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U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Calls on Department of Homeland Security to Immediately Require Social Media Background Checks as Part of Screening Process for all Foreigners Seeking American Visas

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin joined over 20 Senate Democrats in sending a new letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson urging the agency to immediately require that social media background checks be a part of the screening process for all foreigners seeking an American visa. Senate Democrats also requested more information from the Department Homeland Security on the existing screening process, such as if the Agency faces any resource barriers to implementing these background checks, to ensure the process is as rigorous and comprehensive as possible.

The letter, led by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and signed by a total of 22 Senate Democrats, comes in the wake of reports that the female assailant involved in the San Bernardino terrorist attack may have expressed radical jihadist sentiments on social media platforms before her fiancé -- the male attacker and a U.S. Citizen -- ‎applied for a K-1 fiancé visa on her behalf.

The full text of the Senate Democrats’ letter can be found below:

December 15, 2015

The Honorable Jeh Johnson Secretary

Department of Homeland Security

3801 Nebraska Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20016

We write to express our deep concern regarding reports that critical background information of individuals participating in American visa programs has been largely omitted from the visa security screening process. 

According to recent reports, the female assailant involved in the San Bernardino terrorist attack may have expressed radical jihadist sentiments on social media platforms before her U.S. citizen fiancé, the male attacker, ‎applied for a K-1 fiancé visa on her behalf.  Media reports have also indicated that Department of Homeland Security officials are able to conduct social media background checks as a part of certain immigration programs, but are doing so inconsistently.  We believe these checks, focused on possible connections to terrorist activity, should be incorporated into DHS’s vetting process for visa determinations, and that this policy should be implemented as soon as possible. 

Therefore, we request that you provide the following information so that we may work with you to implement a more rigorous screening process:

  • Do you plan to integrate social media background checks into the screening process for all visas?
  • Do you face resource and/or technical barriers to ‎implementing these background checks? If so, please describe them.
  • Does the Administration conduct social media background checks in any of the existing screening processes for visa programs?  If so, please describe how they are conducted.

Ensuring that the screening processes for our nation’s visa programs are rigorous and comprehensive must be a top priority, as these programs are critical to our security, our economy, and for our bilateral relationships with nations around the world. 

We look forward to working with you to establish a more robust social media background check process for all visitors and immigrants to the United States.


U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI)

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)

U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN)

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM)

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI)

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV)

U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME)

U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE)