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Mobile App for ICE Checkpoints?

From: Celso Mireles <celso.mireles AT gmail.com>

Hi Folks,

Glad to see new energy around this idea of using technology to fight back against an oppressive system.

I started an open source project to see if there was interest in developing an app that provides real-time verified alerts about immigration raids to people. I've gone through a couple of iterations of this idea. 

I'm sure I'm not the only or first one to think of something like this, but I first came across this idea while working at United We Dream and collaborating with MIT's Center for Civic Media on a project called Undocutech.

Then the idea resurfaced while I was helping build some online infrastructure for Movimiento Cosecha. I started working on a prototype using Meteor.js, but felt discouraged by the lack of interest and haven't really worked on it. A couple of months ago, I refactored the prototype to use React.js, a modern front-end framework.

That project is currently open-sourced, and on Github: https://github.com/Cosecha/redadalertas

Open-sourcing it was an attempt at gaining attention/energy, and help in developing the project. However, considering the sensitivity of the subject, a serious solution would most likely need to be developed in private. I've already been faced with questions/concerns about the security of open sourcing an app like this.

I've also realized through some iterations of a solution, that a mobile app is not really necessary. The core functionality of something like this can be accomplished with SMS. If anything, a web app can be used to present the data about where raids are happening. And that would allow for less attack vectors if there is no website, or app, to hack into.

I must also admit that I'm not much of an organizer (or salesperson), so I never put prototypes in front of people to validate and get feedback from the people this solution would serve. 

For a project like this, more that just developers and designers would be needed:
  • Project Managers
  • Organizers to train people on using the tech, and work orgs on pushing it to the public
  • Fundraisers
  • Maybe some lawyers to at least be conscious of the legal lines something like this would blur

A bit about myself:

Born in Mexico, I've grown up in Phoenix since I was four. I'm currently a DACAmented person, and work as a full stack developer. I started out in the movement in 2009 while attending Arizona State University. After graduating, and being a farm-hand while having a Business Management degree for a few summers, I decided to go back to the city of Phoenix and start a business repairing computers. 

My involvement in the movement also led me to pick up graphic design skills, website skills, mainly because it was needed and I would volunteer for that kind of stuff. I eventually served as Online Coordinator for United We Dream around the time we started asking for administrative relief.

While at United We Dream, I had the honor to meet Aaron Swartz (RIP) while he was at ThoughWorks. I remember him telling us about our ideas for apps (paraphrased) "Don't worry about whether it's technically possible. If the movement needs it, I can build it for you."

That blew my mind.

It inspired me to continue into my passion of design and technology. I moonlit some online courses for a year, then decided to be a freelance web developer to accelerate my learning. I did that for a couple of years. It's been a tough road, but I recently got a job as a web developer, where I am learning even faster, and want to put that knowledge to good use. And I think the time is right.

I look forward to seeing something come to fruition.