Wednesday, June 17th Morning Roundup - Featured News and Public Events
From McClatchy, on the tough but necessary steps ahead toward immigration reform:
President Barack Obama, Democratic congressional leaders and advocates of revamping the nation's immigration laws say that developing a comprehensive immigration bill this year is a top priority, despite an already full legislative plate that includes a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, overhauling America's health care system, addressing climate change and conducting two wars.From the Associated Press, on a decline in Border Patrol apprehensions:
They got a reality check on the potential bumps ahead when the White House recently postponed a bipartisan meeting on immigration that had been set for Wednesday - the second cancellation this month - because of "scheduling conflicts," administration officials told invited guests.
Still, supporters of an immigration overhaul think that Obama will succeed where other presidents have failed and will push through a comprehensive plan that will allow illegal immigrants to come out the shadows and provide them with a path to citizenship.
The number of Border Patrol apprehensions nationwide dropped for a third consecutive year, falling more than 17 percent to a level not seen since 1973, according to new government data.
The U.S. Border Patrol - charged with catching illegal immigrants near the nation's boundaries - had 724,000 apprehensions in 2008, according to the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Immigration Statistics. That was down from nearly 1.2 million in 2005.
Ninety-seven percent of those apprehensions were on the southwest border with Mexico and 91 percent of those caught were Mexican.
The report cited the slow U.S. economy and tougher border security as possible factors contributing to the drop.
The number of apprehensions reached its highest level in 1986, when Border Patrol made nearly 1.7 million apprehensions.
But the statistics are a crude measure of immigration since they only count those who are caught.
Jeffrey Passel, senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, said the data appear to follow other reports that showed steep declines in illegal immigration from Mexico.
From Government Technology, on new legislation aimed at improving and standardizing ID security requirements:
"The PASS ID Act takes positive steps toward addressing state legislatures' implementation challenges with the REAL ID." -- Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka
The Real ID Act of 2005 was designed to improve security of state-issued driver licenses and ID cards and bring them up to a uniform federal standard. However, states objected to provisions of the act, and its estimated $12 billion cost, so a number of states passed laws prohibiting its implementation, and things ground to a halt as all states asked for, or were given, extensions. Janet Napolitano, as governor of Arizona, objected to Real ID and later, as secretary of Homeland Security, asked for some viable options.
Yesterday, Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and George Voinovich (R-OH) introduced just such an option. The bipartisan "Providing for Additional Security in States' Identification" Act of 2009, or Pass ID Act, was met with generally positive reactions from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) the National Governors Association (NGA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
"This legislation will strengthen national security by offering real solutions within a framework that is more workable for states," said the NCSL in a release."The PASS ID Act takes positive steps toward addressing state legislatures' implementation challenges with the REAL ID. NCSL urges Congress to continue to work with NCSL and its members as this legislation moves through the congressional process and to take all possible efforts to ensure state costs for implementation of the Real ID, and any corrective legislation, be fully funded by the federal government."
7 PM EST
Secretary Napolitano will deliver remarks and receive an award at the 20th Annual World Affairs Council Global Education Dinner
Willard InterContinental Washington Ballroom
1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
9 AM EDT
Office of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Biodefense Chief Scientist Diane Berry will participate in a panel discussion about biodefense products at the 2009 Biodefense Vaccines and Therapeutics Conference
Almas Temple Club
1315 K Street NW
10 AM PDT
ICE - Resident Agent in Charge David Wales will participate in a news conference hosted by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department to announce the initial results of a joint investigation targeting a major local drug trafficking organization.
1445 Kansas Ave.
San Luis Obispo, C.A.
This year, the department conducted unprecedented outreach efforts to our state and local partners, ensuring that every grant dollar is invested in smart, sustainable programs. The department undertook this aggressive strategy because those state and local partners have the biggest stake in this process. Simply put, they have the ground level insight on where the threats are, and how best to prepare for and guard against them.
Now, nearly $1.8 billion is no small number, so how do we split the funding, and where does it go? Check out the breakdowns:
$1.7 billion to the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) will be split between:
- The State Homeland Security Program (SHSP)—$861.1 million will build and strengthen preparedness capabilities at all levels through planning, equipment, and readiness activities.
- The Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI)—$798.6 million will enhance urban preparedness capabilities in 62 high-threat, high-density areas. The seven highest risk areas (Tier 1) were allocated approximately $439 million, or 55 percent of available funds, while the remaining areas (Tier 2) will receive the remaining approximately $359 million.
- The Metropolitan Medical Response System Program (MMRS)—$39.8 million, divided evenly among 124 MMRS jurisdictions, will improve regional mass casualty incident preparedness and response capabilities.
- The Citizen Corps Program (CCP)—$14.6 million will bring community and government leaders together to engage citizens in community preparedness, response and recovery activities.
The State Homeland Security Program Tribal (SHSP Tribal) will allocate $1.7 million for eligible tribal applicants to implement preparedness initiatives.
The Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) will allocate $15 million to support target-hardening activities at non-profit organizations at high risk of a terrorist attack.
The Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program (RCPGP) will allocate $34 million to enhance catastrophic incident preparedness in selected high-risk urban areas and support technical assistance funding in FY 2009. RCPGP supports coordination of regional planning for catastrophic events.
Every community is touched by these issues, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that the process is fair and inclusive. We’ve listened to our partners, we’re dedicated to supporting programs that show success, and we’ve streamlined the process to make it more efficient. As the Secretary said herself,
“These grants provide direct support for regional preparedness, urban security and medical response efforts in communities across the country,” said Secretary Napolitano. “The new grants management initiative launched this year will generate better value for every grant dollar while strengthening our nation’s ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from all disasters.
Let us know if you have some real-world examples of how your community or organization is using a preparedness grant.
Tuesday, June 16th Morning Roundup - Featured News and Public Events
From The Associated Press, on the agreement signed yesterday between the U.S. and Mexico on strenghtening border security:
The U.S. and Mexico formalized an agreement Monday to work together to secure legal travel and trade across the countries' shared border.
The agreement is outlined in a letter of intent signed by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Mexico's Finance Minister Agustin Carstens.
It expands a 2007 agreement and formalizes plans announced earlier this year to search vehicles at border crossings for bulk weapons and cash being smuggled from the U.S. into Mexico where more than 10,800 people have been killed by drug violence since December 2006.
Napolitano said the cooperation will include sharing information such as data about stolen cars.
Officials have said many of the weapons used in cartel violence in Mexico have come from the U.S.
Both countries are responsible for what goes into Mexico from the U.S., Napolitano said Monday at a news conference. "Our view is that we can either point fingers at each other, or we can work together," she said.
Officials said the agreement will improve communication and strengthen coordination on border enforcement. For instance, the U.S. will train Mexican customs agents and dogs and use more technology along the border.
"The more we work together, the better the service and security we provide to our peoples and economies," Carstens said in a statement.
From The New York Times, on a long overdue reunion:
Growing up among strangers in a refugee camp in the Darfur region of Sudan, 4-year-old Wesal Adam knew her parents mostly as faces in photographs and voices on the phone.
She knew that her father, Motasim Adam, and her mother, Wejdan Adam, lived in Brooklyn and that Mr. Adam drove a cab. But she did not know what they felt like or smelled like or how much they loved her - if at all.
Wesal did not know why she had been separated by deserts and oceans from her parents, but once she learned to talk she knew that her lack of certain papers was keeping her from them.
But on Monday morning at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Wesal and her father walked off a plane, reuniting the family and bringing a joyful end to a struggle that lasted more than two years.
From The Philadelphia Inquirer, on a big step forward for the Philadelphia International Airport's baggage screening system:
Mark Gale, acting Philadelphia Aviation Director, said the total cost of the new baggage handling systems at the airport's international terminal will be $50 million. The balance will be paid from airport funds, primarily bond funds,
The first part of the project for the A-East international terminal is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2010. A second phase will involve construction of an airfield building for rescreening bags arriving on international flights.
Gale said much of the screening by the Transportation Safety Administration is currently done manually, and the new machines will greatly speed the process.
Napolitano said in a statement: "These state-of-the-art baggage screening systems will enhance, airport security, streamline check-in procedures for passengers, and increase safety for TSA employees."
Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Fugate will announce FEMA preparedness grants and participate in a media availability
Location: DHS HQ, Washington, D.C.
Customs and Border Protection Aire and Marine reps will participate in a demonstration of a Marine Advanced Concept Technology vessel.
1900 SE 15th Street
Fort Lauderdale, FL
9:30 AM EDT
US-CERT Director Mischel Kwon will participate in a panel discussion at the Symantec Government Symposium
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Under Secretary for Management Elaine Duke will testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia, on pandemic influenza preparedness and the federal workforce
342 Dirksen Senate Office Building
National Protection and Programs Infrastructure Protection Security Division Director Sue Armstrong will testify before the House Committee on Homeland Security about Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS)
311 Cannon House Office Building
ICE San Antonio Field Office Director, Michael J. Pitts will participate in a press conference with the Webb County Sheriff’s Office announcing the deployment of Secure Communities to six additional Texas counties.
902 Victoria Street
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications Peter Fonash will testify before the House Science and Technology, Subcommittees on Research and Science Education and Technology and Innovation on federal response to the 60-day Cyberspace Policy Review
2318 Rayburn House Office Building
National Protection and Programs Risk Governance and Support Division Assistant Director Robert Kolasky will deliver remarks about building a homeland security national risk assessment at the Security Analysis and Risk Management (SARMA) Annual Conference
George Mason University
3401 Fairfax Drive, Room 330
Secretary Janet Napolitano and Mexican Minister of Finance and Public Credit Agustín Carstens signed a Letter of Intent that will strengthen bilateral cooperation between the United States and Mexico. The agreement aims to increase security in both countries and facilitate the flow of legal travel and trade. The agreement builds upon an unprecedented level of collaboration between the two nations and provides a roadmap for critical bi-national initiatives between the U.S. and Mexico.
Specifically, the agreement seeks to strengthen border enforcement by creating a framework for establishing bi-national Port Security Management Committees, developing a joint implementation plan for cooperative capacity building, and increasing trade facilitation between the two nations through increased information sharing and a harmonized customs clearance process.
Read more on the agreement in the Press Room.
The Secretary outlined our overarching responsibilities and priorities in a recorded message to department employees last week in the video below, and we wanted to kick things off by sharing it with you. We’ll be posting more about how these priorities impact our daily operations in the coming days, but this blog’s primary mission focuses on one simple goal: transparency.
We’ll of course keep you up-to-date on the Secretary’s activities and the department’s public events. We’ll feature the efforts of our front line workforce and bring first glimpses of the technology we’re developing and deploying to support our efforts.
We also want to hear from you. Our comment policy allows for a direct and open dialogue on each post. We’ll look for your feedback and suggestions along the way, incorporating them into this growing effort.
We’ll continue to update The Leadership Journal, the policy-based companion to The Blog that features the department’s leadership and issues that drive and influence our mission. Check out the Secretary’s latest Leadership Journal.
Look for frequent updates to both, and let us know how we’re doing.
Secretary Napolitano On the Department's Five Responsibilities
Download Secretary's Message in WMV (WMV, 27 MB)
var so = new SWFObject("/flash/player-gray.swf", "video05", "400", "280", "9", "#ffffff");so.addVariable("movie", "/xlibrary/videos/s1_employee_message_060309.flv");so.addVariable("captions", "/xlibrary/videos/s1_employee_message_060309.xml");so.addParam("menu", "false");so.write("video05");
Yet, nearly five months into my tenure, the purpose of our Department is unambiguous: we must guard against terrorism; we must secure our borders; we must enforce our immigration laws; we must improve our readiness for, response to, and recovery from disasters; and we must unify the Department so that we can even more effectively carry out our mission.
On each of the five fronts, we have already made important strides.
Protecting the American people from terrorist threats is the founding principle of the Department and our highest priority. This is an effort where everyone--families and communities, first responders, the private sector, state and local governments, as well as the Department--must contribute. My approach is simple: direct every resource available towards prevention and preparedness, and ask Americans to live in a constant state of readiness, not a constant state of fear.
Since January, we have forged new partnerships with our international allies to provide more tools in the fight against terrorism. We have dedicated new resources to detect threats at our transportation hubs and protect our critical infrastructure. And, we are strengthening information-sharing efforts, working hand-in-hand with state, local and tribal law enforcement.
Fulfilling our mission also means securing our borders—our Southern border, our Northern border, and our air and sea ports. Every year, we apprehend and deport more than one million illegal immigrants, no doubt deterring countless more from trying to cross the border. Recently, we announced a new initiative to strengthen security on the Southwest border to disrupt the drug, cash and weapon smuggling that is helping to fuel cartel violence in Mexico.
When it comes to immigration, we need to facilitate legal immigration while we crack down on those who violate our nation’s laws. A few weeks ago, we issued new guidance to our agents in the field to focus our efforts on apprehending criminal illegal aliens and prosecuting employers who knowingly hire illegal workers. At the same time, we are committed to providing employers with the most up-to-date and effective resources to maintain a legal workforce. This new focus is drawing widespread praise--from law enforcement to the business community--because it addresses the root cause of illegal immigration.
As a nation, we must develop a more urgent sense of readiness. Hurricanes happen. Tornadoes happen. Floods happen. And as we recently experienced, so do health outbreaks like the H1N1 flu. The Department plays a critical role in helping communities in all stages of a disaster--preparation, response and long term recovery. Since January, we have worked in close coordination with state and local authorities to respond to severe storms in Arkansas, Kentucky, and Missouri and flooding in North Dakota and Minnesota. We have taken bold new steps to accelerate recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast region, streamlining decision making and consolidating offices to eliminate redundancies.
And we took immediate and aggressive steps to lead the federal government’s efforts to confront the H1N1 flu outbreak.
Finally, we must unify and mature our Department. Our goal is simple: one DHS, one enterprise, a shared vision, with integrated results-based operations. Through a consolidated headquarters, we are bringing 35 locations together. We have launched an expansive efficiency initiative that is leveraging the economies of scale in our Department in order to recover hundreds of millions of dollars and create a culture of responsibility and fiscal discipline.
Throughout these five priority areas, we are applying a series of cross-cutting approaches. We are bolstering cooperation with our partners at the local, tribal, state, federal and international levels; we are expanding our capabilities through the deployment of science and technology while developing and maturing new technologies for tomorrow; and we are maximizing efficiency to ensure every security dollar is spent in the most effective way.
We cannot afford to relent on any of these five fronts because together, they amount to our one overarching mission—a mission whose scope is massive, challenging, and humbling, but also a mission so straightforward and clear that it is contained in our name: securing the homeland.
Before January 2008, United States and Canadian citizens were not required to present specific travel documents when entering the United States through a land or sea port. That meant that a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer might only have the traveler’s word on which to base his or her decision to allow someone to enter the United States. Not surprisingly, this practice significantly hampered our ability to quickly verify a traveler's identity or citizenship, determine if they pose a threat, and importantly, hampered our ability to speed legitimate travelers across the border. Every day, CBP encountered hundreds of individuals trying to game the system and pass themselves off as American or Canadian—an untenable scenario that turned each traveler into a potential imposter.
On June 1, CBP will implement the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), a result of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 and a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission that requires U.S. and Canadian travelers to present a secure travel document that denotes identity and citizenship when entering our country. WHTI narrows the list of acceptable identity and citizenship documents to those in which we have great confidence because of their issuance process and physical security features. As a result, WHTI will strengthen our borders as we facilitate entry for U.S. citizens and legitimate foreign travelers – a core component of CBP's mission.
CBP is fully prepared to implement WHTI—we have ensured that you, the traveling public, have a choice among travel documents to best meet your needs; we have installed infrastructure in our ports to make your entry and inspection process go more quickly and more smoothly; and we have worked hard to communicate the new requirements to you well in advance of the June 1 deadline. We have also heard your concerns and made special provisions to accommodate U.S. and Canadian children under age 16—and those under age 19 traveling in school, sports, religious or other office groups—who need only present a copy of a birth certificate or alternative proof of citizenship to enter the United States by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean.
Now we need your help to make these improvements to our border security as successful as they can be. We encourage you to obtain WHTI-compliant travel documents for entering the U.S. on June 1 and beyond. Approved documents include the traditional passport book as well as cards that are equipped with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to make your trip even faster and more efficient: the U.S. passport card, a NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST Trusted Traveler Program card, or a state- or province-issued enhanced drivers license.
RFID-enabled documents are easy to use. When entering the United States from Mexico (or Canada), hold up your travel card (and those of any passengers in your car), drive slowly toward the inspection booth, and stop for an interview with the officer. The automated read of the RFID tag (a unique number that contains no personally identifiable information) links to a secure CBP database. Before you arrive at the booth, the CBP officer can review your photograph, biographic information, and the results of law enforcement checks. By queuing up this information while you’re still driving toward the booth, the officer can more quickly verify your identity and focus more attention on talking to you while shaving 6 – 8 seconds off of the current inspection process. Because all the RFID-enabled travel cards can be read at one time, it saves the officer from having to manually type information about each individual in your car.
We realize that some travelers arriving at the border will not have WHTI-compliant documents. I encourage you to continue with your travel plans and to obtain facilitative and secure WHTI travel documents as soon as possible. U.S. and Canadian citizens who lack WHTI-compliant documents but are otherwise admissible will not be denied entry into the United States on June 1 and during the subsequent transition period.
Obtaining a WHTI-approved document and complying with the law will help make our borders more secure. Getting your WHTI-compliant document will help make your border crossings easier and faster.
For more information on new documents that go into effect on June 1, please visit www.getyouhome.gov.
Jayson P. Ahern
Acting Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Originally published in the May 30, 2009 edition of the Houston Chronicle
Preparing for hurricanes – or any disaster, for that matter – is one of our highest priorities at the Department of Homeland Security. Over the past few months, we have worked very closely with our state, local, and tribal partners to ensure we are in a strong position to support their efforts should a major disaster strike that requires federal assistance.
In Florida, Craig and I visited Lake Mary, just outside Orlando, where FEMA operates a response and recovery center and toured a FEMA logistics warehouse in Orlando that plays a critical role in staging and moving supplies and commodities during emergencies.
We also met with state and local leaders in Miami and toured Department of Homeland Security operations at the Port of Miami, where the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection all work together to protect port operations and prevent the entry of illegal drugs, migrants, and counterfeit goods.
Our trip to Florida follows our teleconference last week with governors from across the country to discuss hurricane season. Our message was clear and simple: we are preparing for this year’s hurricane season and we stand ready to support our state, local, and tribal partners should they need assistance. (updated 5/29/09 9:30am)
At FEMA and across the Department, we have worked hard to improve preparedness in three main areas:
- We are better organized. We have a new National Shelter System that contains information for thousands of emergency shelter resources nationwide. This will allow us to provide temporary sheltering assistance faster and in a more orderly fashion.
- We are better coordinated. We have coordinated regional evacuation and emergency communication plans with our state, local, tribal, and private sector partners, and have secured more options for temporary housing in the event of a disaster.
- We are better connected. We frequently host video teleconferences among federal, state and local leaders so that we all can share new information and best practices and work together to improve preparedness and identify any gaps in our planning.
On Wednesday I had the opportunity to meet with the families of two fallen Border Patrol agents who gave their lives in the service of our Department and our nation.
Senior Border Patrol Agent Luis Aguilar and Border Patrol Agent Jarod Dittman were killed in the line of duty last year as they performed their responsibilities as Border Patrol agents working to protect our Southwest border.
Agent Aguilar was struck and killed by the driver of a vehicle attempting to evade capture near Calexico, California and return into Mexico. The driver of that vehicle is now in federal custody in Mexico and faces second-degree murder charges and federal narcotics violations in the United States. Agent Dittman was killed in a vehicle accident in Jamul, California in the early morning hours while en route to his patrol area.
I assured the family members that we will never forget the sacrifices made by their loved ones. While no words can ever repay their loss, this week the names of both agents were inscribed into the CBP Valor Memorial in Washington, D.C. to stand as a permanent tribute to their service.
On Wednesday, Agent Aguilar and Agent Dittman's names also were added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, along with 131 officers who died in the line of duty in 2008. As part of National Police Week 2009, I attended a candlelight vigil on Wednesday evening in their honor.
It is sometimes easy to forget the sacrifices our law enforcement officers and their families make on a daily basis as they protect our communities and the American people – and the very real dangers they encounter while on the job. This is a good time to honor the memories of those who have fallen, and give thanks to those who keep our nation safe.