Governments worldwide have started embracing AI technology and how it can help them serve their citizens. With AI, government agencies and departments can become more efficient as they work to provide their citizens with access to resources and information to improve their lives.
However, there are several challenges in using AI for citizens and immigration services, especially in a divided country when it comes to immigration policies. Let’s look at some of the different ways government agencies are considering AI.
AI Chatbots in US Citizen and Immigration Services
One notable example of how governments incorporate AI into their workforce comes from the US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). In 2015, the department launched a chatbot named Emma, who was tasked with answering common immigration questions.
Emma is easy to use and has been trained to answer most of the questions she is asked, such as information on a visa application status. If she cannot deliver a satisfactory response, she will refer users to a human agent who can answer more nuanced or complex questions.
The name “Emma” didn’t come out of nowhere. Interestingly, the chatbot is named for Emma Lazarus, the poet who wrote a poem about immigrants that is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. It’s a fitting name for an AI dedicated to helping people learn about immigration so they can become citizens of the country.
Challenges with Using AI for Immigration
Not everyone wants to use AI to help people who are attempting to migrate to the US. During the previous administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) briefly considered undergoing a process they called “extreme vetting.” This would require using machine learning to monitor every interaction an immigrant or potential immigrant had with the United States.
Their goal was to mine data from digital sources to detect potential terrorists before they entered the country. Such a project would undoubtedly encounter a myriad of privacy challenges, not to mention an intensive internal review process to ensure that rights were not being violated.
ICE officials withdrew their funding request, stating that they decided to forego the idea of using machines for the project and instead turned to a labor contract that humans will operate.
Encouraging AI Innovation Through Immigration Reform
In March 2021, the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence released its report stating recommendations to make changes to certain US immigration laws to advance the country’s focus on AI. According to the report, the United States is far behind other countries when developing and implementing AI.
By changing some immigration policies, the Commission argues, the US can be better positioned to attract top talent for AI innovation. By developing AI initiatives in the US, the report continues, companies can attract and retain talented individuals who can use AI to create new businesses and jobs, strengthen the economy, and improve the United State’s level of national security.
The Commission is bipartisan, which means it does not push a particular party when making recommendations. Instead, it considers the country's interests as a whole when making recommendations for ways to advance the US as a leader in AI innovation.
There are many ways AI can be used to improve immigrants’ experience. There are also many opportunities for talented individuals to bring their knowledge and skills to help the US economy.
By focusing on using AI to benefit the country instead of keep people out of it, the US will be better positioned as a world leader in innovation and technology.