The New York agency Huge is launching at the South by Southwest Interactive tech festival in Austin, Texas, this weekend an app for iOS and Android that aims to help undocumented immigrants notify friends, family and employers if they are ever detained by U.S. Immigration agents.
The goal, says Huge engineer Natalia Margolis, is to help people act quickly during a terrifying and uncertain situation.
“One of the problems is when people who are undocumented get detained or face some kind of emergency, it can leave people with a lot of loose ends hanging,” Margolis told Adweek.
"That can lead to an urgent need for quick communication between lawyers, family members, employers and others."
The app, Notifica, lets people notify others in the event of an emergency by storing contact information and personalized messages based on what they might need to communicate in the event of an emergency.
The app is protected by a code in case a phone is ever lost or stolen. It can be activated with a single click.
Margolis was visiting a meeting for women and Latinos in the tech industry, when she met a man whose parents were both undocumented immigrants.
He told her about the fears that many immigrant communities have—especially since President Donald Trump took office and began taking a harder line on immigration in the U.S.
“The man said ‘Well, there’s never going to be a panic button for when ICE comes to your door,’” said Margolis. “And I said, ‘Well, why not?’”
She suggested a group at Huge tackle the idea during an agency hackathon, and a team of four people spent 24 hours straight designing a prototype.
They invited the man, Adrian Reyna, director of membership technology at United We Dream (an immigration rights group) to consult with them on the design process to make sure what they developed would be useful . By the end of the hackathon, they had a working prototype.
While the app will debut this weekend in Austin, a broader rollout and launch is planned for next week, led by United We Dream. The organization will be using social media to help families in states such as Texas, New Mexico and Florida know that it’s available to them in case they want to prepare for the worst.