The Obama administration announced plans Thursday to restructure the nation's much-criticized immigration detention system by strengthening federal oversight and seeking to standardize conditions in a 32,000-bed system now scattered throughout 350 local jails, state prisons and contract facilities.
John Morton, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said his goal within three to five years is to hold noncriminal immigrants in a smaller number of less prison-like settings. Those facilities would meet federal guidelines ensuring access to pro bono legal counsel, medical care and grievance proceedings, he said.
"We need a system that is open, transparent and accountable," Morton said. "With these reforms, ICE will move away from our present decentralized jail approach to a system that is wholly designed for and based on civil detention needs and the needs of the people we detain."
The new approach comes after a massive detention buildup under President George W. Bush, an increase that civil liberties and immigrant advocacy groups say led to systemic abuse. Starting after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and accelerating as Washington took a get-tough approach to illegal immigration, ICE's detention system more than tripled in size. It now houses nearly 400,000 immigration violators a year.
From the Associated Press, on the updated hurricane outlook:
The Atlantic hurricane season will be less active than originally predicted, government forecasters said Thursday after the first two months of the half-year stretch passed without any named storms developing.
Updating its May outlook, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said a warmer weather pattern called an El Nino over the Pacific Ocean was acting as a damper to tropical storms in the Caribbean and neighboring Atlantic.
But forecasters at NOAA's National Hurricane Center warned people to remain vigilant because the peak period for hurricanes runs from this month through October. The overall season lasts from June through November.
From the Baltimore Sun, on crab canneries no longer in a pinch:
Maryland seafood processors, desperately short of hands to pick crabmeat, are rushing to apply for visas for foreign workers after the federal Department of Homeland Security declared Thursday that 25,000 seasonal immigration permits have gone unclaimed for this year.
The unexpected discovery that some of the annual allocation of 66,000 seasonal worker visas were still available was a welcome relief for the operators of Eastern Shore crab "picking houses," some of which had remained shuttered when the season started in the spring because they could not find enough help.
Even in a region with nearly double-digit unemployment, the crab companies remain reliant on migrant labor from abroad because so few local residents are willing to take the messy, repetitive jobs.
Recent employment drives have been unsuccessful, leaving employers to wait for federal relief.
"This is great news, just huge," said Jack Brooks, president of the Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association, and co-owner of J.M. Clayton Co., a Cambridge picking house that has been operating with less than half its normal staff. He and others say the federal announcement came in the nick of time to save the state's seafood industry from the brink of economic calamity.
From the Wall Street Journal, on yesterday's denial of service attacks:
Multiple Internet sites, including popular hangouts Twitter and Facebook, were temporarily disrupted Thursday after they were struck by apparently coordinated computer attacks.
Users were unable to access Twitter's Web site for about two hours starting around 9 a.m. EDT. Around the same time, Facebook users saw delays logging in or using the social network.
Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. were working together with Google Inc. to investigate what happened, according to a person familiar with the matter. Another person familiar with the attack said it may have been targeted at a single Russian activist blogger with accounts across the impacted services.
The companies traced the problem to what the computer industry calls "denial-of-service" attacks, which are designed to make sites inaccessible by overwhelming them with a flood of traffic. Though such attacks are fairly routine, simultaneous action against multiple consumer Internet companies is rare.
9:16 AM EDT
Secretary Napolitano, Secretary Sebelius, Secretary Duncan and CDC Director Tom Frieden will participate in a news conference about new H1N1 School Guidance
Health and Human Services Headquarters
200 INDEPENDENCE ST. SW
10:00 AM EDT
U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen will preside at the Change of Watch where Vice Admiral David Pekoske will relieve Vice Admiral Vivean Crea as the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard
Coast Guard TISCOM
7323 Telegraph Road,
2:00 PM EDT
ICE Special Agent in Charge Bruce Foucart will participate in a media availability announcing arrests pursuant to an ICE-led Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) case
Bristol County District Attorney’s Office
888 Purchase Street
New Bedford, Mass.