longer be legal.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the usual constitutional rules that apply to normal police all over the country also apply to ICE. “The Fourth Amendment requires a prompt probable cause determination by a neutral and detached magistrate,” the court said. This really shouldn’t be a big deal. Prompt independent review by a judge of whether the government has a legal basis to take away a person’s freedom is an essential safeguard against tyranny.

ICE’s arrest and detention policies have long come under scrutiny for seemingly skirting constitutional rules.

Credit: Joseph Sohm / Getty Images

For almost 200 years, immigration enforcement has existed in a sort of grey area, where the usual rules never applied. For example, when ICE arrests people, individual officers have much more legal discretion than other law enforcement authorities. Detainees may be held for weeks or months before going to a judge who will ask the person how they plead to ICE’s allegations against them.

Only then, long after the initial arrest, might ICE actually be required to show a judge any evidence to back up its case. The person would have spent all of that time detained, likely at a private detention center in a remote area.

For any other person in the U.S., this procedure goes against every legal protection in the constitution. But ICE has gotten away with treating immigrants this way for generations.

The ruling comes as other courts are making it easier for ICE to abuse migrant’s constitutional rights.

The ruling by the 9th Circuit comes less than a week after the 1st Circuit overturned a ban prohibiting ICE from arresting undocumented immigrants at courthouses in Massachusetts.

In 2018, ICE created a policy of attempting to arrest undocumented immigrants when they appeared at state courthouses for judicial proceedings. However, a district court granted an injunction against the policy after migrant advocates filed a lawsuit against ICE. They claimed that ICE was in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and lacked authority to make civil arrests at courts.

Meanwhile, ICE has resumed large-scale enforcement operations, announcing roughly 2,000 arrests over several weeks amid the Coronavirus pandemic. The 9th Circuit’s decision raises an obvious question: How many of those people were detained for more than 48 hours without a review by a judge?

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A Group Of TPS Beneficiaries Are Touring The Country In A Bus To Save The Crucial Immigration Program

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A Group Of TPS Beneficiaries Are Touring The Country In A Bus To Save The Crucial Immigration Program

tps_alliance / Instagram

Updated September 23, 2020

A coalition of people is coming together to stand up for Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries. Federal judges recently gave the Trump administration the approval to end the status for 300,000 people in the U.S.

A group of Temporary Protect Status holders is on a road trip to save the program for 300,000 people.

The National TPS Alliance is driving across the country to engage voters about the need to protect the program. The “Road to Justice” road tour started in Los Angeles and will be stopping in 54 cities in 32 states. The tour ends in Washington, D.C. where the TPS holders will petition Congress directly to save the program.

The program was started in 1990 and offers safe refuge for people who’s countries have experienced disaster, civil unrest, or other extraordinary circumstances. Some people who have been granted TPS in the U.S. include Central Americans after Hurricane Mitch, the second-largest hurricane in the Atlantic, devastated large swaths of the region in 1998. Haitians were also given TPS after the earthquake that devastated Port Au Prince in 2010.

The organization is hoping to engage voters and get them to care about the immigration crisis facing the nation. Activists have already praised the group and pledged to support their cause at the ballot box.

“We are going to vote for justice, for the TPS community,” Angélica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, told NBC News. “President (Trump) and his administration are racist and do not care about the damage they are causing to our community.”

Original: A federal court just handed a huge ‘victory’ to the Trump administration, which has been eager to restart mass deportations. Despite a global health pandemic, the administration has been pressing forward with plans to deport hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants.

Until now, many of these migrants were safe from deportation thanks to Temporary Protected Status, which shields some immigrants from deportation under humanitarian claims. However, the recent court decision – in San Francisco’s 9th Circuit – gives Trump exactly what he wants right before the elections.

But how will it affect immigrant communities across the country? Here’s everything you need to know about this major decision.

The 9th Circuit Court just ended TPS for more than 300,000 undocumented immigrants.

A California appeals court on Monday gave the Trump Administration permission to end Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Sudan, clearing the way for officials to force more than 300,000 immigrants out of the country.

The decision affects people from all walks of life, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for decades, have U.S.-born children and have been considered essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

This week’s ruling from the circuit court comes after a district court (also in California) temporarily halted Trump’s plan to end TPS in late 2018 after a group of lawyers sued, arguing that Trump was motivated by racial discrimination.

“The president’s vile statements about TPS holders made perfectly clear that his administration acted out of racial animus,”Ahilan Arulanantham, a lawyer for the ACLU of Southern California, wrote in a statement. “The Constitution does not permit policy to be driven by racism. We will seek further review of the court’s decision.”

But today’s 2-1 decision reversed the district court’s temporary order and allowed the federal government to take away TPS protections while the court case continues.

ICE and DHS has promised to wait several months before taking away TPS status if the agency won in court. As a result, the ACLU told NPR that it expects the protections to start ending no sooner than March, meaning that Joe Biden could reverse the administration’s decision if he wins in November, though the organization plans to fight back in the meantime.

Temporary Protected Status was created to protect people in the U.S. from being sent back to dangerous places – and it’s saved lives.

Credit: Daniel Ortega / Getty Images

The TPS program was first introduced in 1990, and it has protected immigrants from more than 20 countries at various points since then. More than 300,000 people from 10 different nations currently use the program, some of whom have lived and worked in the United States for decades.

Trump has sharply criticized the program, sometimes along racial lines, and in one infamous and widely criticized incident two years ago, the president reportedly referred to the program’s beneficiaries as “people from shithole countries.”

TPS provides protection for short periods of up to 18 months, but the federal government has continuously extended it for the countries mentioned in the lawsuit “based on repeated findings that it remains unsafe to return.” 

As a result, it said, most TPS holders have been living in the U.S. for more than a decade, contributing to their communities and raising their families. Many of the more than 200,000 U.S.-citizen children of TPS holders have never been to the country their parents are from and would have to choose between their families and their homes.

The ruling will have a major impact on migrant families and communities across the U.S.

Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Immigration advocacy groups are slamming the court’s ruling, noting it will impact hundreds of thousands of TPS holders as well as their families and communities. In a statement, Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council, said the decision will “plunge their lives into further turmoil at a time when we all need greater certainty.” 

As the global pandemic stretches on, immigrants with protected status make up a large portion of the country’s front-line workers. More than 130,000 TPS recipients are essential workers, according to the Center for American Progress. 

“TPS recipients have deep economic and social roots in communities across the nation,” said Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum. “And, as the U.S. responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, TPS recipients are standing shoulder to shoulder with Americans and doing essential work.”

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