Stanford Ph.D. supports app for helping undocumented immigrants avoid deportation raids

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)


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  • lnon

    Sponsored by Stanford’s Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law. Except, in this case, they are leaving out “the Rule of Law.” It looks like the app is designed to help people evade the rule of law in that they are evading immigration authorities who are trying to enforce immigration law that the app users appear to have broken. It’s hard to believe that Stanford would condone this type of app. Akin to an early warning system to alert bank robbers that the police are on the way. A very sad thing for Stanford to support.

    • ShadrachSmith

      I been missing the ‘rule of law’ part for eight years.

  • Max Perde

    For the first improper entry offense, the person can be fined (as a criminal penalty), or imprisoned for up to six months, or both. For a subsequent offense, the person can be fined or imprisoned for up to two years, or both. (See 8 U.S.C. Section 1325, I.N.A. Section 275.)
    But just in case that isn’t enough to deter illegal entrants, a separate section of the law adds penalties for reentry (or attempted reentry) in cases where the person had been convicted of certain types of crimes and thus removed (deported) from the U.S., as follows:
    (1) People removed for a conviction of three or more misdemeanors involving drugs, crimes against the person, or both, or a felony (other than an aggravated felony), shall be fined, imprisoned for up to ten years, or both.
    (2) People removed for a conviction of an aggravated felony shall be fined, imprisoned for up to 20 years, or both.
    (3) People who were excluded or removed from the United States for security reasons shall be fined, and imprisoned for up to ten years, which sentence shall not run concurrently with any other sentence.
    (4) Nonviolent offenders who were removed from the United States before their prison sentence was up shall be fined, imprisoned for up to ten years, or both.
    What’s more, someone deported before a prison sentence was complete may be incarcerated for the remainder of the sentence of imprisonment, without any reduction for parole or supervised release.
    (See 8 U.S.C. Section 1326, I.N.A. Section 276.)
    Civil Penalties

    Entry (or attempted entry) at a place other than one designated by immigration officers carries additional civil penalties. The amount is at least $50 and not more than $250 for each such entry (or attempted entry); or twice that amount if the illegal entrant has been previously fined a civil penalty for the same violation. (See 8 U.S.C. Section 1325, I.N.A. Section 275.)
    Immigration Consequences of an Improper Entry

  • Alan Dale

    So, are they “undocumented” or “illegal”? Which laws are we to ignore? Simple assault, theft, DUI, shoplifting, which ones? Is this activist media at work?

  • ShadrachSmith

    Let’s declare Celso Mireles’ house an open sanctuary with free food, weed, and use of the remote. What’s his home address?

  • joey ma

    illegal immigrants from euro starting in 1650 ,landed and killed the natives and stole their resources and land. Same thing happening in Palestine.

    Why are you all so righteous about law and order, when you turn a blind eye to the autracities committed by white people against native americans and the stealing of western mexico