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News Round Up- December 11th

From the Arizona Republic, Secretary Napolitano says Immigration Reform is still a priority:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Thursday that overhauling the nation's immigration laws is still a top priority for President Barack Obama and that Congress is poised to act despite some lawmakers' concerns that a push could complicate Democratic re-election prospects.

Napolitano, Obama's point person on the topic, said key Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, are onboard with moving ahead early next year. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Senate's immigration subcommittee, is working on the bill.

"We're ready to go, and the president wants to get it done,"
Napolitano said in a meeting with The Arizona Republic's Editorial
Board.

That might prove tricky in an election year, with some Democrats
already on the defensive and fatigued by a protracted and bruising battle over
health-care reform.

Historically, presidents see their party lose congressional seats in midterm elections, and lawmakers generally prefer to avoid having to vote on controversial or divisive issues such as immigration as they run for re-election.

For some Democrats, particularly those running in the South and Southwest, passing nothing might be preferable to having to vote for a controversial measure, said Kareem Crayton, an associate professor of law and political science at the University of Southern California.


From Homeland Security Today, on the DHS National Info-sharing Initiative
On Wednesday Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the launch of a new information-sharing initiative designed to help federal, state, local and tribal first responders communicate better during
emergencies.

The new program, called Virtual USA, according to Napolitano, will enable first responders nationwide to link disparate tools and technologies in order to share the location and status of critical assets and information. These may include power and water lines, flood detectors, helicopter-capable landing sites, emergency vehicle and ambulance locations, weather and traffic conditions, evacuation routes, and school and government building floor plans.

"Our first responders need interoperable tools to make accurate and timely decisions during emergencies," said Secretary Napolitano. "Virtual USA makes it possible for new and existing technologies to work together seamlessly during disaster response and recovery and gives the public an opportunity to contribute information in real-time to support the efforts of police officers, firefighters and other emergency management officials."

As outlined in a release by DHS Virtual USA will integrates existing communications frameworks, utilizing current information-sharing platforms to permit new and existing technologies to seamlessly exchange information with one another. The initiative will attempt to foster dynamic information sharing among all federal, state, local and tribal practitioners.


From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, on homeland security grants
Dallas-Fort Worth was named one of the top 10 terrorism targets in the country by the federal government this week, a designation that paves the way for millions in extra homeland security funding to the region.

"This is not, I stress, bad news for Fort Worth or the North Texas region," Mayor Mike Moncrief said Thursday. "This is good news. It's something that needed to happen before it did."

Dallas-Fort Worth, Boston and Philadelphia were all added to the ranking of Tier 1 high-threat urban areas by the Homeland Security Department in its annual review. All cities not in the top 10 are lumped into Tier 2.

The bulk of the federal funding to fight terrorism comes from Homeland Security's
Urban Areas Security Initiative Program. Moving to Tier 1 instantly creates the possibility of 30 percent more funding for the three urban areas.

The Metroplex is now eligible for $25 million in fiscal 2010. The $5.8 million increase is bigger than that of any other urban area except New York City, according to federal documents.

"They moved us into Tier 1 so that we can increase our surveillance, especially for domestic terrorism," said Melissa Patterson, Tarrant County emergency management coordinator.

The money will fund a wide range of public services, including intelligence-gathering units focused on domestic terrorism and first responders trained to help during a variety of disasters, Patterson said. Some of the funding will also likely go toward preparing for future public health efforts such as mass vaccinations.


From Brownsville Herald, on a drug seizure a the southwest border
U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized more than 100 pounds of marijuana and arrested one Brownsville woman, officials said.

Elizabeth Noemi Almazan, 22, was arrested Monday afternoon at Veteran's International Bridge and later charged with possession of a controlled substance-marijuana, court records show.

The arrest took place when Almazan drove a 1995 white Dodge Dakota truck to an inspection booth at the bridge and was referred to a secondary inspection area, said an agency release.

At the secondary inspection area, CBP officers used various imaging devices and a narcotics detecting canine to confirm the presence of narcotics in the tires and tailgate of the truck, CBP said.

The officers removed 33 packages of marijuana from the tailgate and tires weighing approximately 107 pounds and with a street value of $107,000, the agency reported.
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
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