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US President’s Dilemma about the Digital Surveillance of Immigrants

Recently, a serious issue was brought to light by a firm called the Just Futures Law operating in the United States with respect to immigrants. The firm released a report called the ICE Digital Prisons that focussed on the intricacies of digital surveillance of immigrants. This report covered physical, economic as well emotional challenges involved in the process of digital tracing of immigrants. The name of the report indicates how the cage around the immigrants continues to exist even though it was not physical.

Under the former American President Donald Trump , the United States government invested heavily in the process of establishing population centric, cultural intelligence. There was much opposition of the intention behind the policies that followed up. In fact in 2018, President Trump signed a bill that renewed the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance.

After President Joe Biden came to power, he was questioned about his campaign that advocated accountability for government’s immigration policies. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is against any such revision of norms and supports strict measures and firm border laws. Currently as per a report by The Guardian, the US administration tracks almost 96,000 immigrants. However, the current administration is under pressure to make the laws more humane.

According to the laws, any discrepancy in the papers or background results in the immigrants living in detention centres. However there have been talks of digital solutions to fund more methods and techniques of tracing immigrants. As a part of the process, the immigrants wear ankle trackers, allow office visits as well as checking in through smart phones. While these contribute to easing the task of detecting the whereabouts of the immigrants, these also question the basic tenets of human rights. They are also border line questionable to the privacy and mental development of many people. But these methods have been described as alternates to detention and thus have been much applauded.

The organisation Just Futures Law did bring into focus the problems that the surveillance led to. However, the digital techniques of communication and tracing are a part of the revolution. The Digital Prisons as referred to in The Guardian is important especially after the pandemic. There are desperate movements across borders. The departments in several countries are struggling with border issues. There have also been alarms raised about how personal conversations were also infiltrated. The complaints regarding the tracking agents leading to mistaken arrests or detentions in the past might have some points to consider but there are many other things to consider. Cultural differences and identities are not taken into account when taking decisions about the possibility of detention.

Digital surveillance can be a strength for any country’s officials however a balanced needs to be struck to respect the basic rights as well as ensure that illegal operations are not entertained. US President Biden is expected to do the same despite the pressures.