Posted by Margo Schlanger
I’m pleased to announce that the Department has published new guidance for agencies and organizations that receive DHS financial assistance on providing meaningful access for people with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). The purpose of the LEP Guidance is to help those who carry out Department-supported activities – such as homeland security grants – to understand and implement their obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI and its regulations prohibit recipients of federal financial assistance from conducting their programs in a way that subjects persons to discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. Long standing interpretations of the law and regulations indicate that failing to take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access for LEP persons is a form of national origin discrimination prohibited by Title VI regulations.
DHS recipients include state and local emergency management agencies, fire and police departments, mass transit authorities, community emergency response teams, and other governmental and non-governmental organizations that provide vital services to the public. This new LEP Guidance will assist them in carrying out their programs in a way that is accessible to all communities, regardless of English proficiency.
At the same time the Department is providing guidance to recipients of financial assistance on their obligations under Title VI, the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) is engaging with DHS partners and LEP stakeholders to improve language access in the Department’s own programs and activities. These engagement activities will contribute toward the development of a comprehensive DHS LEP Plan, which is underway.
In support of the Department’s goal to improve language access, more about the LEP Guidance and CRCL’s complaint form can be viewed in alternate languages on CRCL’s website. Read more at www.dhs.gov/crcl.
Margo Schlanger is the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) at the United States Department of Homeland Security
Posted by Margo Schlanger
In today’s threat environment – more than ever – we know that our security is a shared responsibility and the best security strategy is one that gets the public involved. That’s why the Department of Homeland Security is focused on strengthening our country’s defenses by getting all stakeholders – including the public – the information and resources they need in order to play their part in helping to secure the country.
We’ve begun a great deal of this work by building the capabilities of fusion centers, launching the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, and expanding the “If You See Something, Say Something,” campaign. Now, we are taking another major step forward through the new National Terrorism Advisory System or NTAS. This new system –which will be fully implemented on April 26 – counts on the American public as a key partner in securing our country.
NTAS is built on a clear and simple premise: When a threat develops that could impact you – the public – we will tell you. We will provide whatever information we can so you know how to protect yourselves, your families, and your communities.
Under the new system, DHS will coordinate with other federal entities to issue formal, detailed alerts when the federal government receives information about a specific or credible terrorist threat. These alerts will include a clear statement that there is an imminent threat or elevated threat, a summary of the potential threat, actions being taken to ensure public safety, and steps that individuals and communities can take to protect themselves and help prevent, mitigate or respond to the threat. These alerts will also have a specified end date.
For Americans, this will mean some visible changes. You won’t hear the old color-code announcements when you go to airports, or see them when you visit a government website. Instead, when a threat arises that could affect you and your family, you will hear about it through an NTAS Alert issued by DHS through official channels, such as the DHS website, the news media, and via social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter.
During past attacks and incidents, we have seen the life-saving contributions of everyday Americans who alert authorities to something suspicious and help avert danger. We strongly believe that, if we are facing a particular threat, the American people should be equipped with whatever information we can provide so you know how to protect yourselves, your families, and your communities. The new NTAS system will do just that, and is an important part of the ongoing efforts to make our country safer and more secure.
On the 16th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, it is important to take a moment to remember this awful tragedy, while also celebrating the stories of recovery and resilience that have emerged since.
The Oklahoma City bombing is particularly important to me – as the U.S. Attorney for Arizona at the time, I was charged with helping lead a portion of the criminal investigation into the bombing, which Timothy McVeigh planned with an associate in Arizona.
Since that terrible day 16 years ago, our country has made great strides in enhancing our communities’ abilities to prevent, respond to and recover from acts of terrorism.
Importantly, over the past two years, we have refocused our efforts around a simple but powerful idea: that homeland security starts with hometown security, and we all play a role in keeping our country safe.
As part of this approach, we have expanded the “If You See Something, Say Something,” campaign to more than 9,000 government facilities nationwide, as well as to local transit systems, professional sports leagues, Walmart, Mall of America, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the general aviation industry, and state and local fusion centers across the country.
We’ve also worked to expand the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative – an administration effort to train 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 – to communities throughout the country.
We’ve implemented new security standards for all federal buildings and facilities across our country and deployed new risk assessment tools to help our federal inspectors increase protection and reduce vulnerabilities.
And we have implemented a comprehensive initiative to counter threats of violent extremism within our country, working closely with state and local law enforcement and communities themselves to recognize potential indicators or warning signs of extremism.
Preventing acts of terrorism requires all of us to do our part. We can’t seal our country under a glass dome or guarantee there will never again be another terrorist attack. But we can continue to work day and night to do everything we can to increase our preparedness and resilience in the face of ever changing threats.
Oklahoma City is an example to all of us of how a community responded to a tragedy with unflinching courage, strength, and resilience. Last year I had the honor of meeting with some of these survivors and their families and visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. This year, FEMA Deputy Administrator Tim Manning will be there on behalf of the Department.
Today, we all remember Oklahoma City as if it were our own hometown. We remember the lives lost on that day, but also the inspiring stories of survival. And we learn from and honor the example of our fellow citizens in Oklahoma City by dedicating ourselves to building communities across the country that are safer, stronger and more resilient to threats than ever before.
On March 30, 2011, President Obama signed Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 8 on National Preparedness. This directive instructs the federal government to take action to strengthen our nation’s security and resilience against a variety of hazards, including terrorism, pandemics, and catastrophic natural disasters. It reflects this administration’s belief that the entire emergency management team –all levels of government, the private and non-profits sectors, and individual citizens – plays a key role in keeping our communities safe and secure, meeting the needs of survivors when disaster strikes, and preventing the loss of life and property. Specifically, the directive will help us continue to strengthen this entire emergency management team by directing the government to develop a new national preparedness goal, national preparedness system, comprehensive campaign to build and sustain national preparedness, and national preparedness report based on this new goal.
So how will the PPD get implemented?
We look forward to working extensively with stakeholders at all levels of government, the private and non-profit sectors, and the public to develop the PPD implementation plan and to carry it out once it is finalized. The White House National Security Staff is currently coordinating this process.
All of us can contribute to national preparedness. This administration is dedicated to working with all members of our emergency management team to build a stronger national preparedness system that leverages all elements of our society – federal, state and local governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, faith-based and community partnerships, and individuals – to meet the security, preparedness and resilience needs of our communities.
Mayorkas reminded us of courageous individuals like Gerda Weissmann Klein –a humanitarian, author, human rights activist, Holocaust survivor, and a proud naturalized citizen. Mrs. Weissmann-Klein was a recipient of the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, and was also honored by USCIS as an Outstanding American by Choice – an honor bestowed upon naturalized U.S. citizens who have demonstrated exemplary commitment to this country.
As the federal agency that administers naturalization and ensures the integrity and efficiency of the citizenship process, USCIS is proud to have provided tens of thousands of people nationwide with information on eligibility, testing, and citizenship rights and responsibilities. Last year, USCIS’s Citizenship and Integration Grant Program provided nearly $8.1 million to 78 community organizations in 27 states to support citizenship education programs and naturalization application services for lawful permanent residents.
And earlier this year, Mayorkas and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa partnered to debut a first-of-its-kind Immigrant Integration pilot program aimed at strengthening citizenship efforts in L.A., a city that is home to an estimated 2.3 million lawful permanent residents eligible for citizenship. Through proactive citizenship awareness, education, and outreach activities, Mayorkas hopes to replicate this first-of-its-kind collaborative effort in other cities across the country.
“As a nation grounded in the fundamental value that all people are created equal, our unifying promise of citizenship has allowed people of all backgrounds, whether native or foreign-born, to have an equal stake in the future of this nation, “said Mayorkas. “Citizenship solidifies the inclusive vision of what America stands for: a nation united by the common ideals of freedom, equality, and democracy.“
If you are one of the 99 million Americans planning to file your taxes online, it’s important to understand the risks and practice safe online habits. New account fraud, where information is stolen and used to open bank of credit card accounts in a person’s name without their knowledge, is the most common form of identity fraud.
The good news is that there are a number of simple and common sense steps you can take to protect your identity and keep your information secure online. DHS’ Stop. Think. Connect. campaign recommends the following steps to ensure your information stays safe while filing taxes online:
• STOP and consider who you are providing your information to and exactly where it is going. If you are using an online tax service, is it from a reputable company? Beware of phony tax sites and IRS-impersonation scams designed to get you to hand over sensitive information.
• THINK about what a web service is offering and how you found it. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
• CONNECT with the confidence of knowing that you have taken the necessary steps to file your taxes safely and securely online, while protecting your information and your identity.
The IRS does not initiate correspondence through e-mail. If you receive an e-mail saying it is from the IRS, do not click on any links or respond. Instead, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org and delete it from your inbox. The official website for the IRS is http://www.irs.gov/, and all IRS web page addresses begin with this address. Consult with commercial tax preparation services for information on how to verify you are using one of their products.
Even after the April 18 tax filing deadline has come and gone, it’s important to remain vigilant about online security and stop and think before providing your personal information on the Internet.
For more information on how you can help protect yourself from becoming a victim of a cyber attack or cyber crime and how to get involved with DHS’ Stop. Think. Connect. campaign, visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect. For information from the IRS on avoiding tax fraud and scams, visit http://www.irs.gov/compliance/enforcement/article/0,,id=121259,00.html.
| NYPD police assets mobilize for DHS/DNDO|
Securing the Cities full-scale exercise, Tuesday April 5.
Photo Courtesy of NYPD
“The Securing the Cities program is a key component of the Department’s efforts to protect the nation from terrorist threats,” said Secretary Napolitano. “The STC pilot program has helped build a capability among first responders to help detect illicit radiological and nuclear weapons or materials in a major metropolitan area that simply did not exist four years ago.”
Securing the Cities began in 2006 as a pilot project for the New York City region, providing equipment, tools and training through cooperative agreements to the New York Police Department (NYPD), the lead agency for the STC program, which in turn distributes grant money to other participating agencies. In all, STC has provided more than 5,800 pieces of detection equipment, trained nearly 11,000 personnel, and conducted more than a hundred drills.
“Through Securing the Cities, the New York City region is providing thousands of first responders with the tools they need to detect radiological and nuclear threats,” said Warren Stern, Director of DHS’ Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO). “This full-scale exercise will help us to determine how we can continue to improve our ability to identify, prevent and respond to potential nuclear or radiological threats.”
Following an evaluation of the initial pilot, President Obama’s FY 2012 budget request outlines a transition from a pilot program to a more permanent capability that could be continued in the New York City region and replicated in other major metropolitan cities.
Meet Dolan, TSA's 500th puppy to be born into the TSA Puppy Program. Each of the puppies are named after a 9/11 victim to honor their memory, and this puppy was named after Capt. Robert Edward Dolan Jr., who lost his life in the attack on the Pentagon.
Dolan was born at Lackland Air Force Base and if he meets our high standards will be trained by the TSA's National Explosives Detection Canine Team to become an explosives detection dog. Puppies that don’t meet our standards are offered to other agencies or adopted by loving families.
"My children and I are very excited to have a puppy named in Bob’s memory,” said Lisa Dolan, wife of the late Captain Dolan. “Bob began his military career as an explosives ordnance expert. When he was killed at the Pentagon, he was working on Homeland Defense, and so it's very fitting to have one of the TSA puppies named for our hero, Captain Bob Dolan. Knowing “Puppy Dolan” will one day be an explosives detection canine in the service of our country is reassuring. Dolan’s future career keeping travelers safe is a fitting addition to Bob’s legacy of freedom.”
The program has been in place for nine years and out of the 500 puppies, around half of them are currently working in the field, or have been selected as breeders.
Once the puppies are born into the program, they have to be fostered by volunteer families for up to a year prior to their training. If you live in the San Antonio or Austin area and are interested in fostering a puppy such as Dolan, TSA will provide all the food, equipment and veterinary care in exchange for providing a stimulating environment where the puppy can grow and develop.
This op-ed appeared in The Wall Street Journal on April 4, 2011
Over the last few weeks, mayors, sheriffs, business leaders and citizens have joined together with a simple but powerful message: America's Southwest border communities are open for business. This is a message the American people need to hear.
Unfortunately, there is a widespread misperception that the Southwest is wracked by violence spilling over from Mexico's ongoing drug war. The facts tell a different story. Some of America's safest communities are in the Southwest border region, with crime rates in cities along the border staying steady or dropping over the past decade. For example, the crime rate in Tucson, Ariz., fell 15% between 2008 and 2009 and 21% in Brownsville, Texas, over the same period.
In the last two years, the Obama administration has made historic deployments of manpower, technology and infrastructure to help secure our Southwest border. These efforts—along with the heroic work of our Border Patrol agents—are paying off.
Between fiscal years 2009 and 2010, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized 81% more currency, 25% more drugs, and 47% more weapons along the Southwest border than they did between fiscal years 2007 and 2008. Border Patrol apprehensions of illegal aliens—the best indicator of illegal immigration—have dropped by 36% over the past two years to less than a third of its all-time high.
We know these gains are tenuous, which is why we won't let up for a second in our efforts to secure the border and protect communities in the Southwest. In the meantime, the American people and American businesses should know that this region is a vital hub of commerce with room to grow.
>From San Diego, Calif., to Brownsville, Texas, the hundreds of billions of dollars of commerce crossing through the border region each year support hundreds of thousands of good jobs at the border and throughout the country.
Thanks in part to major investments to renovate and expand outdated ports of entry, we have bolstered security while increasing trade. Last year, U.S. exports of goods to Mexico totaled $163.3 billion, an increase of 27% over 2009. Those exports are tied directly to American jobs.
Yet local leaders in the region tell us that the misinformation about safety and security at the border threatens this progress. It drives potential visitors away, hurts local businesses, and simply does not square with the fact the Southwest border region is one of the safest parts of the country.
That's why the Departments of Homeland Security and Commerce joined El Paso Mayor John Cook, as well as the mayors of Nogales and Yuma, Ariz., at the port of entry in El Paso, Texas, last week to call for an end to this type of misinformation and to discuss emerging economic opportunities.
To amplify this message, four gateway states—Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas—will be the initial focus of a new export strategy aiming to promote enhanced cross-border trade with Canada and Mexico as part of President Obama's National Export Initiative.
Under the strategy, trade specialists from the Commerce Department and other agencies will work with border communities to address challenges and foster opportunities along the border. The emphasis will be on helping small and medium-sized U.S. businesses tap into new markets.
El Paso provides an example of the economic opportunities that exist in the Southwest border region as a result of increased security. It now has one of the lowest crime rates among big American cities, and the value of U.S. merchandise exports passing through ports in the El Paso district amounted to $29.2 billion last year—48% higher than in 2009.
We are seeing similar increases in trade in other places across the border, including at major ports near San Diego and Nogales.
Make no mistake: We agree that the security challenges we face at the border are real. But to maximize the economic opportunities in the region, we must also acknowledge the progress we've made over the past two years.
Posted by January Contreras
As Women’s History Month draws to a close, it’s important to recognize the vital role the Department of Homeland Security continues to play in increasing the safety and security of women and girls. Today, Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke at a DHS event to commemorate Women’s History Month and to recognize some of the programs and initiatives across the Department that demonstrate our commitment to this priority.
Among the many initiatives highlighted today was DHS’ Blue Campaign – which brings together components from across the Department to help prevent, detect, and investigate human trafficking – a crime that disproportionately affects women and girls. To further support this effort, this spring, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the DHS Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman and the Department of Health and Human Services will begin a collaborative dialogue with our country’s national network of domestic violence shelters and service providers to address human trafficking and violence against women.
Additional examples of DHS’ efforts to increase the safety and security of women and girls include:
- In 2010, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) administered the full statutory allotment of 10,000 visas for victims of domestic crimes who participated in the investigation and prosecution of their perpetrators – for the first time.
- Since 2008, the U.S. Coast Guard has trained more than 150 victim advocates through its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program and Family Advocacy Program to help protect women and girls
- The U.S. Secret Service has partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, offering polygraph support to local law enforcement to help crack cold cases of missing children, as well as abuse and homicide cases.
- Through U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Victim Assistance Program, 18 new full-time victim assistance specialists have been deployed to 17 ICE offices, in addition to 250 collateral duty Victim Assistance Coordinators, to provide continued guidance and support for victims of violent crimes. ICE is also working closely with the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to help ensure the safety and health of women housed in detention facilities. Across the country, ICE agents are also taking part in anti-trafficking coalitions that partner with local communities to combat human trafficking.
- The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center has deployed programs that train officers on protecting women and girls, including a web-based human trafficking training course and training on violence against women.
- DHS’ Stop.Think.Connect. campaign is increasing public awareness of safe cybersecurity practices and provides parents with the knowledge and tools they need to help their children stay safe online.
While we are extremely proud of our accomplishments in the protection of women and girls, we know there is always the opportunity to do more. As a Department, we are committed to dedicating even more of our efforts to the security of women and girls in the years to come.
January Contreras is the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ombudsman at the United States Department of Homeland Security