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New app lets detained immigrants alert loved ones

GritoBlast! Being picked up by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) looms heavy on the minds and futures of undocumented immigrants and their families. The fear is so great that many parts of the country are setting up a modern-day version of the underground railroad.

But what happens when a person is randomly stopped on the street, their citizenship status checked and immediately taken into custody? What usually happens is they have no way to contact loved ones, legal help or friends until hours, sometimes days later.

In fact, many detained immigrants find themselves already deported across the border before they can notify anyone as to what happened to them. As a result, family and friends go crazy with worry not knowing what kind of ‘foul play’ has befallen on their loved ones.

One digital company wanted to lessen that worry for families with undocumented members.

An engineer from the San Francisco-based digital agency Huge went to a local meet-up for women and Latinos in tech. A chance encounter with a staffer from a DREAMer organization where the engineer learned about the worries and needs of undocumented immigrants targeted for deportation lead to a collaboration between Huge and United We Dream in the creation of a new app that lets those picked up by ICE immediately notify their loved ones as to what is happening to them.

Described as a “portable panic button,” Notifica serves as a tool for undocumented immigrants to prepare for the unthinkable.

The app prompts the users to set up an account and create a contact list with names and phone numbers – friends, family, lawyers, along with, a personalized message for each. Once the list and messages are saved, they cannot be accessed again. When the time comes to use the app, a large button fills the screen which, when tapped, will automatically send out all the messages to those on the contact list.

After the messages are sent, they are deleted and the data erased from the phone. Huge and United We Dream are working on a hotline to call to activate networks remotely for people caught without their phones.

Notifica debuted at SXSW this week and will be available for free download on Apple and Google Play in the coming days. Huge recommends signing up at to be notified.

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