Saturday, January 26, 2019

BITMAP Targetting Alleged "Adults" and Asylum-Seeking Children In U.S. Custody, not Terrorists

November 14, 2018 Email on BITMAP, X-Rays, and Age Reassessment, click to enlarge 
BITMAP is among the numerous global, mammoth data-collection enterprises that bring Orwell's nightmare to life.  It's supposed to "identify criminal persons, wanted subjects (including international  fugitives), and known or suspected terrorists" (House Report, p. 2).  But an email I obtained yesterday from an official in the Department of Health and Human Services through FOIA litigation reveals it is being used to target people who secretly may be ... adults.  

The email states: 
As you all know, we have a number of Bangladeshi nationals in our programs, who appear to be adults....If you have dental forensics showing 75% or greater probability that the individual is an adult, and you receive Bitmap information corroborating this, then the case meets ORR policy to make an age redetermination. -Thomas Curry, PhD, LPC-S, Federal Field Specialist Supervisor, South Texas Region, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Refugee Resettlement
This is exactly the sort of mission creep against which civil libertarians warned.  Any positive hits also are a likely source for the Trump administration claims that they've snared terrorists crossing into the U.S. from Central America, when what they meant was that a database that was sold as targetting terrorists was used to move asylum-seekers from a DHHS facility into ICE custody prior to their immigration court hearings.

Of course Trumpists will be tickled that a lying Bangladeshi adult will be removed from DHHS custody and placed into the harsher (and cheaper) ICE facilities.  Except that the data on which such a move is based is just guesswork dressed up as science.  The dental forensics are junk science and the databases are no more reliable.  

Of course Trumpists will be tickled that anyone who isn't a White national will be removed from DHHS custody and placed into the harsher (and cheaper) ICE facilities.  So let's argue about that.  

And now since we're on that topic, I just gotta say, how about offering to scrap the entire ICE budget EXCEPT for building the damn wall?  If the wall is so ineffective, then what is so "immoral" about it?  

Dream legislation for AOC to introduce: Let Trump build his beautiful concrete wall on the border as a giant monument to Byzantium.  I'll give him the shovel.  Meanwhile, back in the 21st century, asylum-seekers who show up at a port of entrance must be admitted and released on their own recognizance; no more funding for ICE's long-stay detention facilities; no more arrests at court-houses of people who may have overstayed their visas; no more bogus marriage fraud threats of petitioners; no more Kafkaesque interrogations of the birth documents of brown-skinned people; and no more BITMAP.  The U.S. fully implements the 1964 Civil Rights Act and ends discrimination based on birth. Anyone inside the United States is left alone unless they break a criminal law unrelated to their hereditary status.  

So while Trump and his gang of idiots are building their wall -- and fighting off pissed-off ranchers, etc. -- the rest of us focus on implementing policies that defeat global apartheid.  As my colleague Daniel Morales states so eloquently,
 [W]hen the undocumented break the law and enter the U.S., they not only seize the privileges of rich-world life that the U.S. chose to deny them, they also send a clear message that the American immigration system and the broader political order of which it is a part, do not meet their needs. -Daniel Morales, "Undocumented Migrants as New (and Peaceful) American Revolutionaries"  Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Public Policy (2016)
For more on the desirability of open borders, check out a new collection of essays just published by University of Georgia Press, and including a contribution from Joseph Nevins. 

Meanwhile, we need to remain vigilant about BITMAP, first passed during the Obama administration in 2011.  A bill to make it permanent passed the House in December but did not pass in the Senate, though an amended version was reported out favorably by a Senate Committee on September 5, 2018.  The ACLU, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, National Immigration Law Center, and National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild issued an excellent explanation of its problems.

Within hours of the government opening for business, I received hundreds of pages of documents revealing how age reassessments are being performed by contractors working for the Department of Health and Human Services.  I requested these as part of a research project with the Pangea Legal Services, committed to assisting free movement, and hope to be releasing a report on our findings shortly.

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