US flag signifying that this is a United States Federal Government website   Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Homeland Security

Testimony of Secretary Janet Napolitano Before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, "Department of Homeland Security Oversight"

Release Date: 
March 9, 2011

Dirksen Senate Office Building

Chairman Leahy, Ranking Member Grassley, and members of the Committee: Thank you for the opportunity to testify today about the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) efforts to keep our Nation safe from evolving threats while building more prepared and resilient communities, and a more informed and engaged American public.

This committee continues to play a critical role in helping us achieve these important goals, and I am grateful for the chance to update you on the progress we are making relative to your areas of jurisdiction. The Department has six mission areas:

  • Preventing terrorism and enhancing security;
  • Securing and managing our borders;
  • Enforcing and administering our immigration laws;
  • Safeguarding and securing cyberspace;
  • Ensuring resilience to disasters; and
  • Providing essential support to national and economic security.

In each area, we have continued to grow and mature as a department over the past year, by strengthening our existing capabilities, building new ones where necessary, enhancing our partnerships across all levels of government and with the private sector, and streamlining our operations and increasing efficiency.

Now, eight years since the Department's creation, I believe the results are clear: a more effective and integrated Department, a strengthened homeland security enterprise, and a more secure America that is better equipped to confront the range of threats we face, from acts of terrorism and natural disasters to cyber threats and pandemic diseases.

Today, I would like to discuss our strategy, key initiatives, and plans for the future, with a specific focus on the core areas of this committee's jurisdiction, including preventing terrorism and enhancing security; securing and managing our borders; and enforcing and administering our immigration laws.

Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security

Response to a Changing Threat

As I have noted on a number of occasions before Congress – most recently, the House Committee on Homeland Security1 – the United States has made important progress in securing our Nation from terrorism since the September 11, 2001, attacks. Nevertheless, the terrorist threat facing our country has evolved significantly in the last ten years, and continues to evolve.

Following 9/11, the Federal Government moved quickly to build an intelligence and security apparatus that has protected our country from the kind of large-scale attack, directed from abroad, that struck us nearly ten years ago. The resulting architecture led to considerable success in both preventing this kind of attack and limiting, though not eliminating, the operational ability of the core Al Qaeda group that is currently based in the mountainous area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Today, however, in addition to the direct threats we continue to face from Al Qaeda, we also face growing threats from other foreign-based terrorist groups that are inspired by Al Qaeda ideology but appear to have few operational connections to the core Al Qaeda group. Perhaps most crucially, we face a threat environment where violent extremism is not defined or contained by international borders. Today, we must address threats that are homegrown as well as those that originate abroad.

One of the most striking elements of today's threat picture is that plots to attack America increasingly involve American residents and citizens. Our country has succeeded since 9/11 in making it more difficult for terrorists to travel here. What we are seeing now reflects a conscious effort by terrorists to recruit people who are already in the United States. We are, therefore, operating under the assumption, based on the latest intelligence and recent arrests, that individuals prepared to carry out terrorist attacks and acts of violence might be in the United States, and they could carry out acts of violence with little or no warning.

This threat of homegrown violent extremism fundamentally changes who is most often in the best position to spot, investigate, and respond to terrorist activity. More and more, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers are most likely to notice the first signs of terrorist activity. This has profound implications for how we go about securing our country against the terrorist threat, and requires a new kind of security architecture that complements the structure we have already built to protect America from threats coming from abroad.

DHS Counterterrorism Efforts

Over the past two years, DHS has been working diligently to build a new architecture in order to better defend against this evolving terrorist threat. There are two dimensions of this architecture that I will discuss today.

The first part is working directly with law enforcement and community-based organizations to counter violent extremism at its source, using many of the same techniques and strategies that have proven successful in combating violence in American communities. Law enforcement officials at the state, local, tribal and federal levels are leveraging and enhancing their relationships with members of diverse communities that broadly and strongly reject violent extremism.

Second, we are focused on getting resources and information out of Washington, D.C. and into the hands of state and local law enforcement, in order to provide them with the tools they need to combat threats in their communities. Because state and local law enforcement are often in the best position to first notice the signs of a planned attack, our homeland security efforts must be interwoven in the police work that state, local, and tribal officers do every day. We must make sure that officers everywhere have a clear understanding of the tactics, behaviors, and other indicators that could point to terrorist activity.

Accordingly, and consistent with the vision of Congress and the direction the President has set for a robust information sharing environment, DHS is providing training programs for local law enforcement to help them identify indicators of terrorist activity, while avoiding illegal and ineffective profiling based on race, color, national origin, or religion. And we are also improving and expanding the information-sharing mechanisms by which officers are made aware of the threat picture and what it means for their jurisdictions.

Our work in this area includes the development of a Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) curriculum for state and local law enforcement that is focused on community-oriented policing, which will help frontline personnel identify activities that are indicators of potential terrorist activity and violence. In conjunction with local communities and the Department of Justice (DOJ), we also have published guidance on best practices for community partnerships to prevent and mitigate homegrown threats.

In addition, we hold regular meetings and briefings with state and local law enforcement, state and local governments, and community organizations, including regional meetings in Chicago, Detroit, Denver, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis. We also have issued, and continue to release, unclassified case studies that examine recent incidents involving terrorism so that state and local law enforcement, state and local governments, and community members can understand the warning signs that could indicate a developing terrorist attack.

We continue to participate in Joint Terrorism Task Forces, provide support for state and local fusion centers, and work with our partners at the Department of Justice on the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, which trains state and local law enforcement to recognize behaviors and indicators related to terrorism, crime and other threats; standardize how those observations are documented and analyzed; and expand and enhance the sharing of those reports with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and DHS.

We also are encouraging Americans to alert local law enforcement if they see something that is potentially dangerous through the nationwide expansion of the "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign – a clear and effective means to raise public awareness of indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats and emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious activity to the proper law enforcement authorities.

Over the past year, we have expanded the "If You See Something, Say Something," campaign across the United States, through partnerships with Wal-Mart, Mall of America, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, Amtrak, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the general aviation industry, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and state and local fusion centers.

In collaboration with the "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign, the Transportation Security Administration also is providing suspicious behavior observation, assessment, and reporting training through its First Observer ™ program, which has trained thousands of state and local law enforcement personnel and private sector employees to observe, detect and report suspicious behavior at transportation and critical infrastructure sites and facilities across the country.

Taken together, these steps lay a strong foundation that police and their partners across the country can use to protect their communities from terrorism and crime by building a homeland security architecture that helps law enforcement everywhere protect against a variety of threats.

Securing and Managing Our Borders

Protecting our Nation's borders – land, air, and sea – from the illegal entry of people, weapons, drugs, and contraband, remains a critical DHS mission. Secure borders are not only vital to our national and homeland security, but vital to our economic prosperity.

In managing our borders, our goal is to maintain safe, secure border zones that are hospitable to and facilitate legal trade, travel, and immigration. This goal recognizes the border is not simply a line on a map. It is an entire geographic area. Moreover, a safe, secure border zone requires more than taking action at the border; it requires vigorous enforcement of our Nation's immigration laws in the interior of our country.

We must leverage every law enforcement asset and coordinate them in a way that acknowledges that our approach in one area of the border may differ from another. What we do to secure the border in El Paso may not be the same as what we do in San Diego, or in Detroit.

Enforcement of immigration laws in the interior of our country also must be smart and effective. That means going after criminals and employers who knowingly hire illegal workers, as we have, and doing so in a way that is consistent with our values and priorities. Equally important, our border policy should foster legitimate trade, travel, and immigration, accommodating the movement of commerce that generates billions of dollars in trade and tourism revenue and underpins hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Over the past two years, this approach, carried out with the tireless dedication of the thousands of men and women on the frontlines, has achieved major results, including historic decreases in illegal immigration; unprecedented increases in the seizure of drugs, weapons, and contraband; and record numbers of deportations of individuals in the U.S. illegally – both overall and in terms of criminal aliens. This approach has also led to strengthened partnerships with Mexico and Canada, not only in terms of security, but also on trade and travel.

We are deeply concerned about drug cartel violence in Mexico. It is clear that drug trafficking organizations are seeking to undermine the rule of law in Northern Mexico, and we must vigorously guard against potential spillover effects into the United States.

Unfortunately, we also have seen troubling incidents of violence along the Southwest border in recent months. In December, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was fatally shot near Rio Rico, Arizona. Several suspects have been apprehended in relation to Agent Terry's murder, and this investigation is ongoing.

These tragedies underscore the risks our men and women on the frontlines face every day as they work to protect our borders and our country, and the tremendous sacrifices they make on our Nation's behalf. I know the Congress and this committee, in particular, share my commitment to do everything we can to ensure the safety of our law enforcement officers in the field by providing them with the resources they need to protect our borders and our communities.

Southwest Border Initiative

In March 2009, the Obama Administration launched the Southwest Border Initiative to bring focus and intensity to Southwest border security, coupled with a reinvigorated, smart and effective approach to enforcing immigration laws in the interior of our country. We are now two years into this strategy and based on our own indicators of progress as well as previous benchmarks set by Congress, it is clear that this approach is working.

I know the Southwest border well. I was raised in New Mexico. I have spent most of my adult life in Arizona as the U.S. Attorney, Attorney General, and as a two-term Governor. I have walked the border, flown it, ridden it on horseback, and worked with border communities from Brownsville to San Diego for the better part of 18 years as a public official. I speak from personal experience when I say that the Southwest Border Initiative is the most comprehensive and dedicated effort to strengthen border security our nation has ever deployed.

Under this initiative, we have increased the size of the Border Patrol to more than 20,700 agents today, which is more than double the size it was in 2004. We also have doubled personnel assigned to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces, which work to dismantle criminal organizations along the border.

In addition, we have increased the number of ICE intelligence analysts along the border focused on cartel violence. In all, a quarter of ICE's personnel are now in the region – the most ever. We also have quintupled deployments of Border Liaison Officers to work with their Mexican counterparts, and we are screening southbound rail and vehicle traffic for illegal weapons and cash that are helping fuel the cartel violence in Mexico.

In terms of border infrastructure, we have constructed a total of 649 miles of fencing out of nearly 652 miles mandated by Congress, including 299 miles of vehicle barriers and 350 miles of pedestrian fence.

With the aid of $600 million from the border security supplemental requested by the Administration and passed by Congress in 2010, we also have continued to add more technology, manpower, and infrastructure to the border. This includes an additional 1,000 new Border Patrol Agents; 250 new CBP officers at ports of entry; and 250 new ICE agents focused on transnational crime.

We are also improving our tactical communications systems, adding two new forward operating bases to improve coordination of border security activities and two more CBP unmanned aircraft systems. For the first time, we now have Predator Unmanned Aircraft System coverage along the entire Southwest border, from the El Centro Sector in California to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas.

Further, President Obama authorized the temporary use of up to 1,200 additional National Guard personnel to bridge to longer-term enhancements in border protection and law enforcement personnel from the Department of Homeland Security to target illicit networks' trafficking in people, drugs, illegal weapons, money, and the violence associated with these illegal activities. That support has allowed us to bridge the gap and hire the additional agents to support the Southwest Border, as well as field additional technology and communications capabilities that Congress so generously provided. Secretary Gates and I agreed to equally fund this National Guard support and submitted two reprogramming requests to Congress to that end. Congress did not approve my reprogramming requests; therefore, The Department of Defense has been funding the full cost of this National Guard support.

Additionally, to support state and local law enforcement jurisdictions along the border, we directed more than $123 million in Operation Stonegarden funds in 2009 and 2010 to Southwest Border States to pay for overtime and other border-related expenses.

In partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Defense, we also have achieved initial operational capability for the new Border Intelligence Fusion Section within the El Paso Intelligence Center. This new section will provide a comprehensive Southwest Border Common Intelligence picture, as well as real-time operational intelligence, to our law enforcement partners in the region – further streamlining and enhancing our operations. And we are continuing to work with Mexico to develop an interoperable, cross-border communications network that will improve our ability to coordinate law enforcement and public safety issues.

Beyond these steps, in recent months we also have undertaken additional actions to bring greater unity to our enforcement efforts, expand coordination with agencies including the Departments of Defense and Justice, and improve our response times. For example, we have initiated joint commands within CBP to unite the activities of the Border Patrol, Air and Marine, and Field Operations under a single reporting chain, with a single commander. This unified command structure is now in place in Arizona.

And, as part of the Southwest Border supplemental, CBP is developing new Mobile Response Teams that will provide new surge capabilities to send Border Patrol assets and personnel to a particular area of the border as needed.

Because partnerships with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies, as well as the private sector, remain critical to our overall success, we also have initiated new programs to increase collaboration; enhance intelligence and information sharing; and develop coordinated operational plans.

One example is the Alliance to Combat Transnational Threats (ACTT). ACTT utilizes a collaborative enforcement approach to leverage the capabilities and resources of DHS in partnership with more than 60 law enforcement agencies in Arizona and the Government of Mexico to deter, disrupt, and interdict individuals and criminal organizations that pose a threat to the United States.

Since its inception in September 2009, ACTT has resulted in the seizure of more than 1.6 million pounds of marijuana, 3,800 pounds of cocaine, and 1,000 pounds of methamphetamine; the seizure of more than $13 million in undeclared U.S. currency and 268 weapons; nearly 14,000 aliens denied entry to the United States at Arizona ports of entry due to criminal background or other disqualifying factors; and nearly 270,000 apprehensions between ports of entry.

As we have taken these steps to enhance border security, we also are bringing greater fiscal discipline to our operations. The SBInet program began in 2005 as an attempt to provide a single one-size-fits-all solution for the entire Southwest border. Throughout its existence, this program was consistently over budget, behind schedule, and simply not delivering the return on investment needed to justify it.

Last year, I directed an independent, quantitative assessment of the SBInet program, which combined the input of Border Patrol agents on the front lines and the Department's leading science and technology experts. This assessment made clear that SBInet cannot meet its original objective of providing a one-size-fits-all border security technology solution, and earlier this year, I directed CBP to redirect SBInet resources to other, proven technologies – tailored to each border region – to better meet the operational needs of the Border Patrol.

This new border security technology plan – which is already well underway with resources invested through the Recovery Act and on the ground in communities along the border – will provide faster deployment of technology, better coverage, and a more effective balance between cost and capability. It includes non-intrusive inspection equipment at the ports of entry and tested, commercially available technologies, such as thermal imaging devices, ultra-light detection, backscatter units, mobile radios, cameras and laptops for pursuit vehicles, and Remote Video Surveillance System enhancements.

Southwest Border Initiative Results

Taken as a whole, the additional manpower, technology and resources we have added over the past two years represent the most serious and sustained action to secure our border in our Nation's history. And it is clear from every key measure that this approach is working, even as we acknowledge that our efforts must not let up.

Nationwide Border Patrol apprehensions – a key indicator of illegal immigration—have decreased 36 percent in the past two years, and are less than one third of what they were at their peak.

As we have worked to combat illegal crossings, violent crime in border communities has remained flat or fallen in the past decade. Indeed, four of the biggest cities in America with the lowest rates of violent crime are in border states – San Diego, Phoenix, Austin, and El Paso. Violent crimes in Southwest border counties have dropped by more than 30 percent and are currently among the lowest in the Nation per capita. Crime rates in Nogales, Douglas, Yuma and other Arizona border towns also have remained essentially flat for the past decade, even as drug-related violence has dramatically increased in Mexico.

We have matched decreases in apprehensions with increases in seizures of cash, drugs, and weapons. In Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010, CBP seized more than $104 million in southbound illegal currency – an increase of approximately $28 million compared to 2007 and 2008. And in Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010, CBP and ICE seized more than $282 million in illegal currency, more than 7 million pounds of drugs, and more than 6,800 weapons along the Southwest border – representing increases of 35 percent in illegal currency seizures, 16 percent in illegal drug seizures, and 28 percent in weapons seizures, compared to the previous two years.

Complementing these efforts, the United States Coast Guard has continued to serve as an effective deterrent force against illegal immigration across our maritime borders, while working to combat the flow of illegal drugs and contraband into the United States. In FY 2010, the Coast Guard interdicted more than 2,000 undocumented migrants, felons and repeat offenders attempting to illegally enter the United States from the sea. The Coast Guard also seized more than 202,000 pounds of cocaine and 36,700 pounds of marijuana.

As we have taken these actions to secure our borders, we have continued to focus on growing the economy by expediting lawful trade and travel by expanding trusted traveler programs, making infrastructure improvements to our ports of entry, and streamlining and modernizing our customs processes.

For example, enrollment in Global Entry, a CBP trusted traveler program that facilitates expedited clearance of pre-approved low-risk air travelers into the United States through biometric verification and recurrent vetting, increased by more than 200 percent in 2010. Global Entry has reduced average wait times by more than 70 percent, with more than 75 percent of travelers using Global Entry processed in under five minutes, while enabling law enforcement to focus on the most serious security threats at points of entry to our country.

Northern Border

Over the past two years, we also have made critical security improvements along the Northern border, investing in additional Border Patrol agents, technology, and infrastructure. Currently, we have more than 2,200 Border Patrol agents on the Northern border, a 700 percent increase since 9/11. We also have nearly 3,800 CBP Officers managing the flow of people and goods across ports of entry and crossings, and with Recovery Act funds, we are in the process of modernizing more than 35 land ports of entry along the Northern border to meet our security and operational needs.

In addition to these personnel increases and infrastructure enhancements, we have continued to deploy technology along the Northern border, including thermal camera systems, Mobile Surveillance Systems, and Remote Video Surveillance Systems. We also successfully completed the first long-range CBP Predator-B unmanned aircraft patrol under expanded Federal Aviation Administration authorization that extends the range of our approved airspace along the Northern Border from Washington to Minnesota.

To enhance joint law enforcement with Canada, we also have continued to leverage the Shiprider agreement to bolster cross-border security operations. This agreement enables the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to cross-train, share resources and personnel, and utilize each others' vessels in the waters of both countries. The Border Patrol, ICE, U.S. Coast Guard, Canadian law enforcement, and other federal partners also have continued their collaboration through Integrated Border Enforcement Teams, which work to identify, investigate, and interdict individuals and organizations that may pose a threat to national security or are engaged in organized criminal activity along the Northern border.

Our partnership with Canada is an important one. Not only do we share the longest geographic border in the world, but also the largest and most integrated economic partnership, with over $1 trillion in annual trade and foreign direct investment between our countries. To sustain this productive economic relationship, we must work together to protect our borders and shared critical infrastructure.

In recent months, we have begun several activities focused on protecting our borders and shared infrastructure. For example, ICE Director John Morton, CBP Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar, and then President of the Canada Border Services Agency Stephen Rigby signed a memorandum of understanding to promote the sharing of currency seizure information between our law enforcement agencies in order to improve our ability to identify potential threats and assist in money-laundering and terrorist-financing investigations.

I also have coordinated efforts with Transport Canada to conduct vulnerability assessments on shared bridges between the United States and Canada. These vulnerability assessments take a critical look at the individual components of a bridge structure from a security perspective and seek to identify strategies to shore-up and strengthen the structures. These assessments capture estimated costs associated with recommended mitigation strategies so that we can better focus our resources and prioritize which structures require immediate attention to guard against known threats.

In addition, Canada Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews and DHS announced a first of its kind plan to establish a comprehensive cross-border approach to critical infrastructure resilience, focused on sharing information and assessing and managing joint risks.

Moreover, last month, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper signed a landmark "Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness" that sets forth how our two countries will manage our shared homeland and economic security in the 21st century. This "Shared Vision" aims to grow our economies, create jobs, and expedite legitimate travel and trade by improving the efficiency of our busiest border crossing points, by taking a risk-management approach to the entry of travelers and goods, expanding our efforts to prevent, deter and disrupt evolving terrorist threats at the earliest point possible, and by dealing collaboratively with other crimes or natural disasters that affect both countries.

To achieve these goals, we will strengthen intelligence and information sharing efforts, continuing joint threat assessments and improving our ability to verify the identities of travelers passing through and between our countries to ensure our enforcement agencies have timely information.

We will also build on the successful elements of existing programs like NEXUS and Free and Secure Trade (FAST), which expedite the processing of pre-approved, recurrently vetted, low-risk travelers and shippers. And we will more closely coordinate investments in infrastructure and technology at our ports of entry, automating processes where possible.

Further, we will continue to identify areas where it makes sense to develop joint facilities, programs, and operations to improve coordination. This includes the creation of new bi-national port of entry committees to coordinate port operations and management, enhanced national efforts to coordinate planning and funding on both sides of the border, and the expansion of successful joint law enforcement initiatives that have proven effective in combating cross border crime and illegal immigration.

Finally, because many communities that span the border benefit from shared critical and cyber infrastructure, we will work to expand collaboration to prevent, respond to, and recover from attacks and disruptions to shared assets and key resources.

To develop and implement the nuts and bolts of this shared vision, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper have established a Beyond the Border Working Group, comprised of representatives from relevant U.S. and Canadian departments, that will report to them in the coming months with a joint plan of action to realize the goals of the vision, followed by an annual report on our progress.

Enforcing and Administering Our Immigration Laws

What we do to protect our borders is inseparable from immigration enforcement in the interior of our country, and both are critical to an effective immigration system. Our approach to immigration enforcement is guided by a common sense premise based on sound prosecutorial practice: implement the measures that best protect public safety and produce the most significant results.

Over the past two years, our approach has focused on identifying criminal aliens and those who pose the greatest risk to our communities, and prioritizing them for removal. We also have worked to ensure that employers have the tools they need to maintain a legal workforce, and face penalties if they knowingly and repeatedly violate the law. And we have made significant changes to our immigration detention system, to recognize the basic differences between immigration violators – from families with small children to hardened, violent criminals and gang members – and treat them accordingly.

Like our actions at the border, our interior enforcement efforts are achieving major results. In Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010, ICE removed more illegal immigrants from our country than ever before, with more than 779,000 removals nationwide in the last two years. Most importantly, more than half of those aliens removed last year – upwards of 195,000 – were convicted criminals, the most ever removed from our country in a single year.

This surge in criminal removals did not happen by accident; it is the result of a targeted enforcement strategy designed to set priorities, maximize resources, and identify and remove those who present the biggest danger to communities.

A major part of this success can be attributed to the expansion of Secure Communities, a program that has allowed law enforcement to identify and remove tens of thousands of criminal aliens in state prisons and local jails by running their fingerprints against federal immigration databases at the time of booking. Since 2008, ICE has expanded Secure Communities from 14 jurisdictions to more than 1,000 today, including every jurisdiction along the Southwest border. We expect to reach complete nationwide deployment by 2013.

We also have stepped up worksite enforcement, last year arresting a record number of employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens. ICE has significantly expanded its use of I-9 audits, which are used to investigate employers suspected of employing illegal aliens. Since January 2009, ICE has audited more than 3,600 employers suspected of employing unauthorized aliens, debarred more than 260 companies and individuals, and imposed approximately $56 million in financial sanctions – more than the total amount of audits and debarments than during the entire previous administration.

In addition, we have strengthened the efficiency and accuracy of E-Verify – our on-line employment verification system managed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) which is designed to assist employers in abiding by the law. As of today, more than 249,000 employers are enrolled in E-Verify, representing more than 857,000 locations. More than 1,300 new employers enroll each week and the number of employers enrolled in E-Verify has more than doubled each fiscal year since 2007. In FY 2010, E-Verify processed 16.4 million employment queries.

Through a range of new measures and initiatives, USCIS has continued to improve E-Verify's accuracy and efficiency, enhance customer service, and reduce fraud and misuse. For example, in February 2009, USCIS began incorporating the ability to verify passport data into the E-Verify system to reduce mismatches for naturalized and derivative U.S. citizens and to combat identity fraud. Because of this enhancement, in FY 2010 more than 81,000 queries that previously would have received an incorrect mismatch were automatically verified as employment authorized. In September 2010, USCIS also added the ability to verify U.S. Passport and U.S. Passport Card photographs through E-Verify. This addition allows employers to compare the photograph displayed in E-Verify with the photograph on the employee's U.S. Passport, reducing identity theft.

To ensure that companies that enroll in E-Verify are legal and active corporate entities, in June 2010, USCIS also began using an independent information provider with a database of 177 million business records to establish corporate status. And to further increase accuracy and efficiency, USCIS has made enhancements to the E-Verify web interface. In June 2010, E-Verify launched improved navigational tools to enhance ease-of-use, minimize errors, and bolster compliance with clear terms of use.

USCIS also has increased its staffing dedicated to E-Verify monitoring and compliance, adding 80 staff positions to this program responsibility. USCIS also launched new initiatives to protect employee rights, including streamlining the process for addressing potential cases of discrimination and E-Verify misuse, establishing a hotline for employees, and producing new educational training videos that emphasize employee rights.

In addition to providing tools for employers to abide by the law, ICE has continued to implement major reforms to our immigration detention system, launching an Online Detainee Locator System to assist family members and attorneys in locating aliens detained in ICE custody, reducing the number of facilities where detainees are housed, improving access to medical care, drafting new detention standards, and creating a risk assessment tool to ensure ICE is detaining aliens commensurate with the risk they present.

Finally, to combat the growing problem of smuggling and trafficking, we have continued to conduct targeted enforcement operations while launching national public awareness campaigns, including in Central and South America, to shine a spotlight on this unconscionable crime.

In April 2010, ICE conducted "Operation In Plain Sight," the largest investigation of its kind, targeting shuttle companies that were transporting undocumented aliens throughout the state of Arizona and beyond. The investigation resulted in the criminal arrests of 62 subjects for alien smuggling and associated crimes. Overall in FY 2010, ICE initiated more than 2,200 human smuggling investigations, resulting in more than 2,500 arrests, 1,400 indictments, 1,500 convictions, and $15 million in asset seizures.

DHS also launched the Blue Campaign to Combat Human Trafficking, a national initiative focused on protection, prevention, and prosecution. The campaign includes an innovative computer-based training for state and local law enforcement officers; an international print, video, and radio public awareness campaign; a multi-lingual domestic public awareness campaign in 50 foreign language newspapers; victim assistance materials distributed at ports of entry; and a new DHS website, www.dhs.gov/humantrafficking, which provides comprehensive anti-human trafficking materials and resources for human trafficking victims, law enforcement officers, concerned citizens, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.

Improvements to Legal Immigration

Another critical element of an effective immigration system is ensuring that we provide timely and efficient benefits and services to legal immigrants to the United States. Our country is a nation of immigrants, and we must remain open and welcoming to new immigrants while supporting their integration into our society.

Over the past two years, USCIS has taken a number of actions to improve its ability to meet these goals. By streamlining and modernizing operations, USCIS is now processing applications for naturalization and other critical immigration benefits rapidly, meeting or exceeding performance goals.

As a customer-focused agency, USCIS also has taken steps to improve one of its primary interfaces with the public: www.uscis.gov. In FY 2010, USCIS launched a new online inquiry tool to make it easier to check case status, receive updates via e-mail and text message, and find information of specific relevance to an individual's case. In addition, USCIS launched a new Citizenship Resource Center on USCIS.gov that serves as a one-stop resource for students, teachers, and organizations to obtain citizenship preparation educational resources and information.

USCIS also has made security enhancements to some of its key identity documents to prevent counterfeiting, obstruct tampering, and facilitate quick and accurate authentication. The Permanent Resident Card, commonly known as the "Green Card," now contains several major new security features, and USCIS redesigned the Certificate of Naturalization to more effectively detect document tampering, validate identity, reduce fraud, and decrease overall expenses.

USCIS also has continued to naturalize thousands of new Americans each year, including record numbers of members of our nation's armed forces. In FY 2010, USCIS granted citizenship to 11,146 members of the U.S. armed forces at ceremonies in the United States and 22 countries abroad. This figure represents the highest number of service members naturalized in any year since 1955.

Since September 2001, USCIS has naturalized nearly 65,000 service men and women, including those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. To expedite U.S. citizenship for qualified military personnel, last year DHS published a rule that reduces the time requirements for naturalization through military service from three years to one year for applicants who served during peacetime, and extends benefits to members of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Taken together, these improvements to our legal immigration system, coupled with our efforts to secure the border and enforce immigration laws in the interior, are producing significant results. We intend to make even greater strides in the coming year. However, we know that more will be required to fully address our nation's immigration challenges. Congress needs to take up reforms to our immigration system to address long-standing, systemic problems with our nation's immigration laws.  President Obama is firm in his commitment to advancing immigration reform, and I am personally looking forward to working with Congress to achieve this goal, and to continue to set appropriate benchmarks for our success in the future.

Conclusion

The President's FY 2012 budget continues the investments we have made in counterterrorism, border security, and immigration enforcement, enabling the Department to sustain and build on the progress I have outlined for the committee in my testimony today.

To prevent terrorism and enhance security, the budget provides funding for Transportation Security Officers, Behavioral Detection Officers, canine teams and Advanced Imaging Technology machines at domestic airports, expands watch list vetting, and enhances screening and targeting of international travelers. It also strengthens surface transportation security, invests in radiological and nuclear countermeasures, improves biological and agro-defense, and increases support for state and local fusion centers.

The President's budget also supports a total of 21,370 Border Patrol agents and 21,186 U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at our borders and ports of entry – both all time highs – and provides for the continued deployment of proven, effective surveillance technology along the highest trafficked areas of the Southwest border, new technology on the northern border, and additional maritime assets for the U.S. Coast Guard. In addition, the budget will enable ICE to fund 33,400 detention beds, remove more than 200,000 criminal aliens, and deploy Secure Communities to 96 percent of all jurisdictions nationwide in FY 2012.

I have said before that we cannot seal our country under a glass dome. We cannot address every threat, at every moment, in every place. But we can continue to provide the information, resources and support that the hardworking men and women of DHS, our federal partners, and state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement and first responders need to effectively prevent and recover from acts of terrorism, mitigate the threats we face, and protect our borders and our country.

The priorities we have set over the past two years are working. We are finding and interdicting terrorists and transnational criminals. Illegal immigration is decreasing. Deportations are increasing. Crime rates are dropping. The numbers that are supposed to go up have gone up, and the numbers that are supposed to go down have gone down.

I want to thank this Committee for its support of our mission to keep America safe. I also want to thank the men and women who are working day and night to protect and defend our country, often at great personal risk. We owe them our continued support and gratitude.

---

1 Please see "Understanding the Homeland Threat Landscape – Considerations for the 112th Congress," February 9, 2011.

 

Back to Top