the laws and risks of sharing immigration documents
January 25, 2017 7:10 PM   Subscribe

Just how punishable and risky is it to post photographs of US naturalization certificates? Does it matter if the people are deceased?

In lieu of the increasing demonization of immigrants in the United States, especially brown immigrants, especially brown Muslim immigrants, and especially brown Muslim immigrants who were once refugees (like my dad), I was interested in posting or sharing the naturalization certificates of my parents (both deceased) maybe on the Internets or social media. Currently I just have lazily taken cell phone photographs of the original documents (not neatly scanned). But I can clearly read the red print on both of them that states "It is punishable by U.S. law to copy, print, or photograph this certificate."

I also know that fraud is something that happens sometimes. Are these likely risks, should I want to share these incredibly neat documents? It seems a little sad that I may never be able to share these important and beautiful parts of my family history. What if I block out some information (and what information, specifically)? Does it matter of the immigrants are living or deceased? Or should I just not mess with this and the DOJ?
posted by raztaj to Law & Government (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's got personally identifiable information on it, so I recommend against it.

USCIS considers "Naturalization or Citizenship Certificate Number​" among others "Sensitive PII" which is "defined​ ​as information which​,​ if lost, compromised, or disclosed without authorization, could result in substantial harm, ​embarrassment, inconvenience, or unfairness to a person."

The numbers, birthdates, and names, etc.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:07 PM on January 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

IANAL but I've found what appears to be the law regarding duplication of these documents. Where there's no intention to facilitate international terrorism or drug trafficking, the penalty appears to be fines or 10 years' imprisonment. It doesn't look like it matters whether the people in the documents are alive or dead and it's unclear whether the quality of the copy, or any redactions you make, would make any difference.

I have no information on whether prosecution is likely, but I'd personally be wary of it in this climate.
posted by escapepod at 1:31 AM on January 26, 2017

why not share their stories instead of the documents? or use the documents for background of a photo collage including pictures of them before/right after their arrival here (to be shared alongside their stories)?
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 7:08 AM on January 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

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