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December 16, 2015
5:50 pm

This blog was originally posted by The White House on December 16.

by Cecilia Muñoz, León Rodríguez, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

White House Task Force on New Americans Releases One-Year Progress

As the daughter and son of immigrants, we have lived the American dream. Every day, we work side by side with federal officials who are deeply committed to ensuring that the promise of this dream is available to all Americans, including our newest Americans. That’s why we are honored to serve as the co-chairs of the White House Task Force on New Americans.

One year ago, the President established the Task Force to develop a coordinated federal strategy to better integrate and welcome new Americans into communities and support state and local efforts to do the same. As President Obama stated in his presidential memorandum establishing this interagency effort, “By focusing on the civic, economic, and linguistic integration of new Americans, we can help immigrants and refugees in the United States contribute fully to our economy and their communities.”

Today, we are pleased to share the Task Force’s One-Year Progress Report on implementing its robust federal immigrant and refugee integration strategy. The report highlights Task Force actions and accomplishments on the 16 core goals and 48 recommendations identified in its April 2015 Strategic Action Plan.  

Among accomplishments to date, the Task Force has:

  • Spearheaded the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign to encourage local immigrant and refugee integration efforts, with 48 cities and counties already joined in the effort, and organized a White House Building Welcoming Communities convening for participating cities and counties;
  • Launched two initiatives: the “Stand Stronger” Citizenship Awareness campaign with a video message from President Obama and in partnership with local communities, as well as a complementary campaign at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to promote awareness of the rights, responsibilities, and importance of United States citizenship;
  • Named Presidential Ambassadors for Citizenship and Naturalization to harness the stories of prominent new Americans and U.S.-born individuals with immigrant roots to promote naturalization, bolster integration initiatives, and increase awareness of the rich contributions of new Americans;
  • Dedicated 150 Welcoming Communities AmeriCorps members to nearly 100 communities through partnerships with the YMCA, Catholic Charities, and eight refugee resettlement organizations to assist local communities with integration efforts;
  • Launched the Small Business Administration’s “Made It In America” website to promote immigrant entrepreneurship and piloted new “SBA 101” classes for immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs;
  • Expanded access to linguistic integration and education by creating and disseminating best practices and hosting webinars, regional convenings, and other activities to connect new Americans with education systems; and
  • Supported five communities seeking to build networks to strengthen integration through adult education providers.

Immigrants and refugees have always been a source of America’s strength. By extending a welcoming hand, the United States has continually tapped new sources of economic and cultural vitality. We can and must continue to reunite families; welcome students, workers, and entrepreneurs who seek to contribute to our economy; and remain a beacon of hope for vulnerable refugees, while ensuring the highest vigilance for our nation’s security. As President Obama has said, we were founded upon a belief in human dignity, and we must never forget what makes us exceptional. At the heart of that is our ability, generation after generation, to welcome newcomers and help them learn and live by the values we share as Americans. 

Learn about the Task Force's Accomplishments in 2015:

December 4, 2015
3:19 pm

USCG Trombone

The holidays are here! The U.S. Coast Guard Band performs alongside Trombone Shorty at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in Washington, D.C.. The Department’s premier band traveled from New London, Connecticut to join the President and First Family in welcoming the holiday season.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings | Download High-Resolution Image (4257 x 3041)

December 2, 2015
2:30 pm

Last month, the Idaho National Laboratory hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a newly operational radioisotope mass separator (RMS), a device that will improve the accuracy and precision of nuclear forensics analysis. The RMS is co-sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  Representatives from DNDO, FBI, Department of Energy, U.S. Air Force Technical Applications Center, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology attended the ceremony.

Nuclear forensics supports nuclear smuggling investigations and also aids attribution of a nuclear terrorist event. In the event of a nuclear attack, or when an adversary is caught smuggling nuclear materials, it is important to determine the material’s origin and the perpetrators. These signatures are discovered in the variations of radioactive elements in the material, or its “radioisotopes.” Scientists can measure the composition of the material at the atomic level by using analytical standards and certified reference materials. The RMS produces these ultra-purified radioisotope comparison standards, which will help advance the nation’s nuclear forensics capabilities.

Accurately identifying the material’s source, based on reliable scientific methods, is crucial to ensuring successful prosecution of smugglers, finding and addressing breaches in nuclear security globally, and supporting appropriate national responses to perpetrators of nuclear terrorism.  Nuclear forensics helps the United States to hold fully accountable any state, terrorist group, or other non-state actor that supports or enables terrorist efforts to obtain or use weapons of mass destruction.  DNDO will continue to invest in nuclear forensics technologies, such as the RMS, to help prevent, deter, and respond to nuclear smuggling and nuclear terrorism.

briefing - Radioiosotope mass separator

Federal partners receive a briefing on the Radioisotope Mass Separator
(Photo Credit: Idaho National Laboratory)

radioiosotope mass separator at the idaho national lab

The Radioisotope Mass Separator at the Idaho National Laboratory
(Photo Credit: Idaho National Laboratory)


December 2, 2015
2:09 pm

This blog was originally posted by USCIS on December 2.

Do you have a question about citizenship, forms, or something else we do? Come to our website and meet Emma, our new virtual assistant!



Emma is a computer-generated chat feature that will answer your questions and help you navigate our website. There’s no live person behind the chat box, but you can talk to her using your own words.

Getting Emma’s help is easy: just click on "Ask a question" in the upper right corner of one of our Web pages and type a question into her chat window. Emma will respond in writing, and if you click the speaker icon, she’ll talk to you. She works best on desktop computers and will soon be available on mobile devices. Emma is fluent in English only, but she’s learning Spanish.

Emma was named after poet Emma Lazarus, whose poem "The New Colossus" is commemorated in a bronze plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

Emma plaque

The innovation and agility needed to protect our Nation’s critical infrastructure requires collaboration between both the public and private sectors. Today, the Department of Homeland Security is releasing a national plan to guide research activities across all 16 critical infrastructure sectors, which provide the essential products and services that support the Nation’s safety, prosperity, and well-being.

The National Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Research and Development (CISR R&D) Plan, mandated  by Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 21, identifies priority areas that inform R&D investments, promote innovation, and guide research activities across the critical infrastructure community.

This plan outlines a path forward for stakeholders to collaborate in implementing and advancing the National CISR R&D Priority Areas. The Plan was developed through a collaborative process involving public and private stakeholders from across the critical infrastructure community.

The National CISR R&D Priority Areas will: 

  • Deepen the foundational understanding of critical infrastructure systems and systems dynamics
  • Develop fully integrated and scalable risk assessment and management approaches
  • Continue to develop integrated and proactive capabilities, technologies, and methods to support secure and resilient infrastructure
  • Harness the power of cutting edge data sciences to create unified, integrated situational awareness and to understand consequences of action
  • Build a crosscutting culture of CISR R&D collaboration, to focus on creating  unity of effort, and building up skills and education capabilities

We will continue to engage with our stakeholders as the critical infrastructure community works to further define R&D requirements and design and implement solutions that meet identified needs.

For more information or to download a copy of the plan, visit here

December 1, 2015
5:14 pm

By: Dr. Kim O’Connor, Executive Secretary

At the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), we constantly strive to communicate with the American public as transparently as possible.  In fact, we share this goal with the whole Federal Government. Since the passage of the Plain Writing Act of 2010, we’ve made great strides to ensure we present information in a clear and reliable manner.

On Nov. 17, 2015, Representative Dave Loebsack and the Center for Plain Language released the 2015 Plain Language Report Card. For the second year in a row, DHS was recognized for its outstanding efforts implementing the use of plain language Department-wide.  This year, DHS was awarded an “A+” in compliance and an “A” in writing and information design. 

This report card acknowledges efforts at every level of the department to produce easily understandable content.  As Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said, “Clarity, transparency, and the Department’s responsiveness to the American public are amongst our highest priorities.”

Many DHS employees have had the opportunity to receive training on the plain language standards. The feedback I’ve received is that the training is both engaging and highly valuable.  I appreciate the efforts taking place across DHS to further institutionalize the use of plain language and ensure we continue to communicate with the American people as effectively as possible.

November 30, 2015
11:04 am

Too full from turkey to go shopping on Black Friday? Cyber Monday allows shoppers to avoid the crowds and take advantage of great deals online from the convenience of their computer or mobile device. According to the National Retail Federation, nearly half of all holiday shopping will be done online this year. While online shoppers will be able to take advantage of big sales and deep discounts, they’ll also see an increase in cybercrime as online criminals seek to exploit the festive season.

With Cyber Monday, it’s important to learn how to shop securely during the holidays. To help keep you and your bank account safe, follow these three simple steps from the Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think.Connect. campaign:

  1. Protect Yourself Against Phishing Attempts. During the holiday season, scammers may send fake emails about order problems or deals that are too good to be true to entice you to click a malicious link. Online thieves often use these links to compromise your computer. Instead of clicking on links, type in the address yourself or look it up on a search engine and follow that link. You can also call a company directly to confirm the legitimacy of an email’s claim. Additionally, look for typos or other visual errors in the email, which may indicate that it was not sent from the reputable company it claims to be.
  2. Use Strong Passwords for Sensitive Accounts. Protect your personal information by making the passwords to your bank and credit card accounts stronger. Create a password with 8 characters or more and a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Use unique passwords for all accounts. If you have the same password for all of your accounts, this increases the chance that a criminal can access all of your other accounts if they figure out your one of your passwords.
  3. Avoid Shopping on Public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi is convenient when you’re away from home and on the go, but not as secure as a password protected Wi-Fi or your home network. Save your online shopping, banking, or sensitive transactions for a secure connection, preferably when you’re back at your house.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think.Connect. campaign encourages everyone to practice good cybersecurity all year round. For more tips and resources, visit

November 24, 2015
6:40 pm

On Sunday, I joined Homeland Secretary Johnson in New York City with Mayor de Blasio, Police Commissioner Bratton, Fire Commissioner Nigro, and Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito to observe the New York Police Department’s active shooter training exercise. I am pleased that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) had the opportunity to help support this important exercise.

Through the outstanding work of the DHS S&T Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Explosives Division team and the NYPD Counter Terrorism Division, we helped to fund and develop the concept for the exercise, provide training, and identify new technologies that could be used in future emergencies. 

S&T’s mission is to deliver cutting-edge research to produce new technologies, capabilities and threat and risk assessments to meet the critical needs of our homeland security partners. DHS S&T, through an agreement with U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), co-created the Counter Terrorism Technology Evaluation Center to assist first responders with evaluating tactics, techniques, and procedures, identifying and resourcing training opportunities and researching technologies for response to an active shooter incident. This is the fifth exercise DHS has helped to plan and coordinate to support technology demonstrations and training evaluations. 

This exercise allowed S&T to observe first responders using several tools that can be translated for use by DHS and other first responders. These technologies included an indoor shot detection capability, a geo-referenced graph for better situational awareness, and an interoperable communications capability developed and currently used by the U.S. Army.

The exercise included S&T, the National Protection and Programs Directorate, U.S. Secret Service, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency; the U.S. Army’s Armament Research Development and Engineering Center; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and numerous state and local entities. 

I congratulate NYC on the success of the exercise and on the impressive coordination and cooperation between the NYPD, FDNY, NYOEM, and other state and federal agencies.  S&T is proud to continue to support these active shooter exercises to ensure the safety and security of our communities.

DHS Officials visit NY

    On Nov. 22, DHS officials visited New York City to observe a New York Police Department active shooter exercise. The exercise was supported by the Department of Homeland Security. (Photo credit: Barry Bahler/DHS) 


November 24, 2015
5:51 pm

This blog was originally posted by The White House on November 24.

Summary: Watch this video to see exactly what a potential refugee goes through to resettle in the U.S.:

Watch this video to see exactly what a potential refugee goes through to resettle in the U.S.:

Since the attacks in Paris, many have asked about our process for admitting Syrian refugees into this country.

I understand the anxiety that many Americans are feeling right now. And as Secretary of Homeland Security, I share with President Obama the top priority of keeping the American people safe. So let me be clear about what this process of vetting and resettling refugees looks like.  

It’s important to remember, we’re focused on admitting the most vulnerable Syrians -- this means mostly women, children and families.  Second, anyone who applies for and is approved for refugee status in the United States, including Syrians, must first go through a rigorous security screening process.

Taking in refugees at times of crisis is simply the right thing to do. It’s who we are as a Nation.

And we can continue to ensure our own security, while doing our share to welcome refugees fleeing violence, looking to America as their beacon of hope and freedom.

This is the United States of America. We can, we must, and we will do both these things.

November 24, 2015
10:04 am

Earlier this month, the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman hosted its fifth annual conference at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  Our conference is a unique open forum where government and stakeholders engage in robust dialogue about current immigration benefits issues.  We welcomed more than 300 attendees from across the country to share their experiences and gather insights from government representatives, while hundreds more joined the conference via livestream.

This year, we continued to focus on an important theme – Government and Stakeholders Working Together to Improve Immigration Services.  In our fifth year hosting this conference I believe that now, more than ever, it is critical to bring together immigration professionals from all sectors to discuss policy and quality of adjudications issues impacting USCIS’ customers.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson delivered keynote remarks, encouraging stakeholders to remain involved, adding: “For those of you … who want to build a better system and will build a better life here for immigrants, I say keep at it, don’t give up and don’t lose hope.”  Secretary Johnson was followed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Rodriguez, who presented timely remarks and engaged with stakeholders during an extensive question and answer session.  He noted the vital role of the Ombudsman’s Office and announced that USCIS has adopted the Ombudsman’s recommendations to centralize adjudications of special immigration juvenile petitions into one USCIS service center.   The subsequent morning plenary offered a rare opportunity to hear directly from government decision-makers regarding planning and implementation of President Obama’s 2014 directive to take common sense steps to fix our broken immigration system through executive actions. 

Stakeholders received substantive information on immigration law and policy through the various panel topics including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), humanitarian parole, employment authorization documents, I-601A provisional Waivers, and employment-based and humanitarian hot topics. Throughout the day, participating government representatives were forthcoming with information and explanations, helping the public better understand government policy and decision-making all around.

The Ombudsman’s Office relies on its stakeholders to keep us informed of current or emerging immigration benefits issues.  During an “Ask the Experts” brown bag session, participants met members of the Ombudsman staff - including those directly handling requests for assistance and drafting policy recommendations on immigration benefits issues - and were able engage in constructive dialogue and have their questions answered.

Each year the Ombudsman’s conference emphasizes the need for good governance, which is grounded in a steadfast commitment to efficiency, transparency, and accountability.  As an office of last resort, we continue to ensure customers experience government at its best.   

If you were unable to join us in person, you can watch the conference’s morning session, Employment Hot Topics- Year in Review panel, and other selected panels here.

Are you interested in learning more about the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman? Visit our website and follow us on Facebook to get educated, and find additional opportunities to get involved.


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