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.
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.
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.
Editor's note: This was originally posted on the FEMA blog on October 29.
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
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.
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.
Yesterday, Acting Secretary Beers was in New York City where he participated in several events and discussed the Department’s work with the private sector to increase cybersecurity, protect critical infrastructure and make the public less vulnerable to cyber crimes.
Acting Secretary Beers began his day with a visit to the NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square where he rang the Opening Bell alongside private sector partners.
Acting Secretary Beers and National Protection and Programs Directorate Deputy Under Secretary for Cybersecurity Phyllis Schneck also delivered remarks and participated in a discussion with business leaders on cybersecurity as part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month.
National Cyber Security Awareness Month engages public and private sector stakeholders – especially the general public – to create a safe, secure, and resilient cyber environment. This year marks the tenth anniversary of National Cyber Security Awareness Month sponsored by DHS in cooperation with the National Cyber Security Alliance and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center.
(Photos by NASDAQ)
The world is a much different place than it was a decade ago. Today, nearly every part of our lives are connected to the Internet. We can take pictures with our smartphones and upload them instantaneously to social media networks, use GPS navigation to find our desired destinations, and pay our bills and manage our finances online. This year marks the tenth anniversary of National Cyber Security Awareness Month. As Americans become more reliant on modern technology, we also become more vulnerable to cyber exploits such as corporate security breaches, social media fraud, and spear phishing, which targets employees through emails that appear to be from colleagues, allowing cyber criminals to steal personal and business information. Given the stakes we cannot afford to only think about the next year, we must remain focused on meeting the challenges of the next ten years.
Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and each of us has a role to play. It only takes a single infected computer to potentially infect thousands and perhaps millions of others. Everyone should take basic cybersecurity measures that can improve both individual and our collective safety online. Some steps you can take to ensure you and your family are safe online include:
- Don’t open emails or attachments that look suspicious
- Set strong passwords, and don’t share them with anyone
- Keep your operating system, browser, and other critical software optimized by checking for and installing updates
- Limit the amount of personal information you post online, and use privacy settings to avoid sharing information widel
Cybersecurity has emerged as a top priority for the Department of Homeland Security in our efforts to secure federal civilian government networks, work with critical infrastructure owners and operators, combat cyber crime, build a national capacity to promote responsible cyber behavior and cultivate the next generation of frontline cybersecurity professionals—while keeping a steady focus on safeguarding the public’s civil rights and civil liberties. In an effort to raise public awareness and empower Americans to practice and promote safe cyber practices, DHS and our partners have recognized National Cyber Security Awareness Month as an opportunity to help equip everyone with the tools they need to stay safe online.
During October, DHS and our partners are holding various events and outreach efforts across the country to raise awareness and educate Americans about topics including mobile device security, growing the cyber workforce, combating cyber crime, and the cybersecurity of our nation’s critical infrastructure.
Find out more about DHS and our partners’ work during National Cyber Security Awareness Month.
Lapse in Federal Funding: Impact on DHS Web and Social Media Operations
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s website and social media networks will not be actively managed during the lapse in funding. This website was last updated on September 30, 2013 and will not be updated until after funding is enacted. As such, information on this website may not be up to date. Transactions submitted via this website might not be processed and we will not be able to respond to inquiries until after appropriations are enacted. We will not be able to respond or update social media until after funding is enacted.
Aviso del impacto de la interrupción de fondos federales en las operaciones de las redes sociales del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (DHS, por sus siglas en inglés)
El sitio de web y las redes sociales de DHS no serán administrados activamente durante la interrupción de fondos federales. La última actualización a este sitio web se realizó el 30 de septiembre de 2013 y no se harán más actualizaciones hasta que el gobierno reanude operaciones; por ende, puede que el sitio web no refleje la información más reciente. Es posible que no podamos procesar transacciones ni responder a preguntas o actualizar nuestras redes sociales hasta que se reanuden operaciones.