Web developer Celso Mireles used to panic whenever he drove past a police car. So, as a formerly undocumented immigrant to the U.S., Mireles understands the fear taking hold across the U.S. as the administration of President Donald Trump moves to make good on promises to deport many of the estimated 11 million people illegally in the country, about half believed to be Mexican.
Mexican-born Mireles was 3 when his parents left low-paid factory jobs near the American border, flew to America and overstayed their visas, according to a 2012 report from CNN.
Though he’s recently obtained legal U.S. residency, Mireles spent more than 25 years as an undocumented alien, watching friends and members of his community getting deported, Vice’s Motherboard reported.
Now he’s taking action to protect undocumented people from federal immigration authorities. Mireles, 27, is building an app intended to enable verified, crowdsourced warnings about immigration raids “so undocumented individuals can be alerted and avoid them,” according to Motherboard.
Stanford Ph.D. Yosem Companys, former moderator for the school’s Liberationtech program, told Motherboard he was helping Mireles find volunteers to work on the app.
Mireles started building the app, called “redadalertas” (raid alerts), when former President Barack Obama was deporting undocumented immigrants at a record-setting pace, Motherboard reported. Mireles ramped up his work as immigration raids began under Trump.
Mireles, of Arizona, expects the app to go live in May.
Subscribers would receive text messages about verified raids in their areas, according to Motherboard. The verification is important, the online news site said, because false warnings of immigration enforcement can sow paranoia. For example, a warning had gone out on Facebook that said, without verification, that immigration checkpoints had been set up at the West Oakland BART station, Richmond Costco store, Contra Costa College and Home Depot in San Carlos, Vice News reported Feb. 16.
“If someone reports a raid, there has to be multiple verifications,” Mireles said. “Then the system will know and send a message to everyone in 10 to 20 mile radius.”
Subscriber data could provide useful information for immigration authorities, Motherboard noted.
“Mireles says he’ll be hosting the database on a cloud service like Amazon’s and will be encrypting phone numbers and any other identifiable information for protection,” according to Motherboard. “In that case, it might take a subpoena to gain access.”
NOTE: An earlier version of this post described Companys as a Stanford researcher, policy expert and moderator for Liberationtech, but he is no longer affiliated with the university, other than having access to a Twitter account for Liberationtech, and holding a Ph.D. from the school, a university spokeswoman said.
Photo: Enforcement action by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. (Courtesy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement)