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November 12, 2013
3:09 pm

Acting Secretary Rand Beers and U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp laid a wreath in honor of veterans and their service during a Veterans Day ceremony at the Coast Guard Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery Monday. The ceremony is held each year to highlight the importance of the day, and serves as a way to thank veterans for their commitment to the Nation.

During his remarks, Secretary Beers – a veteran himself - highlighted the department’s commitment to hiring veterans. “It is…a day to recognize that veterans continue to serve our nation. For many of us, our service didn’t end when we took off the uniform,” he said.

Read more about DHS’ commitment to serving and honoring our Nation’s veterans in Secretary Beers’ latest blog post.

U.S. Coast Guard photos courtesy of Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

November 8, 2013
7:41 pm

Posted by Transportation Security Administrator (TSA) Administrator John Pistole

Editor's Note: This blog was originally posted on the TSA blog on October 8, 2013.
 

Photo of TSO Hernandez. 11/10/1973 - 11/01/2013
 
This morning, at 9:20am(PST)/12:20pm(EST), TSA employees, airport workers, and travelers across the nation paused to mark the moment an attack took the life of TSA Officer Gerardo Ismael Hernandez last week at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). 
 
Sadly, Officer Hernandez – a husband, a father, a son, a colleague and a friend – became the first TSA employee killed in the line of duty. The agency and all across the Department of Homeland Security, have felt this impact.
 
In many ways, Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) are the public face of our nation’s security. Every day, TSOs interact with nearly two million travelers across the United States with a single goal in mind – ensuring they safely reach their destinations.
 
He had joined TSA in June of 2010. His colleagues, as well as passengers, knew him as a man whose warm smile and humorous nature made them feel at ease. He took pride in his duty to the TSA mission and to the American public.
 
United States Honor Flag Ceremony (LAX) Photo Courtesy of United States Honor Flag
United States Honor Flag Ceremony (LAX) Photo Courtesy of United States Honor Flag
 
This week at LAX, an American Airlines plane landed on the runway, marking the arrival of a special United States flag that was presented to his family and used at his funeral. This flag, the United States Honor Flag , is a tribute reserved for those who make the ultimate sacrifice for their family, community and country. Hernandez was such a person.
 
Two other TSA officers, Tony Grigsby and James Speer involved in this senseless attack, are thankfully recovering from their injuries. Even in the chaos of the attack, these two TSO’s were seen helping others and continuing to put the safety of others ahead of their own.
 
Officer Grigsby is a Master Behavior Detection Officer (MBDO), who has been with TSA since 2004. He said that during the incident, his main concern was making sure the terrified people running towards him were okay. He was shot in the ankle while helping an elderly man move to a safe area.
 

James Speer joined the TSA in 2008 and is a Master Security Training Instructor (MSTI). Even though he had been shot in the left shoulder, he continued to help by using his right arm to encourage people to keep running.
 

Pylons at LAX Lit Up in Blue in Honor of TSO Hernandez Photo Courtesy of United States Honor Flag
Pylons at LAX Lit Up in Blue in Honor of TSO Hernandez Photo Courtesy of United States Honor Flag
 
Every day, thousands of TSA officers and employees report to checkpoints and checked baggage locations around the nation. Every one of them has sworn to protect the nation's transportation systems and in this line of work, an uneventful day is a good day.
 
Thank you to Officer Hernandez, and to all our TSOs working across the country.
November 8, 2013
2:12 pm

As we take time on Monday to thank our nation’s veterans for their service and sacrifices, we also recognize the veterans who continue to serve here at home, including across the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

As a veteran myself, I am proud that DHS employs more than 54,000 veterans who make up almost 28 percent of our total workforce, in addition to the more than 43,000 active duty U.S. Coast Guardsmen and women we are honored to call our colleagues.

I’d like to highlight just some of the work we are doing across DHS to recognize our men and women in uniform.

This year, from November 7 to 13, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will welcome almost 8,000 new U.S. citizens at over 120 naturalization ceremonies—many of  whom are military members and veterans who have sworn to defend our nation and will be proudly welcomed as our fellow Americans.

At the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), over a quarter of the workforce is military veterans.  This year, TSA revised screening requirements to allow expedited screening for this group through its Wounded Warrior program.

The Wounded Warrior Screening program makes the overall experience for wounded service members as simple as possible, including curb-to-gate services and expedited screening to move through security checkpoints without having to remove shoes, light outerwear jackets or hats.         

Through a new program developed by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, injured or disabled veterans can get a chance a chance to continue to serve at home for a good cause. The recently announced H .E.R.O. (Human Exploitation Rescue Operative) Child Rescue Corps, brings together resources and expertise to train and equip wounded warriors to assist special agents with criminal investigations involving child pornography and online sexual exploitation.

Earlier this month, Coast Guard members organized by the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association honored the memories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice during a Flags Across America event.  On Veterans Day, I will join the Coast Guard for a Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Coast Guard Memorial in Arlington National Ceremony. Also, next week we will celebrate the naming of the Douglas A. Munro Coast Guard Headquarters Building.  Named after one of our heroes and the Coast Guard's only Medal of Honor recipient, Signalman Douglas Munro put himself in harm's way and made the ultimate sacrifice to protect Marines at Guadalcanal during World War II.

We also are proud to work with and support many veterans and veterans organizations outside the department.  Last year, DHS provided more than $1.5 billion in contracts to veteran-owned businesses, and we continued to expand our outreach to many veterans groups seeking to work with us. 

I hope you will join me in thanking veterans for their service and ongoing contributions.  Having served in uniform myself, I am grateful for every veteran across DHS for their hard work and know we are truly safer and more secure because of them.

November 7, 2013
1:59 pm

Posted by Chief Privacy Officer Karen Neuman

Over the past nine years, the Privacy Office has worked to create an environment at DHS where neither privacy nor security are compromised, but rather merged in a manner that keeps the country safe and honors the principles on which the country was founded. As a result, privacy is now firmly embedded into the lifecycle of DHS pro­grams and systems to inform Departmental policy, and to ensure effective privacy protections. 

Today, I am pleased to provide an update from the Department of Homeland Security Privacy Office’s 2013 Annual Report to Congress, on our achievements between July 2012 and June 2013, during which time my deputy, Jonathan R. Cantor, served as the Acting Chief Privacy Officer.  

The Privacy Office’s mission is to protect all individuals by embedding and enforcing privacy protections and transparency in all DHS activities.  Our ongoing efforts to incorporate strong privacy protection and transparency into initiatives and programs across the Department included providing expertise and advice in support of DHS’ ongoing work in law enforcement and intelligence sharing, ensuring that privacy considerations are part of how we accomplish these important missions.  In addition, the Department successfully reduced its Freedom of Information Act backlog by 33 percent this year despite another record-breaking year in the volume of requests received.  

As the Privacy Office enters our tenth year, we will continue to ensure that DHS stays committed to protecting the privacy of all individuals, and providing the greatest level of transparency and accountability possible.

For more information on the Privacy Office, please visit our webpage.

October 30, 2013
3:58 pm

Posted by Brian De Vallance

In September, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved the statutory maximum 10,000 petitions for U nonimmigrant status (U visas) for immigrant victims of crime, including domestic violence, for the fourth straight year since it began issuing U visas in 2008. Through this program and others, DHS is committed to combating domestic violence and other forms of violence against women. 

Last March, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano created the DHS Council on Combating Violence Against Women to coordinate the department’s efforts to stop these crimes and to ensure the effective administration of laws preventing violence against women. The Council provides a unique forum that brings together experts to identify and build consensus around the best practices to combat violence against women, promote consistency on internal policies, and examine how the Department can improve its ability to combat violence against women in the communities we serve and who are impacted by our work.

The Council hosted its first engagement event this summer to update stakeholders on DHS’ efforts to combat violence against women. In an effort to connect further with our partners, DHS plans to release a comprehensive resource guide in December that provides summaries and links to its programs, initiatives, training and services that can be leveraged by communities across the country as they also work to combat these terrible crimes.  For example, in early 2013, we issued roll call training videos that provide law enforcement officials with practical training to identify and screen individuals who may be immigrant victims of domestic violence or other serious crimes. In addition, DHS has published guidance regarding immigrant victims of certain crimes for law enforcement that includes information about visa requirements, the law enforcement certification process, and answers to frequently asked questions from law enforcement agencies. 

Continued stakeholder engagement is vital to ensuring the success of our programs. October marks National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Every day the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plays a role in combatting domestic violence and seeks to be a productive partner in working to break the cycle of violence against women. As the Council’s newest co-chair, I look forward to building on these efforts and continuing to advance our work to protect victims of domestic violence.

For more information on the DHS Council on Combating Violence Against Women, contact VAWA@hq.dhs.gov.

October 29, 2013
5:51 pm
Posted by Bob Burns, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Blog Team
 
We appreciate your tweets and your calls letting us know that you’re enjoying the many benefits of TSA Pre✓™. As the TSA Pre✓™ program expands, we are committed to providing the same quality of expedited screening nationwide.
 
If you haven’t heard of TSA Pre✓™, it’s an expedited screening program that allows pre-approved airline travelers to leave their shoes, light outerwear, and belt on. TSA Pre✓™ travelers can also keep their laptop in its case and their 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in a carry-on.
 
We’ve heard your requests for more TSA Pre✓™ locations and we are happy to announce more locations coming soon. To date we have rolled out TSA Pre✓™ at 97 airports. You can see the complete list by clicking here.
 
It’s also expanded to seven more air carriers (Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America). But, we’re not stopping at seven—we know there are other carriers that would benefit from TSA Pre✓™ and we’re looking for more opportunities to expand.
 
What’s next for TSA Pre✓™ you ask? We will be launching a TSA Pre✓™ application/enrollment process by the end of the year. If you want to apply, all you need to do is fill out the application online and visit an enrollment center. Check back on our website for more details to come. In the meantime, you can be eligible to receive TSA Pre✓™ benefits by applying for CBP’s Global Entry program, or through an invitation from your airline’s frequent flier program.
 
But don’t just take our word for it. Read about what the locals are saying about TSA Pre✓™:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
To date more than 18 million passengers have enjoyed expedited screening as a result of the TSA Pre✓™ program. Click here to learn more about the program.
 
The passenger experience is important to us. We encourage you to continue to share your feedback about your TSA Pre✓™ experience on Twitter using the hashtag #TSAprecheck.
 
Editor's Note: This was originally posted on the TSA blog on October 29.
October 29, 2013
10:32 am

A year after Hurricane Sandy, we’ve seen countless stories of communities coming together and neighbors helping neighbors to recover from this storm. While we still have a long way to go, the signs of recovery can be seen across the region. We remain committed to standing with those impacted as they continue to build back, and will continue to provide all eligible aid as this effort goes on.

New York, Oct. 3, 2013 --The Battery Park Underpass was inundated by the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was charged with de-watering the tunnels.

New York, Oct. 3, 2013 --The Battery Park Underpass was inundated by the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was charged with de-watering the tunnels.

Long Beach, N.Y., July 26, 2013 -- The storm surge from Hurricane Sandy left behind several feet of sand in the streets of Long Beach.

Long Beach, N.Y., July 26, 2013 -- The storm surge from Hurricane Sandy left behind several feet of sand in the streets of Long Beach.

Liberty Island, N.Y., July 4, 2013 -- Hurricane Sandy flooded 75 percent of the island in October 2012, causing major damage to its infrastructure and facilities. The statue was reopened on July 4th following eight months of extensive repairs.

Liberty Island, N.Y., July 4, 2013 -- Hurricane Sandy flooded 75 percent of the island in October 2012, causing major damage to its infrastructure and facilities. The statue was reopened on July 4th following eight months of extensive repairs.

Liberty Island, N.Y., July 4, 2013 -- The passenger dock destroyed by the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy was rebuilt in time for the official reopening of the Statue of Liberty.

Liberty Island, N.Y., July 4, 2013 -- The passenger dock destroyed by the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy was rebuilt in time for the official reopening of the Statue of Liberty.

Breezy Point, N,Y., August 5, 2013 -- About 350 of the more than 2,800 homes in Breezy Point were completely destroyed by the fires or flood surges caused by Hurricane Sandy. Ten months after Sandy, about 60 percent of the community has returned.

Breezy Point, N,Y., August 5, 2013 -- About 350 of the more than 2,800 homes in Breezy Point were completely destroyed by the fires or flood surges caused by Hurricane Sandy. Ten months after Sandy, about 60 percent of the community has returned.

Long Beach, N.Y., July 26, 2013 -- In November 2012, debris filled the streets as residents started to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

Long Beach, N.Y., July 26, 2013 -- In November 2012, debris filled the streets as residents started to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

 

Jersey City, N.J., October 28, 2013 -- Before and after photo showing devastation to Liberty Bridge following Hurricane Sandy compared to the rebuilt structure.

Jersey City, N.J., October 28, 2013 -- Before and after photo showing devastation to Liberty Bridge following Hurricane Sandy compared to the rebuilt structure.

Jersey City, N.J., October 28, 2013 -- Before and after images of the Central Railroad Terminal damage sustained by Hurricane Sandy. The historical building received over four feet of water and incurred $6 million in damages from the hurricane.

Jersey City, N.J., October 28, 2013 -- Before and after images of the Central Railroad Terminal damage sustained by Hurricane Sandy. The historical building received over four feet of water and incurred $6 million in damages from the hurricane.

Seaside Heights, N.J., October 28, 2013 -- A before and after image of the damage sustained to the Seaside Heights Pier following Hurricane Sandy.

Seaside Heights, N.J., October 28, 2013 -- A before and after image of the damage sustained to the Seaside Heights Pier following Hurricane Sandy.

 

Visit the New York and New Jersey disaster pages for more recovery updates.

 

Editor's note: This was originally posted on the FEMA blog on October 29.

 

 

October 28, 2013
5:45 pm

Posted by Bobby Whithorne, White House Assistant Press Secretary

"There's nothing more important than us getting this right. And we're going to spend as much time, effort and energy as necessary to make sure that all the people in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut know that the entire country is behind them in this difficult recovery effort. We are going to put not just 100 percent, but 120 percent behind making sure that they get the resources they need to rebuild and recover.” -- President Obama, November 3, 2012

Nearly one year ago, communities across a dozen states in the Northeast experienced the devastating and tragic effects of Hurricane Sandy. Communities were shattered, families were torn apart, homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed, and lives were upended. But brick by brick, block by block, we are rebuilding. The impacted communities will come back stronger and the federal government will continue to stand right by their side as we continue to recover and rebuild.

Over the past year:

The Obama Administration has provided direct assistance to more than 230,000 people and small businesses in the form of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) individual assistance, Small Business Administration (SBA) grants and loans and Department of Labor (DOL) employment and training services.

Further, the administration has announced over $39.7 billion in funding for recipients, and more than $13.5 billion of this has already been paid out. This includes:

  • More than $1.4 billion that FEMA has provided directly to more than 182,000 individuals impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
  • More than $2.4 billion in low-interest loans through the SBA to individuals and businesses.
  • More than $3.2 billion in FEMA assistance to state, local and tribal governments for emergency protective measures, debris removal, and repair and replacement of infrastructure in the hardest hit areas.
  • $10.4 billion in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), including $5.4 billion of CDBG-DR funds allocated within 8 days of the signing of the Sandy-supplemental into law. This represented the fastest ever allocation following the signing of an appropriations bill.
    • More than 26,000 households have already been assisted through CDBG housing programs across the region, with more than $157 million paid out to these beneficiaries.
    • Already more than $2 billion in infrastructure funds are at work in dozens of projects across the region.
  • More than $5.7 billion made available from the Federal Transit Administration, and the Federal Highway Administration has announced more than $500 million for recovery efforts.
  • $569 million in grants from the EPA to New York and New Jersey for improvements to wastewater and drinking water treatment facilities.
  • More than $74 million in FEMA Hazard Mitigation grants to implement long-term mitigation measures to minimize or prevent future damages.
  • More than $28 million in Disaster Unemployment Assistance to disaster survivors.
  • $47 million in National Emergency Grants from DOL's Employment and Training Administration, which also helped more than 11,000 individuals who lost their jobs as a result of Sandy receive approximately $13.2 million.
  • More than $50 million in Disaster Case Management to connect disaster survivors to resources and services of multiple agencies.
  • $6.2 million obligated by the Department of Agriculture for 22 projects which covered emergency food assistance, as well as infrastructure and economic programs. Some of these projects helped repair, rehabilitate and rebuild farmland, watersheds and flood plains.
  • More than $7.9 billion paid out to the more than 143,000 National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policyholders who filed claims. More than 99% of NFIP claims are closed.

Other efforts include:

  • FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked with State and local governments to reopen 97% of public beaches from New Jersey through Connecticut by Memorial Day 2013 – sending a strong message to thousands of Americans that the shore was open for business.
  • FHA and FHFA protected thousands of families who, through no fault of their own, were at risk of foreclosure as a result of Sandy – first by putting in place a foreclosure moratorium and then by cutting red tape to offer families streamlined loan modification.

Editor's Note: This was originally posted on the White House blog on October 28

October 25, 2013
3:56 pm

The Department of Homeland Security is proud to welcome Megan H. Mack as the new Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and Karen Neuman as the new Chief Privacy Officer. Both bring a wealth of experience from the public and private sectors, which will serve them well as they advise the Secretary and lead the Department’s efforts to protect privacy and uphold civil rights and civil liberties. The Department is strongly committed to the work of these offices, and has built privacy and civil rights protections into its operations, policies, programs, and technology deployments from the outset of their development.

Megan H. Mack will lead the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), which supports DHS by ensuring individual liberty, fairness, and equality under the law across the Department. CRCL is committed to the idea that core civil rights—liberty, fairness, and equality under the law—are essential American values, and is dedicated to instilling these ideals into the daily work of securing our nation. The office integrates and promotes civil rights and civil liberties in policy creation and implementation and communicates with individuals and communities whose civil rights and civil liberties may be affected by DHS activities.

Prior to her appointment, Ms. Mack was the Director of the American Bar Association Commission on Immigration and was previously the Supervisor of Legal Services for Hogar Hispano, Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington in Falls Church, Va. She has also served as a Litigation Associate at Foley Hoag LLP in Boston, and a Law Clerk to Judge Fred I. Parker in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Burlington, Vt. Ms. Mack received an A.B. magna cum laude from Brown University, an M.A. from the University of Chicago, and a J.D. cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School.

Karen Neuman will lead the DHS Privacy Office, which is responsible for evaluating Department programs, systems, and initiatives for potential privacy impacts, and providing mitigation strategies to reduce negative privacy impacts. The Privacy Office – the first statutorily required privacy office of any Federal agency –partners with every DHS component to assess policies, programs, systems, technologies, and rulemakings for privacy risks, and recommends privacy protections and methods for handling personally identifiable information. To further integrate privacy and reinforce the headquarters privacy office, a team of privacy officers are embedded into the operational components throughout the Department.

Ms. Neuman was previously a founding partner of St. Ledger-Roty Neuman & Olson LLP where she headed the firm’s privacy and data security practice. She has over two decades of experience in diverse markets of the communications industry, including digital media, telecommunications and cable, and deep expertise in and experience counseling clients on global privacy law and policy. She previously was the Senior Counsel for Policy and Regulatory Affairs for Brandon & Associates, an Associate at Miller and Holbrooke, and an associate another law firm.  Early in her career, Karen worked for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, where she served as a state staff member of the FCC Federal-State Joint Board Staff.

October 24, 2013
5:35 pm

Posted by Maria Odom, Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman

Today, the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman office hosted its third annual conference at the National Archives, a building that reminds us of the contributions that immigrants have made – and continue to make – to the United States. Bringing together nearly 300 participants from across the country, including White House Domestic Policy Council’s Senior Policy Director for Immigration Felicia Escobar, today’s event focused on ways we can work together to improve immigration services at DHS.

From the start of this Administration, the Department has worked to fundamentally change how we approach the challenge of building a stronger, more effective, and more just immigration system.  At DHS, we take our immigration responsibilities seriously and the Ombudsman’s Office plays a key role in assisting thousands of individuals and employers each year who experience challenges in the processing of their immigration case. When it comes to immigration, we are working hard at DHS to strike the right balance between smart enforcement, the sensible use of agency discretion, and a more just and fair immigration system.

Over the past year, we have improved the way we serve the American public. Last June, DHS announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals process, allowing young people who meet the guidelines to seek a two year provisional legal status to remain in the United States.  Our office played a key role in this effort by assisting with individual cases, sharing stakeholder feedback with USCIS and suggesting improvements to the application process. Already, more than 580,000 individuals have requested deferred action, and after a thorough review of each of those cases, including a background check, more than 474,000requests have been approved, allowing these young people to continue to contribute to the country they call home. While impactful and necessary, these efforts are not a permanent fix, which is why we’ve also continued to be a strong advocate for comprehensive immigration reform.

I’ve heard from stakeholders all over the country about how our current immigration system isn’t working for businesses, workers, immigrants, or our economy—and I think we all agree that it is time to fix it. DHS stands ready to work with leaders and advocates to ensure that our nation remains a land of opportunity for those seeking to contribute to our nation’s prosperity.

As these efforts continue, it is vital that both government and the public collaborate to address existing issues that impact individuals and employers navigating our current immigration system.  

For more information about the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, visit here.

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