ICE Extreme Vetting Initiative: A Resource Page

This resource page is intended to provide journalists, policy-makers, and the public information about the ICE Extreme Vetting Initiative.

November 16, 2017

Last Updated: May 24, 2018

Update: ICE confirmed publicly in May 2018 that the agency is dropping the machine learning aspect of the planned program, though it is not clear whether several of the other elements remain. For more on the implications of ICE’s announcement and the outstanding questions and concerns, see:

Background on the ICE Extreme Vetting Initiative:

What is the Extreme Vetting Initiative? 

  • Pres. Trump’s January 2017 “Muslim ban” executive order called for all travelers to the U.S. to be screened to determine if they would be “positively contributing member[s] of society” and “make contributions to the national interest” – and if they intended to commit a crime or terrorist act.
  • The Extreme Vetting Initiative is ICE’s plan to monitor Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of internet to automatically flag people for deportation or visa denial based on the exact criteria from the original Muslim ban. It will function, in effect, as a digital Muslim ban.
  • ICE will force its contractor to flag a minimum of 10,000 people a year for deportation investigations and/or visa denial. ICE wants to award the contract for this system by Sept. 2018.

What's Wrong with the Extreme Vetting Initiative?

  • The Extreme Vetting Initiative “is tailor-made for discrimination,” argued The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP, Color of Change, the Center for Media Justice and 52 other other NGOs in an open letter to DHS. Driven by animus and based on broad, undefined criteria, this tool will let ICE deport or deny admission to whomever it wants.
  • The Extreme Vetting Initiative will chill free speech. ICE will continuously scan “media, blogs, public hearings, conferences, academic websites, [and] social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.” This will scare Americans and foreign nationals into censoring themselves online.
  • The Extreme Vetting Initiative won’t work. According to a letter to DHS signed by 54 of the nation’s leading experts in machine learning and automated decision-making, “no computational methods can provide reliable or objective assessments of the traits that ICE seeks to measure.”

How Will It Impact African Americans, Latinos, and Muslim Americans?

  • African Americans. Black youth are more likely than white youth to be on Twitter, and use social media for longer periods. Yet natural language processing appears to be less accurate when analyzing common expressions used in the African American community. 
  • Latinos. Millions of Latinos live in “mixed-status” families. Monitoring social media to deport people will sweep up millions of American citizens, a disproportionate number of them Latinos. 

  • Muslim Americans. Muslims are disproportionately targeted for watchlisting. This program draws its criteria, verbatim, from the first Muslim ban. It is clearly targeted at the Muslim community. 

What Should Be Done About the Extreme Vetting Initiative?

  • Congress should press DHS to end the system. The nation’s leading civil rights and technical leaders agree: This system will be inaccurate and biased. It will hurt real people and families.
  • Congress should expand its oversight into the system. Momentum is building on the Hill to demand answers and ask DHS to shut down this program, and even more attention is needed.

ICE Documents on the Extreme Vetting Initiative: 

In July, ICE held two "industry days" for vendors interested in the Extreme Vetting Initiative contract. The following documents are drawn from the Federal Business Opportunities website for the EVI contract.

Opposition Letters and Statements:

Press and Commentary on Extreme Vetting & Social Media Monitoring: 

Additional Resources on Extreme Vetting & Social Media Monitoring:

Chronology of Social Media Monitoring: 

Letters to State Department and DHS on Extreme Vetting and Social Media: 

Coalition Letter Signatories:                                                           

18 Million Rising

Access Now

Advocacy for Principled Action in Government

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

American Civil Liberties Union

Amnesty International

Asian Americans Advancing Justice

Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law

Center for Constitutional Rights

Center for Democracy & Technology

Center for Media Justice

The Center for Security, Race, and Rights, Rutgers Law School

Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law

Color of Change

Committee to Protect Journalists

The Constitution Project

Council on American-Islamic Relations

The Concerned Archivists Alliance

Defending Rights & Dissent

Demand Progress

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)

Free Press

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Government Accountability Project

Government Information Watch

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Data Analysis Group

Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota

Justice Strategies

The Identity Project

Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Liberty Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Legal Aid Justice Center

Muslim Advocates

Muslim Justice League

Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)

NAACP

NAFSA: Association of International Educators

National Hispanic Media Coalition

National Immigration Law Center

National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild

National Iranian American Council (NIAC)

New America's Open Technology Institute

Online Policy Group

OpenTheGovernment

Open MIC (Open Media and Information Companies Initiative)

PEN America

People for the American Way

Restore the Fourth

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

Southern Poverty Law Center

Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN)

Union for Reform Judaism

Woodhull Freedom Foundation

Technology Expert Letter Signatories:

Hal Abelson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ben Adida, Clever

Blaise Agüera y Arcas, Google / Machine Intelligence

Solon Barocas, Cornell University

Steven M. Bellovin, Columbia University

danah boyd, Microsoft Research / Data & Society

Elizabeth Bradley, University of Colorado, Boulder / Santa Fe Institute

Meredith Broussard, New York University

Emma Brunskill, Stanford University

Carlos Castillo, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Aaron Clauset, University of Colorado, Boulder

Lorrie Faith Cranor, Carnegie Mellon University

Kate Crawford, AI Now, New York University / Microsoft Research

Hal Daumé III, University of Maryland / Microsoft Research

Fernando Diaz, Spotify

Peter Eckersley, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Michael Ekstrand, Boise State University

David Evans, University of Virginia

Ed Felten, Princeton University

Sorelle Friedler, Haverford College

Timnit Gebru, Microsoft Research

Joe Hall, Center for Democracy & Technology

Brent Hecht, Northwestern University

James Hendler, Rensselaer Polythechnic University

Subbarao Kambhampati, Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence / Arizona State University

Joshua A. Kroll, University of California at Berkeley

Been Kim, Google Brain

Susan Landau, Tufts University

Kristian Lum, Human Rights Data Analysis Group

Sascha Meinrath, X-Lab / Penn State University

Alan Mislove, Northeastern University

Margaret Mitchell, Google Research / Machine Intelligence

Deirdre Mulligan, University of California at Berkeley

Cristopher Moore, Santa Fe Institute

Ramez Naam, technologist and author, The Nexus Trilogy

Cathy O'Neil, mathematician and author, Weapons of Math Destruction

Jake Porway, DataKind

Megan Price, Human Rights Data Analysis Group

Gireeja Ranade, Microsoft Research

David Robinson, Upturn

Salvatore Ruggieri, University of Pisa, Italy

Stuart Russell, University of California at Berkeley

Bruce Schneier, Harvard Kennedy School

Cosma Shalizi, Carnegie Mellon University

Julia Stoyanovich, Drexel University

Ashkan Soltani, independent researcher and technologist

Peter Szolovits, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Hanna Wallach, Microsoft Research / University of Massachusetts Amherst

Nicholas Weaver, International Computer Science Institute / University of California at Berkeley

Meredith Whittaker, AI Now, New York University / Google Open Research

Christo Wilson, Northeastern University

Chris Wiggins, Columbia University

David H. Wolpert, Santa Fe Institute

Rebecca Wright, Rutgers University