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November 20, 2015
8:55 pm

The U.S. Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter BERTHOLF lived up to its mission of keeping our homeland and maritime borders safe. Returning to port this week, the crew offloaded more than 25 tons of cocaine worth more than $765 million seized in the Eastern Pacific Ocean drug transit zone off the coast of Central and South America.

This year is the Coast Guard’s 225th birthday. Secretary Johnson said the Coast Guard can look forward to a future 225 years even brighter than the last 225, and said the BERTHOLF’s captain, officers and crew have “started us down the right path.”

Official photo by U.S. Coast Guard photo/Petty Officer 1st Class Rob Simpson

Coast Guard employees stand with the 25 tons of cocaine seeized from a drug transit zone

November 20, 2015
8:44 pm

By Cecilia Muñoz

One year ago today, President Obama announced a series of actions consistent with current laws to reform as much of our broken immigration system as possible. These actions are improving accountability in our immigration system, strengthening our national security and our economy, and building on our past efforts to enforce immigration laws with common sense and compassion. In an address to the nation, the President reminded us that:

Our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities.

President Obama

The President’s immigration executive actions lives up to this tradition. And according to the Council of Economic Advisors, the President’s executive actions, if fully implemented, would boost our economic output by up to $250 billion and raise average annual wages for U.S.-born workers by 0.4 percent, or $220 in today’s dollars, over the next ten years.

Administrations of both parties have taken executive action on immigration issues for the past half century. Last November, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued new guidelines for allowing immigrants who are longstanding members of our communities -- including immigrants who were brought here as children and the parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents -- to request deferred action on a case-by-case basis.

Deferred action is a well-established feature of the immigration system that has been recognized by the Supreme Court and Congress.  It is a form of temporary relief that helps DHS focus its limited enforcement resources on the highest priorities for removal, like convicted criminals and recent border crossers. Though the new deferred action policies announced last year have been put on hold in the courts, we will continue to fight to implement them. That is why the Department of Justice has filed a petition seeking review from the Supreme Court of the United States to allow these policies to move forward.

In the meantime, we are moving forward on the other components of our executive actions:

  • We have implemented new enforcement priorities and have strengthened our engagement with local law enforcement so that we can better focus our limited resources on those who are threats to our national security, public safety, and border security. Today, over 99% percent of individuals removed by ICE falls into DHS’s new top enforcement priorities, which are focused on those that pose the greatest danger to our safety and security.
  • DHS also ended the Secure Communities Program and replaced it with the Priority Enforcement Program, or PEP. PEP is a common sense, more effective program that works with local law enforcement and communities to tailor the program to local jurisdictions needs in order to keep communities safe, while preserving community trust. Today, the vast majority of local law enforcement agencies are now working with DHS to keep criminals off the streets and keep our communities safe.
  • We have also taken steps to modernize and streamline our legal immigration system. Thus far, DHS has moved forward on three rules and three policy guidance memoranda – two of these have already been finalized and applications are being received.
  • Additionally, the newly established White House Task Force on New Americans, has released their strategic plan with 48 recommendations. This Task Force is taking tangible steps to help build welcoming communities to better integration immigrants and refugees and is raising awareness about the rights and responsibility of U.S. citizenship and new government tools and resources through the “Stand Stronger” Citizenship Campaign.

The results of these actions are real and impact members of our communities every day. Today, a high school student is less afraid of coming out of the shadows to apply for and attend college. A father is less afraid that a minor traffic stop could result in his deportation. And, a worker is less afraid she will be targeted by indiscriminate raids. Over 30,000 spouses of high-skilled workers on their path to green cards are able to work -- contributing to their families, local communities, and our nation at large.

We have and will continue to reform our immigration system, to make our communities stronger and more secure. But ultimately, it is up to Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform to fix the system once and for all. We are not only a nation of laws; we are also a nation of immigrants. We must continue to live up to this tradition and the President has reiterated this throughout the past year. 

To learn more about our progress over the last year, take a look here.

November 19, 2015
3:47 pm

The Department of Homeland Security depends on its strongest asset – its people – to fulfill its diverse and important missions. Every day, the men and women of this Department work together to ensure that our programs, operations, and other activities are running as smoothly and efficiently as possible. We’ve made great strides to improve what we do, be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, and uphold the public trust. One measure of our success in this regard is our significant reduction in the number of open recommendations from the Office of Inspector General (OIG). By implementing better practices and resolving the OIG’s recommendations, DHS has become a more responsive and effective agency.

As recognized in the OIG’s annual report summarizing some of our biggest challenges, we have made major progress in fulfilling these recommendations – and I’m proud of our dedicated employees who are on the front lines of addressing these recommendations.

Over the past few years, we have steadily reduced the number of open OIG recommendations by 65%, from a high of 1,663 in Fiscal Year 2011 to just 583 at the end of FY 2015.

DHS-wide Open OIG Audit Recommendations. FY 2011: 1663 Recommendations; FY 2012: 1402 Recommendations; FY 2013: 1065 Recommendations; FY 2014: 736 Recommendations; FY 2015: 583 Recommendations.

Even better, DHS has reduced the number of our most complicated recommendations which are more than 6 months old by 97%, from a high of 691 in FY 2011 to only 21 at the end of FY 2015.

DHS-wide Open/Unresolved OIG Recommendations Aged 6+ Months. FY 2011: 691 Unresolved OIG Recommendations; FY 2012: 467 Unresolved OIG Recommendations; FY 2013: 175 Unresolved OIG Recommendations; FY 2014: 94 Unresolved OIG Recommendations; FY 2015: 21 Unresolved OIG Recommendations.

These accomplishments are possible in part thanks to our Unity of Effort initiative, which Secretary Johnson established in April 2014 to create a centralized process for making Department-wide decisions. Under this initiative, we have reshaped our acquisition programs, budget requests, and strategic priorities in a cohesive and unified way. Unity of Effort has become a driving force behind many of the Department’s daily operations and has made DHS greater than the sum of its parts. I believe this approach contributed to DHS earning a clean audit opinion for the third consecutive year, and has positioned DHS leaders to make more efficient and effective decisions in support of homeland security missions. 

I commend the hard work and dedication of our employees across the entire Department who collaborate with our auditors to make the Department more integrated and effective. I am confident that these trends will continue and lead to even greater future success.

November 18, 2015
9:41 am

By Dr. Andy Ozment, Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications
and Jamie Danker, National Protection and Programs Directorate
Privacy Officer

Many cyber attacks can be identified—and prevented—by sharing information about unique attack attributes, also known as indicators. A cyber threat indicator might include unique attributes of a spearphishing e-mail, such as the subject line or sending computer; or it might be a specific piece of software known to contain malicious code.

As part of our efforts to further enhance information sharing, the Department of Homeland Security’s Automated Indicator Sharing (AIS) initiative connects participating organizations to a DHS-managed system that allows two-way sharing of cyber threat indicators—from the information sharing partner to DHS, and vice versa. AIS leverages DHS-led standards for machine-to-machine communication, providing a mechanism for DHS to rapidly share cyber threat indicators with other federal agencies and the private sector. 

The results of this effort will allow participating organizations to submit and receive actionable cyber threat indicators in near-real-time for network defense. This information sharing initiative will also help DHS build a common, shared knowledge of current threats to better protect federal networks and help the private sector protect itself. 

DHS recognizes that cybersecurity information sharing among diverse sources requires a preeminent focus on ensuring appropriate protection for individual privacy and civil liberties, so implementing necessary safeguards was a foremost consideration in designing and implementing the AIS initiative.

The Department has published its Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) for AIS, detailing all identified privacy risks as well as the protections implemented to mitigate them. For example, the PIA notes a potential risk that Personal Identifiable Information (PII) or other sensitive information could be forwarded to DHS as part of a cyber threat indicator. To address this risk, the Department implemented robust protections to minimize the risk that PII is collected, as well as steps to ensure that, when present, PII that is not necessary to understanding the cyber threat  is quickly identified, deleted, and never shared.  

To read more about how the Department will mitigate privacy risks for AIS, visit www.dhs.gov/privacy. For more information on AIS, visit www.us-cert.gov/ais. For more on cybersecurity at DHS, visit www.dhs.gov/cyber.

November 13, 2015
2:31 pm

Del Rio Sector Honor Guard

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: U.S. Border Patrol’s Del Rio Sector Honor Guard proudly represents the agency and participates in a Veterans Day parade in Del Rio, Texas. On Veterans Day, we pause to honor the men and women of our nation’s armed forces who courageously defend our freedoms. This includes the more than 53,000 veterans – 17,000 at U.S. Customs and Border Protection alone – who continue to serve as employees of the Department of Homeland Security.

Official U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo | Download High-Resolution Photo (1493 x 961)

November 11, 2015
6:14 am

Today is Veterans Day. Please pause to thank a very special group of Americans—the brave men and women of our armed forces who have made the selfless and courageous decision to stand up to protect our country, our families, our rights, and freedoms.  We owe each veteran a debt of gratitude and everlasting recognition for their sacrifice. 

At the Department of Homeland Security, we are fortunate to have nearly 53,000 veterans, comprising 28 percent of our workforce.  I am proud that so many veterans have chosen to continue to serve our Nation as members of the DHS family. 

On behalf of all the rest of us, I thank the veterans within DHS for your military service to our country and for your continued dedication to help the homeland.

November 10, 2015
6:37 pm

This Veterans Day, we asked our colleagues who are both immigrants and veterans what becoming a U.S. citizen meant to them. We received a variety of responses, but a common theme was service and pride in becoming an American. Their responses and photos from past years of service are featured below.

“Becoming a U.S. citizen filled me with pride and lit a fire inside me that drove me to want to serve in gratitude for all that I was given.”

- Freddy Duron, Immigration Services Officer, Hialeah Customer Service Unit

Duron

Above: Freddy Duron, U.S. Army

"Duty, honor, country; these three words have guided me to become the citizen-soldier I am today. U.S. citizenship opened many doors of opportunities for myself and family. I’m glad to do my part to bear true faith and allegiance. God bless America!”

- David Salazar, Immigration Officer, Fraud Detection & National Security, San Bernardino Field Office

Salazar

Above: David Salazar, U.S. Army Airborne

“Becoming a U. S. citizen meant a lot to me as it was the first time I felt like I had freedom and gave me all the opportunity life can afford.”

- Kelechi O Eke, Immigration Services Officer, Texas Service Center

Eke

Above: Kelechi O Eke, U.S. Army Veteran

 

“When I became a U.S. citizen it was a sense of belonging. Even though I was a Lawful Permanent Resident serving in the military, I still felt like a visitor. After becoming a U.S. citizen, this became my country. Immigrating to the U.S. and serving this great nation has been a great honor for my family and I.”

- Rashpal S. Virk (Rocky), Immigration Officer, Fraud Detection and National Security, Seattle Office

Virk

Above: Rashpal S. Virk, U.S. Navy Veteran

“Becoming a U.S. citizen was a proud moment because my new country accepted me. I could be what wanted regardless of my race or sex.”

- Andy Ffrenchnowden, Immigration Service Officer-2, Los Angeles County Field Office

frenchnowden

Above: Andy Ffrenchnowden, U.S. Marines

 

November 10, 2015
5:34 pm

If you ask Vanessa Hansen why she joined the Air Force, she'd tell you she felt a need to give back to the country that provided her family with asylum from Nicaragua. She entered the United States when she was 16 years old after her father was arrested by Nicaraguan police. After naturalizing in an asylum ceremony, Hansen decided to give back to her adopted country by entering the U.S. Air Force, where she served for almost six years. She continues to serve her country in the Air Force Reserves.

Hansen has been deployed to Afghanistan three times during Operation Enduring Freedom. As a result, she spent a significant amount of time away from her children. Her son was 6 months old for her first deployment and her daughter was 7 months old for her second deployment. The time Hansen spent serving her country away from her family and her children illustrates the level of sacrifice she was willing to pay to her adopted country.

“I wanted to serve because of my feelings of patriotism to the United States. I wanted to give back to my adoptive country for everything that it did for my family and I when we were granted asylum in the United States,” she said.

Hansen spent a considerable amount of time at her favorite duty station, Hurlburt Field, in Florida. She said she couldn’t have done any of it without the support she received from her family. Her husband of 16 years and her parents were instrumental in caring for her small children while she was serving her country thousands of miles away. Hansen said, “It’s an honor to serve in the military and to defend the Constitution.”

Hansen
Air Force Tech Sgt. E. Vanessa Hansen

Hansen is currently an immigration services officer. When asked what citizenship means to her, she said “honor and family.” Vanessa Hansen is yet another example of a naturalized citizen who chose to sacrifice and serve her new country, both as a solider and a USCIS employee.

We thank her for her service and honor her on this Veterans Day.

November 10, 2015
4:22 pm

During Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month, it is important to think about how critical infrastructure is part of your daily life. Critical infrastructure plays a vital role in our national security and prosperity.

The Nation’s infrastructure includes supply lines that bring our communities goods and services like water, transportation, and fuel and communication. It also includes the digital systems that enable us to get cash from the bank, map out the best route to a destination, and power our homes. Often times  we take these benefits for granted.

Therefore, throughout November, we want to focus on the efforts that help ensure the security of the vast, interconnected network of systems, products, and services that we all depend on.

DHS works every day with our public and private partners to ensure the security and resilience of critical infrastructure. Over the last year, we have engaged with our partners across the critical infrastructure community to update and release the 2015 Sector-Specific Plans that provides strategic plans for building resilience and reducing risk. As each of the plans are updated we will share them broadly and update their status on the 2015 Sector-Specific Plans page on DHS.gov.

Visit the Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month webpage to learn more about critical infrastructure and why it is important to both our daily lives and our national security. DHS leads this national effort, but it takes communities, business and industry, governments at all levels, and millions of men and women working day in and day out across the Nation to “keep the lights on” in all the sectors that provide food, roads, health care, emergency response, and communications.

I urge businesses and organizations of all kinds to review and revise their plans, processes, and protective measures to ensure strong, resilient infrastructure that can withstand and recover from all hazards. We can all help manage risk to critical infrastructure by being vigilant and reporting suspicious activity.

November 6, 2015
12:34 pm

Photo of the Week: Hurricane and Jarden

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Hurricane and Jarden were just two of more than 300 DHS employees recognized by Secretary Johnson this week at the 2015 Secretary’s Awards Ceremony, which recognize the outstanding DHS employees on the front lines and behind the scenes who uphold the security of our homeland. These U.S. Secret Service K9s and their handlers protected the White House from an intruder in October. Congratulations to all of our outstanding winners!

Official DHS photo by Jetta Disco | Download High-Resolution Photo (1280 x 854)

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