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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.

Published: 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)


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


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