Color Of Surveillance: Government Monitoring of American Immigrants

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Demand That Charges Against Winner Be Dropped
June 15, 2017
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Statement on the Supreme Court’s Partial Reinstatement of the Muslim Ban
June 26, 2017

Since the Snowden disclosures of 2013, it’s been a truism in Washington that “everyone is watched.” But history shows that not everyone is watched equally: Instead, people of color, immigrants, religious minorities, and LGBT persons have disproportionately been the targets of government tracking. This is what we refer to as “the color of surveillance.”

On June 22, the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology will hold The Color of Surveillance: Government Monitoring of American Immigrants. American surveillance of immigrants is far from new. The interrogations and surveillance of Chinese and Indian immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; the misuse of Census data to locate and incarcerate Japanese Americans during World War II; and the inspections and workplace monitoring of Mexican guestworkers in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s all evince a long history of disparate government tracking — a trend that has expanded rapidly since 9/11.

How have the geopolitical and technological shifts following 9/11 changed the nature of that targeting? What is the relationship between the surveillance of immigrants and monitoring of the broader American population? How can policymakers address the lessons of history while meeting their obligations to public safety and national security? These are the kinds of questions the conference will grapple with.

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9-9:15am Welcome & Introduction

Dean William Treanor, Georgetown Law
Alvaro Bedoya, Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law

9:15-9:55 The Legacy of the Chinese & Indian Exclusions

Professor Mae Ngai, Columbia University
Professor Seema Sohi, University of Colorado-Boulder
Laura Moy, Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law (moderator)

9:55-10:10 The (Non-)Violence of Immigrants

Alex Nowrasteh, The Cato Institute

10:10-10:25 What Does it Mean to “Look” White?

Professor Sherally Munshi, Georgetown Law

10:25-10:40 BREAK

10:40-10:55 Surveillance & Countering Violent Extremism Programs

Professor Arjun Sethi, Georgetown Law

10:55-11:35 The Border and the Muslim Ban

Patrick Eddington, The Cato Institute
Patrisia Macias-Rojas, The University of Illinois at Chicago
Hassan Shibly, Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Florida
Alvaro Bedoya, Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law (moderator)

11:35-11:55 The Deportation of Marcus Garvey

Professor Justin Hansford, Georgetown Law

11:55am-1pm LUNCH BREAK

1-1:25 Keynote Address

Vanita Gupta, The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights

1:25-1:50 The Census and the Japanese Internment

Professor Margo Anderson, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Professor Paul Ohm, Georgetown Law & Center on Privacy & Technology (moderator)

1:50-2:10 I Am Not A Spy: A Personal Account

Professor Xiaoxing Xi, Temple University

2:10-2:50 Tracking Immigrant Bodies

Paromita Shah, National Immigration Law Project of the National Lawyers Guild
Neema Singh Guliani, American Civil Liberties Union
Ali Winston, The Investigative Fund
Harrison Rudolph, Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law (moderator)

2:50-3:05 What Does it Mean to Be White?

Joan Donovan, UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics

3:05-3:20 BREAK

3:20-3:35 Mexican Braceros and Workplace Monitoring

Professor Ronald Mize, Oregon State University

3:35-3:55 Watching Back

Hasan Elahi, University of Maryland

3:55-4:10 Intersectionality and Immigrant Surveillance

Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Equality Labs

4:10-4:25 Immigrant Rights as Racial Justice

Carl Lipscombe, The Black Alliance for Just Immigration

4:25-4:40 Mobilizing Communities Around Federal-State-Local Enforcement

Christina Sinha, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus

4:40-4:55 Movement Technology & Technologists

Ken Montenegro, Asian Americans Advancing Justice

4:55-5:10 The Color of Freedom

Malkia Cyril, Center for Media Justice

5:10-5:20 Conclusion
Reception to follow in Hart lobby

Speaker list

  • Professor Margo Anderson of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a historian who twice uncovered the misuse of Japanese Americans’ Census data to locate them for incarceration during World War II (New York Times, Scientific American)
  • Alvaro Bedoya of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, former chief counsel to Senator Al Franken and the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy and author of “The Color of Surveillance” (Slate)
  • Joan Donovan of the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics, a researcher of how white supremacists understand and mobilize around genetic science (Culture Digitally)
  • Patrick Eddington of the Cato Institute, author of American Big Brother: A Century of Political Surveillance and Repression, who is working to track internal Customs & Border Protection checkpoints across the country
  • Artist Hasan Elahi, recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, who has meticulously tracked and made public nearly all aspects of his life after an erroneous FBI investigation in 2002 (TED)
  • Vanita Gupta, our keynote speaker, former head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and current President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • Professor Justin Hansford of Georgetown Law, a leading organizer and advocate in the wake of the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, who has called for a posthumous pardon of Marcus Garvey (The Root)
  • Carl Lipscombe of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), a lawyer, community organizer, and immigrant rights advocate who co-authored The State of Black Immigrants(TIME)
  • Patrisia Macias-Rojas of the University of Illinois at Chicago, a sociologist and ethnographer of life, law enforcement, and surveillance at the southern border
  • Professor Ronald Mize of Oregon State University, an expert in the border inspections and workplace surveillance of Mexican braceros in the 1940s, 50s and 60s
  • Ken Montenegro of Advancing Justice Los Angeles and the National Lawyers Guild, who has spent over two decades supporting social movements as a technologist and lawyer
  • Laura Moy of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, a privacy and social justice advocate whose own family was marked by the policies of the Chinese exclusion era
  • Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute, author of two expert studies dispelling the notion that immigrants are disproportionately dangerous or inclined towards criminal conduct (Cato Institute)
  • Professor Mae Ngai of Columbia University, a scholar of the history of immigration who has argued that the border interrogations of the modern-day Muslim ban echo the practices of the Chinese Exclusion era (CNN)
  • Professor Paul Ohm of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, a former federal computer crimes prosecutor and senior advisor to the Federal Trade Commission who studies how evolving technology disrupts individual privacy
  • Harrison Rudolph of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, a researcher of historical and modern surveillance and biometric tracking of American immigrants
  • Professor Arjun Sethi of Georgetown Law, a writer, attorney and longtime critic of government surveillance and counter-extremism programs that target immigrants and religious minorities (The New York Times)
  • Paromita Shah of the National Immigration Law Project of the National Lawyers Guild, who is pressing the Department of Homeland Security to release information on mobile biometric fingerprint scanners used in immigration raids (NILP-NLG)
  • Hassan Shibly of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Florida, a civil rights attorney and leading critic of border searches and interrogations and a plaintiff in a major lawsuit on the subject, Tabbaa v. Chertoff (The Buffalo News)
  • Christina Sinha of the Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, an advocate for limiting police cooperation with the FBI in light of racial profiling and bias (San Francisco Examiner)
  • Professor Seema Sohi of the University of Colorado-Boulder, a historian of U.K./U.S. surveillance of Indian immigrants and intellectuals in the Pacific Coast during the early 20th century
  • Professor Xiaoxing Xi of Temple University, a Chinese American physicist who was wrongly prosecuted for allegedly sharing sensitive secrets with the Chinese government (New York Times)

This is the second Color of Surveillance conference. In 2016, the Center held its first conference on the subject, which focused on government monitoring of the African American community. The conference was covered live, in its entirety, by C-SPAN, and featured the Pulitzer-winning biographers of W.E.B. DuBois and Martin Luther King, Jr.; the general counsel of the FBI; and a range of scholars, advocates, and technologists.

That fall, the Center helped convene a coalition of local grassroots advocates led by the Center for Media Justice — the Color of Freedom coalition. It is our shared belief that for surveillance reform to occur in a way that addresses historical racial disparities, the leaders of that movement must be diverse, diffuse, and local.