Tech Innovations Driving the Future of Immigration Policy

Poesy Chen

by Poesy Chen, Innovation Director

Innovation is the new buzzword. Is it the marketing catchphrase like “NEW and IMPROVED!” of the 21st century, or is it something else entirely? 

At its core, innovation often starts with just a good idea, followed by the entrepreneurial spirit of “What if?” and “Why not?” The question we posed to ourselves was, “What if your immigration journey could be managed from your mobile phone?”

Indeed, why not?

The paradigm shifted from PULL to PUSH

We have always seen the internet as a place where you go to“search and find” or “pull back” information when you need it. The PUSH paradigm is the opposite—content, alerts, or information is delivered to you or your device automatically after your initial consent. This is why you often get alerts on your phone to suggest that you order takeout or check out the latest news. Push is convenient for sure, but at what cost? 

Trust is balanced on a double-edged sword of Analytics

Every time we interact with a digital service, we leave a trail of how we got there. Countless dollars are spent analyzing these footprints so businesses can gain more digital traffic. At its best, this is how Siri and Alexa know how to respond to your commands. At its worst, this is how spammers trick consumers into divulging private information. Annoying, isn’t it? This delicate balance of convenience and privacy is where trust comes in. Without trust, innovation is useless regardless of how sophisticated the underlying tech is.

The lack of API economy in the public sector

API stands for Application Programming Interface. It allows the exchange of digital information between businesses or programs. Many innovations come from connections between different APIs so we can do things faster or automate previously manual steps. The commercial sectors are investing heavily in API because it makes money. Unfortunately, many government agencies are slow to respond due to a lack of economic incentives.  

Linking these ideas together

With API, digital assets become available for further automation, which leads to insights, which leads to knowledge. Knowledge, when published or pushed to your devices, helps you become aware, and you become connected. You can then take action accordingly. This is democracy at its best: everyone having equal access to information so they can make decisions for themselves.

Without API, it is difficult to establish the transparency required to perform the analytics or to build trust. Without trust, the value of the downstream benefit of further automation is diminished. 

Without equal access to trusted information, there is no democracy. Digital equality is more than just access to devices, it is about equal access to trusted information. This is the problem Mobile Pathways is trying to solve.

So, what are we doing about it?

Mobile Pathways is modeling what a good citizen of the API society looks like. We are PUSHING data to those who need it, including lawyers and immigrants. We are using AI and analytics to track trends and adjust service offerings in real-time. We are making API available where there was none. We use private chats to provide trusted information to those in need. We provide services to match society's expectations and promote digital equality in the immigration sector. 

Our platform, based on Salesforce technology, has proven to help our partners automate their efforts to provide legal defenses, track relief efforts, formalize client support processes, and target their efforts to support vulnerable populations. Our solutions have helped people do their work faster and service their clients better.

With the support of HP, we are also providing partners with the necessary tools to set up pro-bono legal clinics, complete digital client intake from detention centers, engage shoppers at farmers' markets, conduct border community outreach, and much more.

With the support of Twilio, we are offering partners a way to engage clients via bi-directional SMS and WhatsApp messages. Volunteers from all over the country can offer their services to help organizations that are heavily burdened in border towns. 

Our latest service offering, Hola Asistente, directly supports immigrants waiting for immigration court hearings. We have automated the task of repeatedly checking for court date updates to relieve the pressure of having to check for those updates manually. With this information being pushed to their mobile phones, immigrants have an added layer of support along their immigration journey.

Everything we do, we do with the concept of Push, Analytics, Trust, and Automation in mind. And we are growing. We are showing leadership, and we are making innovation a reality.

A special thanks to HP and the Aspen Institute for helping to turbo-charge Hola Asistente and Mobile Pathways' legal defense work.