Kia Hamadanchy, senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), says the Section 702 program “invariably” intercepts communications between foreigners and their American family members. Using the program for vetting purposes means committing to “entirely suspicionless searches” of both, he says.
Andy Wong, a director of advocacy at Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition of community-based groups, has called out Democrats specifically for supporting the move, labeling it a “betrayal” of the Latino and Asian American communities. “We need leaders who dismantle systemic racism,” Wong says, “not entrench policies that leave us more exposed, separated, and vulnerable.”
“The government should be seeking to streamline the immigration process, including the family-based immigration system, not expand warrantless surveillance for individuals seeking to come to the United States,” says Joanna YangQing Derman, program director at the nonprofit Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC). “Expanding warrantless surveillance to specifically go after immigrant communities would not only be harmful, but it would also be a deeply disappointing continuation of this country’s unfair treatment of Asian Americans and Asian immigrants.”
Representative Turner, the HPSCI chair, said Sunday on Face the Nation that his committee had a bill to extend the 702 program endorsed by, among others, Representative Jim Himes, the committee’s ranking Democrat. Turner accused lawmakers not onboard with his bill of misunderstanding how the program works and its “value and importance” to “national security.”
ACLU’s Hamadanchy tells WIRED that it would be concerning to see Himes and other Democrats endorsing use of the program against immigrant communities. “It would represent a dramatic expansion of the current vetting practices,” he says, “and it would be disappointing if it is something Congressman Himes has signed on to.”
Himes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Turner said Sunday that he’d already gained the support of the SSCI chair, Senator Mike Warner (D-Virginia), who introduced his own 702 bill last week. Warner’s bill also includes language that expands the 702 program to “enable the vetting of non-United States persons who are being processed for travel to the United States,” but does not mention visas or green cards.
Elizabeth Goitein, senior director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty & national security program, calls Warner’s proposals unnecessary. “There are already plenty of vetting mechanisms in place to ensure that visitors to this country don’t pose a threat to national security or public safety,” she says.