The pictures tell the story: Thousands upon thousands of U.S. $20 and $50 bills, crisply stacked and banded into neat packets and carefully tucked away into shipping containers filled with bags of ammonium and sodium sulfate bound for Colombia.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), working with our law enforcement partners in Colombia, made the initial seizure on September 10 of $11.2 million from a shipment at the port of Buenaventura, Colombia. Subsequent investigation by ICE, Colombian authorities and Mexican authorities revealed additional shipments in Buenaventura and Manzanillo, Mexico, with large amounts of cash hidden inside.
The total is jaw-dropping -- at least $40.5 million and counting, as of this writing -- and it constitutes the largest container bulk cash smuggling seizure in ICE, U.S. and Colombian history. It's an investigative success we might not have achieved without closely collaborating with our counterparts in Mexico and Colombia, and it is a testament to what can be accomplished through this collaboration.
At this point, the investigation has not yet identified the organizations or individuals behind these shipments. However, it is well-established that the two ports in question are key points of a route used for smuggling cocaine northward to Mexico and the United States, and for sending cash back into Colombia. The scheme is believed to have been perpetrated by or on behalf of a major trafficking organization, or organizations, operating in Colombia.
Perhaps most important is what these seized dollars represent. Every illicit dollar we can stop from flowing across the border is one less dollar going to fuel the cartels' operations. It's one less dollar they can use to buy guns, or to pay a corrupt official to look the other way. By targeting the flow of money, we hit the traffickers where it hurts most.
John Morton is the Assistant Secretary for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Nine members and associates of a Bell Gardens street gang, including a suspected hit man for a Mexican drug cartel, have been arrested on drug trafficking and weapons charges, federal officials said Friday.
The suspects -- six U.S. citizens and three illegal Mexican immigrants -- were arrested Thursday as agents served search warrants in Bell Gardens and Los Angeles, officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said. Their arrests culminated a nine-month investigation by the agency of the Barrio Evil 13 street gang.
Several assault weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle, a Tec-9 submachine gun, a MAC-11 submachine gun and a sawed-off shotgun, along with thousands of rounds of ammunition also were recovered.
"This is a relatively small and newer gang that has been operating with impunity for the last several years," said Kevin Kozak, deputy special agent in charge of ICE's Los Angeles office of investigations. "They have access to significant weapons . . . and claims they can have access to military-grade weapons through a 'friend' in the military."
From IDG News, on the department's privacy report:
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's annual privacy report card revealed more details on the agency's controversial policy involving searches of electronic devices at U.S. borders.
The 99-page report, which was released Thursday, also offered details on the agency's efforts to address privacy risks in social media and the use of imaging technologies that produce whole-body scans at airport security checkpoints.
The report is the first DHS privacy assessment released to Congress since the new administration took office. It covers the activities of the DHS Privacy Office between July 2008 and June 2009.
For the most part, the report is a compilation of privacy-related activities across the DHS during this period. However, it also offered lesser-known details about some DHS programs. For instance, numbers released in the report indicate that warrantless searches of electronic devices at U.S. borders are occurring less frequently than some privacy and civil rights advocates might have feared.
11:30 AM EDT
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Secretary John Morton will participate in a media availability with representatives from the Colombian and Mexican governments to announce the seizure of more than $41 million in U.S. currency discovered during a joint investigation.
ICE Headquarters Potomac Center North500 12th Street SW
12 PM EDT
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate will deliver remarks about preparedness at the Temple University Annual Preparedness Fair
Temple University1101 West Montgomery AvenuePhiladelphia, Penn.
12 PM EDT
U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen will deliver remarks about current Coast Guard activities at the National Cargo Bureau luncheon
1530 Wisconsin Ave NW
Throughout September, National Preparedness Month, the department has called on the American people to play a role in our nation’s preparedness. To further that goal, DHS is carrying this message specifically to parents and families.
Take some time today to visit our family preparedness website. Here you can learn about resources designed specifically to help families learn how to prepare their homes and families for emergencies.
You can also sign up for a weekly e-mail to stay informed about pressing issues and new tools to keep you prepared. Sign up today.
President Barack Obama announced Tuesday he intends to nominate his
Southwest border czar to be commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.
As commissioner, Alan Bersin would lead a Homeland Security Department
security agency that helps keep terrorists and their weapons out of the country
while securing and facilitating travel and trade as it enforces hundreds of
regulations, including export and import controls, immigration and drug
The appointment requires Senate confirmation.
Since April, Bersin has been serving in a position created by the Obama
administration to handle illegal immigration and border issues. During this
time, Bersin has worked closely with the Mexican government to combat drug
From Federal Computer Week, on the new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ website:
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has launched a
revamped Web portal that agency officials say is more user-friendly, interactive
and informative than its predecessor.
The upgraded site allows applicants for citizenship and related
benefits to follow the progress of their cases. They can choose to receive
notifications through e-mail messages or text messages when the status of an
application changes, the agency said.
The redesigned USCIS.gov has, for the first time, a Spanish language
version. It also provides access to national trend data and raw data that can be
used in additional applications. USCIS petitions and applications will be
accessible through the case status feature, and include applications for
naturalization and certificate of citizenship, as well as petitions related to
the status of non-immigrant workers and relatives and fiancées from other
"It's part of a broader effort in this agency and it is in keeping with
[Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's] emphasis as well as the
administration's emphasis on transparency," Alejandro Mayorkas, USCIS' director,
said in an interview Sept. 21. USCIS is an agency under the Homeland Security
9:10 AM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will deliver remarks at the News and Terrorism: Communicating in a Crisis workshop
Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore
20 West Baltimore Street
9:45 AM EDT
Secretary Napolitano and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley will announce Recovery Act-funded port, transit and fire station grants and participate in a media Inner Harbor
Pier 1, Constellation Dock
301 East Pratt Street
12 PM EDT
NPPD Director of Software Assurance Joe Jarzombek will deliver remarks about the role of software assurance in the workplace at the Quality Assurance Institute and Quality Assurance Association of Maryland Regional Conference
The Conference Center at the Maritime Institute
692 Maritime Blvd.
Linthicum Heights, Md.
11:30 AM CDT
NPPD Under Secretary Rand Beers will deliver keynote remarks at the Chicago Regional Emergency Management Conference
2302 S. Lake Shore Drive, Room E353
11 AM PDT
NPPD Critical Infrastructure Protection Director Patrick Beggs will deliver remarks about critical infrastructure protection at the ASIS 2009 Conference
Anaheim Convention Center
800 West Katella Avenue
11 AM PDT
NPPD Infrastructure Information Collection Division Deputy Director Steven King will deliver remarks about DHS Critical Infrastructure Protection Tools and Resources at the ASIS 2009 Conference
Anaheim Convention Center
800 West Katella Avenue
2 PM EDT
Federal Protective Service Director Gary Schenkel will testify about risk-based security before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
2:30 PM EDT
NPPD Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications Rear Admiral Michael Brown will participate in a panel discussion at the Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium Plenary
Fair Lakes Hyatt
12777 Fair Lakes Circle
11:45 AM PDT
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas will participate in a media availability about his vision for the agency and current initiatives USCIS District Office
300 North Los Angeles Street
Los Angeles, Calif.
I came to the United States in 1960, having fled Cuba with my parents and my sister. I was later granted citizenship through the beneficence of the United States government. I understand deeply the gravity as well as the nobility of our mission at USCIS: to administer our country’s immigration laws efficiently and with fairness, honesty, and integrity.
I believe there are four principles that should help us define how we work. First, we must be a customer-focused agency, always mindful of the needs and views of those who seek our services. To this end, we must actively solicit input and feedback from stakeholders and the public so that a variety of views inform our decisions. Second, we must be good and careful stewards of taxpayer resources, cutting costs and improving efficiency wherever possible. Third, we must be transparent in our efforts; the public deserves and is entitled to know how we operate and what our successes and our challenges are. And finally, we must strive for consistency in our operations so that the services we provide meet the same high standards regardless of where they are sought.
Today our agency took a major step forward to put these ideas into action. After much hard work, including substantial feedback from the public, we launched a new and vastly improved USCIS.gov website. This new one-stop-shop will provide a range of tools and features for those looking for information, including case status updates. For example:
- The site features a My Case Status tool that allows users to type in a receipt number and find out what processing step their case is in, how that fits into the overall process, and what the local case processing times are.
- A National Dashboard that allows the public to compare national processing volumes and trends and download raw data.
- A better search engine so it is easier to find what a user is looking for.
- New options to receive status updates via email or text alerts.
This new website reflects our commitment at USCIS to continually improve how we do business. It is one of many changes in the works that will help us be a more effective, transparent, and responsive agency. Stay tuned for more to come. In the meantime, I hope you find the new site useful.
Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Ninety days ago, President Obama called for new USCIS technology to improve transparency and efficiency in the immigration system. USCIS met the President’s directive by developing a re-designed and enhanced website, available in English and Spanish, to help customers navigate the immigration system more effectively. Essentially, the new USCIS website will be a “one-stop shop” for immigration information.
For example, the new USCIS.gov website includes a “Where to Start” tool that helps customers easily navigate the new site, a “My Case Status” tool that allows customers to check the status of their application via email and text message alerts, and a “National Dashboard” that provides national data on volumes and trends in the immigration system. We are also proud to introduce a Spanish language version of our website, which is available at: www.uscis.gov/espanol.
Take a minute to check out the new site today and spread the word!
Ninety days ago, President Obama called for new USCIS technology to improve transparency and efficiency in the immigration system. USCIS met the President's directive by developing a re-designed and enhanced website, available in English and Spanish, to help customers navigate the immigration system more effectively. Essentially, the new USCIS website will be a "one-stop shop" for immigration information.
The new "My Case Status" function above allows customers to sign in with a receipt number, and check the status of their application. They will also be able to sign up for email and text alerts for the first time, to let them know what step of the process their application is in.
For example, the new USCIS.gov website includes a "Where to Start" tool that helps customers easily navigate the new site, a "My Case Status" tool that allows customers to check the status of their application via email and text message alerts, and a "National Dashboard" that provides national data on volumes and trends in the immigration system. We are also proud to introduce a Spanish language version of our website, which is available at: www.uscis.gov/espanol.
Take a minute to check out the new site today and spread the word!
President Barack Obama says the first family will follow the rules like every one else on the swine flu vaccine.
Obama says he's probably "fairly far down" the pecking order for being vaccinated.
He tells CNN's "State of the Union" that even though he's president, "We will stand in line like everybody else. And when folks say it's our turn, that's when we'll get it."
Federal guidelines call for the new vaccine to be given first to pregnant women; people who live with or care for kids 6 months or younger; health care workers; people age 6 months through 24; and people with chronic health problems or compromised immune systems.
Only after shots are offered to those groups will the vaccine be available to healthy adults 64 and younger -- that's where the president and first lady come in. Eleven-year-old Malia and 8-year-old Sasha are in one those earlier groups.
Obama says he'll call up his health secretary and the director of the Centers for Disease Control and "whatever they tell me to do, I will do."
From the Sierra Vista Herald, on the Coast Guard's role in combating the flow of illegal drugs into the United States:
When it comes to the country's border security issues, Arizona faces tough challenges. Arizona's porous border with Mexico has created a security crisis for our state, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said.
On Friday, Giffords hosted a multi-agency briefing that featured Adm. Thad Allen, the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and head of the Drug Interdiction Committee, before they visited Bowie schoolkids on a more social note.
The briefing was held at the University of Arizona National Center for Border Security and Immigration in Tucson and included representatives from all levels of law enforcement.
Organized as a follow-up to a border violence summit Giffords convened in April, the meeting was intended to promote collaboration and communication across federal, state and county agencies.
Adm. Thad Allen, commandant of the Coast Guard, visits with Bowie Superintendent Patrick O'Donnell on Friday. With deep family ties to Cochise County, Allen stopped by the school after a border security briefing in Tucson hosted by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. (Carol Broeder, Arizona Range News)
"At that summit, more than 60 participants came together to discuss how we could improve coordination and the effectiveness of our work to combat the drug cartels," Giffords said during an opening address, according to her press secretary. "We all know that we have challenges here in Southern Arizona unlike any other part of the country."
From the San Antonio Business Journal, on ARRA funding for a new baggage handling system at San Antonio's airport:
The City of San Antonio Aviation Department has received a federal stimulus grant totaling just under $14.4 million from the Transportation Security Administration.
The grant is part of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 and is for eligible costs associated with the design, engineering and construction of the Terminal 1/B Consolidated Baggage Handling System (BHS) project at San Antonio International Airport.
The BHS is currently part of the City's airport expansion program, which includes a new passenger terminal building, a new parking facility and a new bi-level roadway system.
City officials say the BHS project will free up lobby space and improve passenger circulation in Terminal 1 and accommodate the baggage screening process at multiple terminals.
ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton and the Colombian Ambassador to the United States will participate in a press event with the Colombian National Police (CNP), announcing the CNP participation in ICE led BEST in four US ports.
Policia Nacional de Colombia
Carreera 59 N 26-21, CAN, Bogota DC
Diane Gray was beaming and full of pride Thursday morning as she waived a miniature American flag.
"I got it!," she said to a crowded room in a University of Nevada, Reno auditorium. "I got it!"
Gray, along with 32 others from 13 nations, was presented a certificate of naturalization, marking years of work to gain U.S. citizenship.
"I'm going to be here the rest of my life and I want to vote," the 53-year-old Canadian-born grandmother said. "I like the United States and I want to be a part of the processes and vote. I want to make a difference.
"I'm just like y'all now," she said and raised her arms in triumph. "This is really something that no words can describe. It's awesome."
Now, Gray said she is going to register to vote and apply for her passport.
The day was special for another reason. It was Citizenship Day, marked for the remembrance of the signing of the Constitution in 1787. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Reno Field Office Director Monica Toro said naturalization ceremonies on Citizenship Day has become a new tradition across the nation, 2009 being the second year.
From the Associated Press, on yesterday's citizenship grants announcement:
Federal Immigration officials on Thursday awarded a Dallas group and 12 other organizations around the country $1.2 million in grants to help legal residents become U.S. citizens.
Citizenship and Immigration Services awarded $100,000 to Catholic Charities Immigration and Legal Services. It wasn't immediately clear how much money was awarded to the other groups, but the agency said they could apply for up to $100,000.
The announcement coincided with Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.
The agency said the money goes to increase the number of people served by programs that help green card holders improve their English skills, learn about U.S. history and government, and prepare for the naturalization process.
The funds can only be used to provide direct services to immigrants with legal status in the country.
From the Associated Press, on a new CBP commander in Grand Forks:
The Border Patrol sector in Grand Forks has a new commander.Rosa Nelly
Hernandez will supervise 180 people who help protect the U.S.-Canadian border.
Border Patrol officials say Hernandez is the first woman to command the Grand Forks sector and third woman chief in the history of the Border Patrol.
Hernandez, who's a San Antonio native, was installed at a Wednesday airport ceremony that included members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and a bagpipe and drum corps.
She asked for help from border agents and the community, saying, "Whether you are a farmer or in law enforcement, help us secure our homeland."
Hernandez said the Border Patrol will become more intelligence-based. She said officials plant to put three agents in each of five communities in North Dakota, six communities in Minnesota and one in Ashland, Wis.
No public events today
USCIS is conducting naturalization ceremonies around the world today, administering the Oath of Allegiance to over 8,400 individuals during 72 ceremonies.
The Secretary participated in a similar naturalization ceremony at the Pentagon last week and administered the Oath of Allegiance to 31 members of the U.S. armed forces. We’re happy to bring you some video from that event. Check it out in the player below or on our Youtube channel.
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USCIS also announced a total of $1.2 million in new Citizenship Grants, designed to help organizations prepare Legal Permanent Residents for citizenship. The grants were awarded to 13 organizations:
- Association House of Chicago;
- Catholic Charities of Dallas Inc.;
- Central American Resource Center, Los Angeles;
- Federation Employment and Guidance Service Inc., New York, N.Y.;
- International Institute of St. Louis;
- International Rescue Committee Inc., San Diego;
- Jewish Family and Children’s Services, San Francisco;
- Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest Inc., East Orange, N.J.;
- Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas, Raleigh, N.C.;
- OneAmerica, Seattle;
- Progreso Latino, Central Falls, R.I.;
- Saint Mark Roman Catholic Parish, Dorchester, Mass.;
- and Young Women’s Christian Association of Tulsa, Okla.
“We are proud to support our new grantees,” said Mayorkas. “In the spirit of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, I am pleased to announce that we will be working with these organizations to help immigrants pursue citizenship and become fully vested members of their communities.”
Check out the full release from USCIS.
It also seems an appropriate day to brush up on our nation’s guiding document, don’t you think? Benjamin Franklin delivered a speech at the convention following the signing, arguing the case for unanimity among the states on the issue of ratification:
“I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good.”
For the record, the nine states required for ratification did so by June 21st of the following year.