in the State Dinning Room of the White House. From left; Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, Rep. Luis Guitierrez,
D-Ill., Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., Rep. James Clyburn, D - S.C. the president, Vice President Joe Biden,
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Secretary Napolitano was at the White House yesterday with the President and members of Congress working on identifying a way forward on comprehensive immigration reform. From the White House blog:
While Congressional leaders are working to tackle the complexities of immigration reform, the Administration has already taken steps to improve the system. The FBI has cleared much of the backlog of immigration background checks, the Department of Homeland Security is speeding up citizenship petitions and in conjunction with the Department of Labor, they are working to crack down on employers who are exploiting illegal workers. The President also announced a new collaborative effort that will utilize technology to improve legal immigration:At the President’s direction, Secretary Napolitano will convene a group of leaders from the White House and Congress to begin identifying the way forward on comprehensive immigration reform.
"Today I'm pleased to announce a new collaboration between my Chief Information Officer, my Chief Performance Officer, my Chief Technologies Officer and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office to make the agency much more efficient, much more transparent, much more user-friendly than it has been in the past.
In the next 90 days, USCIS will launch a vastly improved Web site that will, for the first time ever, allow applicants to get updates on their status of their applications via e-mail and text message and online. And anybody who's dealt with families who are trying to deal with -- navigate the immigration system, this is going to save them huge amounts of time standing in line, waiting around, making phone calls, being put on hold. It's an example of some things that we can do administratively even as we're working through difficult issues surrounding comprehensive immigration.
And the idea is very simple here: We're going to leverage cutting-edge technology to reduce the unnecessary paperwork, backlogs, and the lack of transparency that's caused so many people so much heartache." --More on the White House Blog.
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Visit Serve.gov for more information on how to get involved. jxmkp7t2sb
From IT World, on last week's "Eagle Horizon 2009":
The Department of Homeland Security conducted its Continuity of Operations plans yesterday. In their proclivity to assign all such operations mysterious sounding names, the disaster continuity exercise was called "Eagle Horizon 2009".
The mandatory exercise is held each year for all executive branch departments, and is coordinated by DHS through FEMA and the National Continuity Programs Directorate. The exercise is meant not only to test out the government's continuity of operations procedures, but also to ensure coordination between agencies in the event of an emergency. The coordination testing is an important part of any preparedness exercise, and one that private corporations should also consider. Recovering from a disaster is more than just getting systems back up and running, it also calls for a tremendous amount of coordination between areas of the enterprise that typically don't talk to one another. Recovery is, I venture to say, 50 percent procedural, and 50 percent just getting everybody to work together under unusual and stressful circumstances.
From the Washington Post, on the new "virtual fence":
After years of frustration, controversy and delay -- and some maddening technological glitches -- the first link in the federal government’s new $6.7 billion “virtual fence” is being erected here along the border.
We visited a newly constructed detection tower, out in the middle of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. Contractors were still plugging in the off-the-shelf components. The concept is simple. The execution is not. A previous test of the virtual fence concept was so plagued with snafus that the Department of Homeland Security scrapped it and announced a “do over.”
“We created a set of expectations that were unreasonable, and unfortunately it didn’t work as well as we would have liked,” says Mark Borkowsky, director of the project in the Customs and Border Protection agency.
'According to Borkowsk, this is the basic idea: In a 23-mile-long section of Arizona desert, the agency and its contractor, the Boeing Company, will erect a picket line of 17 towers -- nine towers will hold the detectors, eight will handle communications.
Atop each 80-foot-tall detection tower are a radar and two cameras -- one camera works with daylight and another detects heat signals at night. A nearby communications tower will send data back to a command center in Tucson.
From the Associated Press, on the latest Homeland Security spending bill:
The House passed a $44 billion spending bill Wednesday that awards the Homeland Security Department a 7 percent budget increase, with money for more border patrol agents and for anti-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia.
As part of a GOP campaign against President Barack Obama's order to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the bill requires the department to conduct threat assessments for the terrorist suspects being held there. It also requires that the department ensure that detainees are placed on its "no-fly" list and denied an array of immigration benefits, including admission into the United States and refugee status.Those moves complement steps to block the release of Guantanamo detainees into the United States contained in a newly-enacted war-funding bill.
12 PM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will participate in a pen & pad session with DHS beat reporters and bloggers
3801 Nebraska Avenue NW
10:30 AM Local
Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan will deliver remarks at the European e-Identity Management Conference
100 Victoria Street
11 AM EDT
ICE Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge John Kelleghan, will join USDA, CBP and USPIS to donate seized exotic beetles to the Smithsonian Institution
200 Chestnut St.
12 PM EDT
National Protection and Programs Directorate Acting Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications Rear Admiral Michael Brown will deliver remarks at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) Cybersecurity Symposium
1001 16th Street, NW
2 PM EDT
TSA Public Affairs Manager Sari Koshetz will participate in a media event to introduce Orlando’s Proprietary canine teams
Regional Transportation Authority
LYNX Bus Station/Central Station
455 N. Garland Avenue
From the Washington Post, on Secretary Napolitano's decision to end the National Applications Office program:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced yesterday that she will kill a controversial Bush administration program to expand the use of spy satellites by domestic law enforcement and other agencies.
Napolitano said she acted after state and local law enforcement officials said that access to secret overhead imagery was not a priority.
Two years ago, President George W. Bush's top intelligence and homeland security officials authorized the National Applications Office (NAO) to expand sharing of satellite data with domestic agencies. But congressional Democrats barred funding for what they said could become a new platform for domestic surveillance that would raise privacy and civil liberties concerns.
Earlier this month, House Democrats expressed surprise that Obama included funding for the program in the classified portion of the Department of Homeland Security's 2010 budget, and they threatened to kill the office.
"The Secretary's decision is an endorsement of this Committee's long-held position," Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement.
From USA Today, on increased use of E-Verify:
Construction company CEO David Dominguez no longer worries about inadvertently hiring workers who are in this country illegally. That's because he uses E-Verify, the federal program that allows him to quickly check the legal status of potential employees.
Dominguez, who builds residential interiors in Arizona and California, said that as word gets around about the program, job applicants without legal status avoid businesses such as his, Andrew Lauren Co., which use E-Verify.
"The system works," Dominguez said. His San Diego-based company has been using E-Verify for several years in hiring office workers and laborers.
The voluntary federal program has seen a rapid growth in use this year, Department of Homeland Security records show. More than 1,000 employers are signing up each week on average, and employment checks are approaching 200,000 a week.
Use rises each year"If the goal is not to hire illegal citizens, then you should have it," Dominguez said.
Halfway through this year 5.5 million worker checks have been made by employers through the E-Verify online service. In 2008, 6.6 million checks were made, twice the number in 2007."From a year ago, it's just tremendous" growth, said William Wright, spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that administers the program.
4:45 PM EDT
Secretary Napolitano and Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba will sign a letter of intent on science and technology information sharing
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Press Room
Ronald Reagan Building, Concourse Level
1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW
9 AM EDT
FEMA Administrator Fugate will deliver remarks at the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Conference
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
9 AM EDT
Secretary Morton will participate in a panel discussion at the 6th Annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference
Georgetown University Law Center
600 New Jersey Avenue NWWashington, D.C.
10 AM EDT
Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Bart Johnson will testify before the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment, about the fiscal year 2010 budget request
311 Cannon House Office Building
10 AM EDT
The Senate Committee on the Judiciary will consider the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to be U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director
226 Dirksen Senate Office Building
From the Associated Press, on Administrator Fugate's roundtable in Denver:
From the Orlando Sentinel, on funding for baggage screening upgrades at the Orlando International Airport:
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency visited Denver Monday to help kick off President Barack Obama's campaign to promote public service.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate (FEW'-gate) met with firefighters and other emergency workers at Fire Station 8. He said the emergency responders he spoke with are inspiring because "you forget a lot of them are coaching Little League" and helping in other ways.
"They're one of the busiest fire stations in the state," Fugate said of Station 8. "People sometimes have the tendency to see them as just firefighters, but they are working and doing a lot of stuff on their off duty hours."
Fugate began his emergency management career as a volunteer firefighter before becoming emergency manager in his Florida county for 10 years. He became Florida's state director of emergency management in 2001. He said he was inspired by the extra community work the emergency workers do.
"Sometimes it's simple things," he said, "being able to read to a child or helping a student with their homework."
He said Obama's campaign, called United We Serve, goes back to the president's early days of community service, when he took action and didn't assume someone else would.
Orlando International Airport will receive $15 million to finish overhauling its checked-bag screening systems to make them quicker, more secure and simpler for passengers.
With the money, a federal grant presented Monday by U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority can finish its four-year, $178 million program of replacing free-standing TransportationSecurity Administration baggage-inspection stations with machines that can screen bags placed on conveyors at ticket counters.
The airport has installed three such systems, serving most of its airlines. Monday's check will pay for the final two, mostly for AirTran Airways and Delta Air Lines.
"What it means is a more secure, more efficient and higher-tech way to screen passenger-checked bags," Napolitano said. "What it means for the traveler is you will no longer have to walk your bag to the screening location."
From the LA Times, on the suspension of the Clear Program:
A major vendor that fast-tracks fliers through airport security for an annual fee of $199 will end operations tonight, according to its website and a former employee, leaving hundreds of thousands of customers in the lurch.
The website of the so-called Clear program, launched by New York-based Verified Identity Pass Inc. four years ago, today carried this message: "At 11:00 p.m. PST on June 22, 2009, Clear will cease operations. Clear's parent company, Verified Identity Pass, Inc. has been unable to negotiate an agreement with its senior creditor to continue operations."
No one answered the company's phone this evening, which simply carried the recorded message, "You've reached Clear Registered Traveler." But in a phone interview, Cindy Rosenthal, former vice president of media relations for the Clear program, confirmed that it is shutting down.
9:30 AM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will deliver remarks at the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) Conference
Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Center
Third Floor Ballroom
1950 Eisenhower Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
8:30 AM EDT
The Privacy Office will host a Government 2.0: Privacy and Best Practices Workshop
The Washington Court Hotel Atrium Ballroom
525 New Jersey Avenue
10:30 AM EDT
Office of Cybersecurity and Communications Chief Technology Officer Peter Fonash will participate in a panel discussion at the Industry Advisory Council (IAC) American Council for Technology (ACT) Executive Session.
The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City
1250 South Hayes Street
10:00 AM CDT
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Public Affairs Manager Jon Allen will participate in a media availability about the instillation of CT-80 EDS equipment
Alexandria International Airport
1611 Arnold Drive
This afternoon, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate sat down at a firehouse in Denver and talked with some local first responders and volunteers about the President's new call to service, United We Serve. Administrator Fugate was joined by Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, and five Colorado first responders. The group discussed what drew them to service, and how others can respond to the President's call.
The video is available at DHSon.tv, and we urge you to watch. We can't necessarily predict when a natural disaster, or terrorism, or another event will affect our daily lives, but it's up to us to stand up and be ready.
While Administrator Fugate was in Denver, Secretary Napolitano was in Orlando, participating in a volunteer project with FEMA's Citizen Corps and Deputy Secretary Lute will be in New York this evening to lead a citizenship class. More on those later. For now, what is United We Serve?
The idea is simple: Get involved. Get involved now. Make change, and preparedness, and recovery real in your community. This summer, the President is urging all of us to visit http://www.serve.gov/ to find service opportunities in our communities. Serve.gov provides volunteer opportunities around the country, connects Americans to local charities and non-profits, and allows people to create their own service events and invite their friends and neighbors to join in.
Remember that the work doesn't end this summer.
Visit Serve.gov today to get started.
Monday, June 22nd Morning Roundup - Featured News and Public Events
From CNN, on the importance of smuggling issues
The new U.S. border czar, Alan Bersin, has arrived to inspect operations at one of his most critical facilities, the Maricopa port of entry outside Nogales, Arizona.
It's the largest port of entry in Arizona, handling about 1,500 commercial trucks a day, making it a major trade corridor between the United States and Mexico, Officer James Tong of U.S. Customs and Border Protection tells Bersin.
It is also a major corridor for the smuggling of cocaine, heroin and marijuana into the U.S.
Last year, 37,000 pounds of marijuana were seized along this arid stretch of border. And on the day of Bersin's visit, two teenage girls were caught trying to sneak heroin past border guards in Nogales.
"That told me that in reaction to increased enforcement ... the cartels are ... recruiting teenagers as their new couriers," Bersin said.
Bersin said the Obama administration is forging a new alliance with Mexico in the campaign to combat the drug cartels.
"This is now viewed as a set of problems that we share in common," he said.
The cartels are implicated in more than 7,000 killings last year, including the assassination of police, judges and high-ranking government officials.
"We're very concerned about the spillover of the kind of public shootings where bystanders are caught between the cartels and between the cartels and the government," he said.
The solution, he said, is to stop not only the flood of drugs to the north, but also the flood of guns and money south into Mexico. His troops are charged with stopping the traffic in both directions. He was told that so far this year more than $2 million in narco dollars have been seized in Nogales.
From The Buffalo News, on security upgrades
You may not give it a second thought when you board a Metro Bus, descend into the subway or hop a flight at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.Secretary’s Events
But in the last four years alone, about $12 million has been poured into Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority facilities by the federal government - just to make them safe from terrorists.
Aside from major transit systems in cities like New York and Chicago, the NFTA ranks among the biggest recipients of Department of Homeland Security dollars in the nation. In the post-9/11 transportation world, such huge expenditures are now part of everyday operations.
"Technology plays an important role in keeping our transit infrastructure safe," said Sara Kuban, a Homeland Security spokeswoman.
"The goal is to reduce the threat."
In Buffalo, the new expenditures mean:
While attacks on U.S. transit systems have been practically non-existent, violence on commuter trains and subways in Tokyo, London and Madrid have heightened awareness around the world wherever large numbers of people are conveyed.
- An increase from 73 surveillance cameras in the Metro Rail system to 170.
- The addition of sophisticated new screens to monitor the subway in Metro Rail's operations center in downtown Buffalo.
- New and strengthened fencing at major bus garages and at the airport.
- The introduction of security card systems at NFTA facilities.
The mere fact that such crowds gather in commuter systems demands that precautions be taken, said Kim Minkel, the NFTA's director of health, safety and environmental quality.
12:30 PM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will participate in a media availability
Orlando International Airport
East Checkpoint, Terminal A
1 Airport Blvd
1:15 PM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will participate in a United We Serve project with members of the FEMA Citizen Corps
110 Andes Avenue
9 AM EDT
Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan will speak at the Government 2.0: Privacy and Best Practices Workshop hosted by the DHS Privacy Office
The Washington Court Hotel Atrium Ballroom
525 New Jersey Avenue
11:00 AM MDT
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate will participate in a roundtable discussion with fire fighters to highlight President Obama’s United We Serve initiative.
Station 8, Denver Fire Department
6:30 PM EDT
Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute will lead a citizenship class as part of President Obama’s United We Serve initiative
Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights
665 West 182nd Street, First Floor
New York, N.Y.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate will host a roundtable discussion at a Denver, CO firehouse with local firefighters and community volunteers. The discussion will help kick off President Obama's United We Serve initiative, an unprecedented nationwide call to community service. Find out what it's all about, and what you can do in your community. Watch the event as it happens at http://www.dhson.tv/.