Before we start talking about Ms. Erma’s story, let’s put 67 years into perspective. The U.S. hadn’t entered the Second World War 67 years ago, the minimum wage was 30 cents an hour, you could get a coke for a nickel, and the jitterbug was just getting its legs. Oh, and Federal office buildings weren’t air-conditioned, and as Washington, D.C. was essentially constructed on top of a swamp, I would imagine that would make summers…difficult.
Ms. Erma sat across the table, sunken into her chair after just finishing an interview with the AARP. Now here I was, writing for a “blog,” and the latest in a series of people who wanted to interview her. The attention had been steady in recent weeks and had been kindly - if not eagerly - received. I asked her if she was looking forward to her big retirement party on Friday. She grinned and politely shook her head no.
We began to talk about her life, her roots, her home. She was born in Ambridge, Pa., the second of seven children in an Italian family. Her father passed away when she was young, and it became difficult for her mother and 6 siblings to support themselves. Ms. Erma said she ran errands while her mother took in laundry, and did odd jobs for people to earn money. “My mother was dependent on us to help with the family expenses,” she explained.
Ms. Erma found a job with the Works Progress Administration when she graduated from high school, and her tenure as a federal employee began a few years later when she started working as a stenographer for the Army Signal Corps in 1941—one month before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Her skill earned her a reputation, so when she started looking for work in the private sector after the war, the government asked her to stay; so in 1947 Ms. Erma transferred to the INS, where she remained for 62 years.
Working in the investigations office, Ms. Erma helped dismantle organized crime and racketeers, and over the years handled correspondence in such notable cases as the Tokyo Rose and the Alger Hiss trials and the McCarthy-era HUAC hearings. When she passed her 50th year of service, the then INS granted her with honorary credentials as an agent.
She’s now in the Office of Investigations at ICE and is secretary to the Deputy Assistant Director. A computer has supplanted the Dictaphones and manual typewriters she used at the beginning of her career, though she draws the line at carrying a BlackBerry. Her eyes crinkled into a smile as she explained, “I have enough junk to carry without one of those.” Sing it sister.
Her many friends and colleagues talk about her generous spirit, evident in discussions about how she would stay up all night baking cakes and cookies when an office birthday drew near.
As our meeting wrapped up, a coworker came by to remind Ms. Erma that her Metro Access bus would be coming soon. As we (slowly) walked out with her, it was hard not to notice the fondness with which they treated her. After I said goodbye to Ms. Erma, a coworker turned to me and said, “She’s just got such big heart.”
Thanks to Ms. Erma for 67 years of service.
Based in Charleston, South Carolina, Project SeaHawk brings state and local authorities together with federal resources and personnel to enhance our maritime security and response abilities, making our ports safer. The Secretary, joined by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, announced on Monday that responsbility for the pilot program would be transferred from the Department of Justice to DHS on October 1st, 2009.
“Project SeaHawk is an innovative security program designed to increase our
maritime security capabilities,” said Secretary Napolitano. “By working with our
state, local, and Federal partners we will improve overall situational
awareness, increase information sharing and continue to collaborate to find more
effective and efficient ways to protect our ports.”
Responsbility was transferred to DHS as part of the SAFE Port Act of 2006.
From the Associated Press, on Project Seahawk:
Project Seahawk, a port security effort developed in South Carolina, is vital to waging the war on terrorism and a model for ports around the nation, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Monday.
Graham, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Gov. Mark Sanford and other leaders had a private briefing on the project during a visit to the Project Seahawk headquarters at the old Charleston Navy Base.
Seahawk, created in 2003 in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, brings together representatives of state, federal and local law enforcement agencies who meet each day in a command center to share and compare information on harbor activity.
From the San Diego Union-Tribune, on a fruitful holiday weekend for CBP:
Federal authorities announced Monday the seizure of marijuana, heroin and cocaine worth more than $1 million in three separate busts.
Customs and Border Protection agents found 99 packages of marijuana, weighing more than 315 pounds, hidden throughout a Nissan SUV Saturday morning at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, officials said.
A dog walking through the line of vehicles waiting to enter the United States alerted agents to the drugs, officials aid. Two male Mexicans, ages 19 and 20, were arrested on smuggling charges.
On Friday, Border Patrol agents at a checkpoint on Interstate 8 in Pine Valley discovered 10 bundles of cocaine weighing 26 pounds hidden in the dashboard of a Chevrolet Malibu, officials said. The driver, a 26-year-old man and U.S. citizen, was arrested.
10 AM EDT
U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen will testify before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard regarding Coast Guard Authorization
253 Russell Senate Office Building
11 AM EDT
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) Assistant Special Agent in Charge Nelson Minerly will participate in a media event to highlight OLE/FAMS workforce diversity efforts in federal law enforcement at the FAMS Detroit field office
11301 Metro Airport Center Dr.Romulus, Mich.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine personnel will demonstrate Marine Advance Concept Technology for members of congress and local media
Jones Park Road & U.S. Highway 49
- Approximately 80 percent of all construction materials are certified recyclable.
- The building is 50% more energy efficient than a building constructed with standard methods.
- Minimal amounts of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) were used in the sealants, paints, carpets and related materials.
- All new furniture is certified to contain low VOCs.
- Water used to wash vehicles will be 100% recycled.
Over time, the energy efficiencies at the new El Paso Station will save taxpayer dollars by lowering operational costs. For example, we expect to save approximately 25% on annual electric usage by using state-of-the-art energy-saving technologies, such as skylights, occupancy sensor lights, solar panels, reflective roofing, and LED lights.
Of course no building would truly be “green” if we didn’t take into account the local ecosystem. To help accomplish this, we moved more than 50 local cacti before the groundbreaking, then replanted and incorporated them into the building landscaping.
Two hawk towers were also constructed to welcome back any displaced hawks affected by the construction.
We’re working hard at CBP to make sure that every tax dollar is spent wisely. Green buildings stand right in line with Secretary Napolitano's leadership on these issues - saving taxpayers' money and creating a more efficient, sustainable department.
Steven Cribby is an Operations Officer for the United States Border Patrol.
On Saturday, Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute participated in a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization ceremony for seven members of the military at the Statue of Liberty. She administered the Oath of Allegiance to the seven and thanked them for their service.
"The bright light of America will shine brighter on Saturday. These men and women have served their country with honor—and on Saturday, their country will honor them. Their service in defense of freedom sends the message that all can find their freedom here. Their naturalization continues our proud tradition of welcoming immigrants in the spirit of liberty. "
--Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute
The group was comprised of members of the Army, Navy, and Marines - all seven from New York. Just before the ceremony, the Deputy Secretary and the seven climbed the 354 steps to Lady Liberty's crown, among the first to do so since the 9/11 attacks.
Check it out:
From CNN, on Pakistan's crackdown on the Taliban:
The Pakistani government's crackdown on the Taliban has helped U.S. security, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday.
Janet Napolitano says that "anything that cracks down on the Taliban helps."
"The key concept is, you just can't start protecting the homeland at the borders of
the United States," she said.Napolitano said she was in Pakistan to discuss with Pakistani leaders the fight against terrorism, as well as how the two countries share information.
Asked what impact the Pakistani government's recent crackdown on the Taliban, centered in the Swat region of North West Frontier Province, has had on U.S. security, she said, "anything that cracks down on the Taliban helps. ..."
From the Associated Press, on the upcoming H1N1 Summit:
The White House is planning a summit to talk about preparations for swine
The White House on Thursday announced details for a July 9 meeting at the National Institutes of Health. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Education Secretary Arne Duncan plan to participate. White House homeland security adviser John Brennan also plans to joint the group.
President Barack Obama will be in Italy that day attending meetings of the G-8. Sebelius says the swine flu threat could worsen in the fall and the administration wants to start a national campaign to help stem a serious outbreak.
Duncan says everyone needs to play a part in keeping the flu from spreading.
1 PM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will participate in a media availability with U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham
1050 Register Street
North Charleston, S.C.
9 AM PDT
CBP-Border Patrol Sector Chief Mike Fisher will participate in the opening ceremony of Smuggler’s Gulch
San Diego, Calif.
H1N1 now exists in over 100 countries around the world, and experts say that the virus may worsen this fall when the traditional flu season starts in the Northern Hemisphere.
Continued cooperation among all federal departments, as well as with state, local, and tribal governments and medical, academic, and business sectors (yes, all of the above) will be vital as we continue to tackle this national public health issue.
The Flu Preparedness Summit will bring government officials and health professionals, emergency managers and educators, non-profit organizations and business executives, together in one room. They'll have a forum to talk about their lessons learned from H1N1 thus far, and importantly, discuss the next steps in assessing and building on current pandemic plans.
The initial news blitz has largely subsided, but the simple fact remains that H1N1 flu is still with us. We'll keep you up-to-date on the summit, and on the department's continuing role in dealing with H1N1.