Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 8, 2011

Mexico City March

Filed under: Border Security,Immigration,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on May 8, 2011

On Sunday an estimated 20,000 marched in Mexico City calling for an end to violence by both the drug cartels and government. According to the New York Times at least 150,000 participated in some portion of the march which began on Wednesday. The mass rally was inspired by poet Javier Sicilia. His 24-year-old son and six friends were found dead near the resort town of Cuernavaca, a massacre that mirrored scores of others in Mexico’s brutal drug wars.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Sicilia hopes to turn Sunday’s demonstration into a mass movement to fight not only the drug cartels but also the government’s heavy-handed tactics in pursuing them. The leftist academic is a vocal critic of Mr. Calderón’s conservative government, which he says is too corrupt to resolve the problem. Mr. Sicilia hasn’t offered alternatives.

Mexicans have tried before to create a popular movement against criminal violence. In 2004, just before Mr. Calderón began his crackdown against drug gangs, several hundred thousand people gathered in the capital for a “March Against Insecurity.” But momentum stalled.

Nearly 40,000 people have died in drug-related violence since then, with authorities saying Monday that another 13 were killed in a shootout between military and drug gangs at a lake on the border with Texas. Mr. Sicilia and his followers hope the mounting toll is enough to create a popular groundswell.

Following is my own rough translation of Mr. Sicilia’s poem Zazen, with apologies and appreciation.

–+–

I
Feeling, Love, is to look at the wall
the white wall, clean before I pray,
light reflected, a plaster desert
clearly closed, pure boundary.

Sitting at the light of day is hard,
hard time without end, an empty wholeness
when body shifts, heaviness departs
and absence is assuring.

I open my Love in this gap
where I’m alone in a white desert
clean spacious and stark,

dusty light, absence without pride.
Nothing left of me I’m open
clearly this is where you spy.

II
Stung by your light and without hope
my body is in ecstasy for the day
dust cleared in the light of noon,
stubble burnt by Your dedication;

in the soft evening light of this January
light my bread and cold, wet room,
my wife, the city and joy
of my soul burns in your hearth.

What can I expect, if the fire
fully consumes me each day
and leaves only its quiet depths?

Everything in life is light so dear,
only my body is straw, wood and blade
light consumed on earth, is nothing.

 

(Editorial Note: On Tuesday morning I inserted this as a Sunday evening post. I began the post on Sunday but did not complete the amateur translation until Tuesday. Please find the Spanish original at A Media Voz.

July 22, 2010

Immigration: a religious dimension

Filed under: Immigration,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on July 22, 2010

This is the first of a two-part post.  Tomorrow please return to read, Terrorism: a religious dimension, which will demonstrate how the self-revelations offered below expose me as a proto-terrorist. 

–+–

There is some portion of basic bigotry in how the immigration issue can be engaged.  The us vs them, insider vs outsider sensibility that well-served our species for millenia persists.  This perspective can be inflamed by a variety of factors.

But it is another kind of us-vs-them — or I/IT — dismissal to only see bigots where there are, instead, self-critical moral agents seeking to find and abide by a set of principles, even a shared vision of justice, goodness, and truth.

James Carafano and Edwin Meese have written, “The key to an intelligent immigration policy is to remember one central truth: Immigrants who unlawfully enter and remain in the country are violating the law. An amnesty program that ignores this criminal behavior will only contribute to a general disrespect for the law. This is the wrong message to send. We want immigrants to follow the laws of the United States and take them seriously. The United States must continue to be a beacon to the world. The challenge is to create practical policies that can be fairly implemented and that make our national security a priority.” ( Please see: Rule of Law at Stake in Immigration Debate)

I am a self-defined conservative.  I am sympathetic to the logic of the argument set out by Meese and Carafano.  In this I almost certainly demonstrate an embrace of the “Strict Father” prototype proposed by George Lakoff.   There is a Moral Order. There is right and wrong.  It is crucial to clarify, as best we can, the difference between right and wrong, rewarding right and punishing wrong.  The rule of law must be preserved.  All of this describes my fundamental political predisposition.

Yet I have rejected the logic of my predisposition.

Over the last five years or so my lifelong and continuing identity with the Republican Party has been shaken as more and more of my party’s candidates take what I perceive to be an us-vs-them, I/IT, position relative to illegal immigrants.  In over thirty years of voting I had only cast two non-Republican ballots.  But in recent years I have several times voted for the Democrat mostly because I was repulsed by an otherwise qualified Republican candidate seeming to demagogue the immigration issue.

I am increasingly self-aware that this has become a classic single-issue test for me.  I will listen carefully for nuanced positions on most other political issues and will accept all sorts of policy compromises, except when I perceive (rightly or wrongly) that a candidate is going after illegal immigrants.  (I am, by the way, entirely in favor of strong employer sanctions, but this wrinkle doesn’t have much to do with being a proto-terrorist, so I will not explain further.)

How did this happen?

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow and who loves strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)

The gospel of Luke tells us of Jesus and a lawyer discussing another verse from Deuteronomy. They agree that the essential religious rule is, “To love the Lord your God with all your soul, and all your strength, and all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Then the lawyer, being a lawyer, asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  Jesus answers the question with the parable of the Good Samaritan.  You can access the whole response in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10, verses 25-37

As I read it, whoever is in need is our neighbor. The scripture concludes with Jesus asking, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?  The lawyer answered, “The one who showed mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

As a matter of general principle, I do not perceive that religious arguments are sufficient for reaching political judgments in a secular pluralistic democratic republic.  But on this particular issue, my personal experience of faith compels me to an  attitude of love for strangers and mercy towards neighbor that — with surprising passion — trumps every other argument. On this topic, for me, the non-religious argument is hypocritical and entirely misses the point.  Immigration  is fundamentally an issue of love and mercy.

I am a white, male, privileged, graduate-educated, third generation proud American of English-Scot-French Protestant extraction.  Yet  in regard to our relationship with immigrants — especially the poorest, strangest, non-English speaking — I have become a religiously inspired zealot.

For further consideration:

Evangelicals join Obama on Immigration (New York Times)

Churches eye immigration’s upside (Politico)

Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Letter on Immigration (Most Reverend David Zubick, Bishop of Pittsburgh)

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life

April 28, 2010

But Wait, There’s More!

Filed under: Border Security,General Homeland Security,Immigration,Strategy — by Mark Chubb on April 28, 2010

Like many other policy wonks, I like few things better than a powerful metaphor that describes the state of thinking on an important issue or question. One of the comments provided in response to Jessica Herrera-Flanagan’s post last week presented just such an opportunity. Defining the mission of the Department of Homeland Security — and possibly by extension all of homeland security — in terms of gatekeeping and coordination gave me just such food for thought.

The power of a metaphor is sometimes not what it describes, but what it does not. That was the case for me in this instance.

Having spent most of my career working in or near local government, I have acquired a different, more instrumental view of the role of government as a provider and protector. As such, I usually see the range of options as representing a broad continuum of overlapping alternatives rather than a simple choice between competing conceptions of the good or right. These alternatives almost invariably involve subtle distinctions about the level or nature of the engagement between government and other stakeholders required to achieve a particular set of outcomes.

This framing helps me attend to both the means and the ends, because both matter to constituents and citizens. This is important, because it is often difficult to discern which will matter more in any given circumstance until a particular situation arises.

So what does this continuum look like for homeland security? I equate gatekeeping with command/control interventions where the output (keep undocumented an undesirable immigrants from entering the country) substitutes for the intended outcome (protect individual citizens, the society, its culture, and the economy from the adverse effects of illegal immigration). Coordination equates with little more than avoiding or minimizing conflicts rather than sharing the process of making meaning through the definition and resolution of those conflicts that inevitably arise in any complex, interdependent relationship.

Gatekeeping, as a command/control strategy, does a good job of avoiding the trap of focusing on inputs or input-output relationship while leaving unexplored the larger question of whether or not the output and outcome (secure borders and unfettered liberty) are related much less the same. Coordination all too often falls into the same trap, by assuming too much about the nature of the ends/means dichotomy and the relationships of these parts and the stakeholders to them. Perhaps this explains why our current approach to homeland security, especially as it relates to immigration control, is such a dismal failure?

communication-inspiration-continuum-b-w1

What then are the alternatives? Before considering alternatives we need to distinguish between means and ends. When we focus on the means, especially when we assume the goals or outcomes are already well-understood and shared by all participants, we may find it both expedient and efficient to focus our energy through command strategies that require little inspiration (especially on the parts of others) and only one-way communication (from us to them).

When the ends are shared, but multiple paths lead to the same destination and there is some risk that participants left to choose their own way will select intersecting paths that create conflicts at key junctions, we may engage strategies that seek to avoid or minimize the potential for such conflicts. Again, these strategies require little inspiration on the part of others. On the other hand, decision-makers and leaders do need sufficient imagination to foresee potential conflicts, especially if you hope to communicate your understanding of the end-game in terms clear enough and compelling enough to gain the parties’ consent to take actions that get everyone to their destination without getting in the each other’s way.

When means are scarce or ends require you to mobilize the efforts of others (sound familiar), a cooperation strategy often makes sense. Such a strategy involves commitments, which require a more inspired view of what’s at stake or what’s to be gained by one or all participants. As the number of participants, the complexity of the processes involved, or the scope and scale of the products expected to result from the processes expand, so too does the need for communication among those involved.

Complex problems, especially those that defy straightforward solutions, usually require a more inspired approach, which often if not always, requires participants to share commitments to both the means and the ends. A true collaboration does not require anyone to sacrifice their identity, but it does require them to work together in ways that create shared objectives and meaning, both of which often take the form of sacrifices for the sake of success.

Each of these strategies builds on the other. Even in a large and complex collaboration, some elements of a shared program may depend upon simpler strategies that involve cooperation, coordination or even outright command approaches. What gives these tactics meaning is the shared commitment among participants to defining when, where, how and by whom these approaches are employed.

What does all of this have to do with homeland security? Well in the case of border control for just one issue, the nation remains deeply divided about the nature of the problem. With the possible exception of the people of First Nations, we share an immigrant past. Our economy today depends in no small way on the contributions of immigrants, many of whom arrived here legally and others who did not. Even those here without appropriate documentation or legal status often contribute not only their labor, but their wealth to support the state and its citizen even when they themselves can neither access nor enjoy many of these services such as health care, social security, workers’ compensation insurance, and unemployment benefits.

The threats posed by illegal immigrants often arise not from their status or their habits, but the criminalization of their status by the host society. When we make it impossible for immigrants to participate freely much less fully in our society, we leave them little choice but to fend for themselves or find another way. All too often, they find the only way open to them is to associate with elements who have no regard for either their welfare or ours.

Applying a different lens to a homeland security issue like immigration and border control allows us to see the folly of our current approach. Gatekeepers can never fully secure our borders. Even if they could, some legal immigrants would find compelling reasons to remain in the country beyond the limits imposed by their visas. Criminalizing their status makes it more difficult to resolve the issues their continued presence presents to both us and them.

When people are forced to choose between liberty and security, as we have seen time and again since 9/11, they will almost always choose security. What then would happen if we choose to coordinate, cooperate, or even collaborate to resolve the issues related to immigration and border control?

Working with immigrant communities, immigrants’ home countries, local employers, labor unions, and government officials at every level to provide legal paths to economic participation and citizenship serves everyone’s interests. Such an approach does not involve an open door policy, but neither does it mean closing the gate after the horse bolts.

A collaboration would require careful consideration of the needs that inspire immigration and provide a safe haven for undocumented immigrants once they arrive. Such an understanding requires two-way, if not multi-way, communication that creates a clear understanding of the labor markets and conditions among all participants so they can craft safe, secure pathways for participation that not only meet everyone’s needs. Doing so would help temper prospective immigrants’ expectations while affording those who play by the rules appropriate opportunities to climb the ladder toward acquiring citizenship or permanent residence.

Such a process would not eliminate the need to set immigration standards, control borders, or deport those who violate the laws. We would still need to apply command/control and coordination strategies, but their place in striking a balance between security and liberty would be better defined and tied to an understanding of the economic incentives that inspire immigration. Moving toward creating such as system would require us to abandon an approach that does little more than make de facto criminals of those who come here to make a contribution that arguably provides mutual benefits to both them and us.

If we want more security when it comes to immigration and border control, we need to acknowledge and accept the inspirational power of liberty, in both an economic and cultural sense.  If we take concrete steps to expand access to it among those willing to work with us to build the nation, we will not only expand prosperity but extend the legacy of diversity that immigration has granted us as well. Together these benefits will almost certainly promote more stable, just, and secure borders and border control arrangements in the process.

April 26, 2010

Immigration: Front and Center

Filed under: Immigration — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on April 26, 2010

Immigration reform promises to be the hot topic in the coming weeks as it has moved up the list of policy priorities, thanks in part to a new Arizona law.

On Saturday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law SB1070, which requires Arizona police to question anyone “reasonably suspected” of being undocumented.  Under existing law, they could only require information on someone’s status if the person is suspected of a crime. Legal immigrants are required to have their immigration paperwork handy. The law is the most restrictive state immigration law in the nation and has generated a great deal of attention, especially for its potential to encourage racial profiling.

On Friday, President Obama criticized the bill and has ordered the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to monitor developments to assure that civil rights are not being violated.

On the Hill, the leading players on immigration reform have been Senators Schumer and Graham, who have been working on a bipartisan piece of legislation that addresses the three prongs of immigration:  1) Enforcement, 2) Future Flow, and 3) Pathway to Citizenship.  In late March, the Senators announced a framework for their bill, which was endorsed by President Obama.  They have been working on gaining additional support, especially from Republicans, when the Arizona law came along.

As the Arizona legislation was considering SB1070, Senators McCain and Kyl released a Ten Point Border Security Action Plan that included the deployment of 3,000 National Guard troops along the border, along with 3,000 Customs and Border Protection agents and lots and lots of miles of fence.   Both are advocating a border security first approach to addressing immigration issues.  Ironically, both Senators were supportive of past efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform but are now asserting that the federal government is not doing enough to secure the border.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated last week to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that immigration might be next on the agenda for the Senate, ahead of climate change which many thought was next in the queue. His remarks follow similar comments he made in Arizona that he was committed to immigration reform.   Senator Schumer is expected to reach out to a number of Republican Senators, including those President Obama called last week – Senators Brown, Murkowski, LeMieux, Lugar, and Gregg – in order to get a deal that can move forward.

Complicating things is that Senator Graham is also the leading Republican on the bipartisan climate change legislation.  The unveiling of that bill, which was supposed to be released by Senators Kerry, Lieberman, and Graham today, has temporarily been canceled.  While Senator Graham has not walked away from discussions with Senator Schumer, he did send out a letter to many involved in the climate bill process, stating that his participation in climate discussions was being adversely affected by Senator Reid’s decision to move immigration next.

In the House, Speaker Pelosi has indicated that the House will move immigration legislation — if the Senate passes something first.

A lot of activity with lots more expected.  There is little question that immigration reform is much needed — the question for policymakers is how to do it successfully so as not to replicate the failures of  the 2007 attempt to address the issue.

March 26, 2010

Immigration- In the Background

Filed under: Immigration — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on March 26, 2010

While health care may have been grabbing most of the headlines, the last two weeks have been busy on the immigration front. Just over a week ago, Senators Schumer and Graham released an framework for immigration legislation that they would like to move forward with in the near future. Last Sunday, somewhere between “tens of thousands to more than 200,000″ people descended on the National Mall for the “March for America: Change Takes Courage” to promote immigration reform.

On Tuesday, the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law held an oversight hearing on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), touching upon a number of programs including E-Verify and the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program, as well as the agency’s Transformation Program, designed to “transition the agency from a paper-based business model to a centralized and consolidated electronic environment.”

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee marked up two bills – S. 2960 and S. 2974 – that would allow immigrants living in the U.S. legally to work overseas without harming their immigration status. The first bill would exempt immigrants who are refugees or asylum grantees who are working for the federal government oversees to have their immigration status adjusted to permanent resident without being required to be physically in the U.S. for a year. The second would allow permanent residents to go home to assist in recovery efforts in their native country in the time of a disaster without an adverse effect on their opportunity for naturalization here in the U.S.

Also held yesterday was a hearing in the House Homeland Security Committee entitled “Visa Overstays: Can They be Eliminated?” Much of that hearing focused on the development and implementation of a biometric air exit system. Congress first requested an automated entry/exit system in 1996 as part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA).. The 9/11 Commission, in its final report, called for the creation of such a system. In 2007, congress mandated the use a system to biometrically track the exit of all foreign visitors from US. Airports by June 30, 2009. That deadline was not met.

During the hearing, Committee Members posed a number of questions to the witnesses, specifically DHS National Protection & Programs Directorate Undersecretary Rand Beers about the future of a biometric air exit system. Members specifically asked why the Department did not request any funding for the air exit program in its Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Request. In response, Beers stated that since no decisions have been made on moving forward with a biometric exist system, it was impossible for the Department to predict costs. He did say that DHS would likely request funds in 2012 and that the estimates for the cost of any exit program could top $1 billion over 10 years. The decision on whether to continue with the program rests with Secretary Napolitano, who is evaluating its future.

Interestingly, even if a program was implemented, the Department – through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – would still have to track those who have overstayed their visas and not left the country. This effort is tremendous, according to testimony given by the DHS IG Richard Skinner and ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton. ICE, for its part, has focused on the biggest risks – fugitives, potential terrorists and criminals – in its efforts to track down those who have overstayed.

It is very likely, whatever happens on the comprehensive immigration reform front, that immigration and border security will remain a significant issue for the next several months. Among the things to look out for:

Comprehensive Immigration Reform:

    • Will Senators Schumer and Graham’s bill, in the current toxic environment in D.C., be able to garner support this year and be considered?
    • If something goes through the Senate, how will the House respond?
    • What role will the White House play in shepherding the issue through Congress?

    Border Security:

    • SBINet- what is its future?
    • Air Exit – what is its future?
    • How will the increasing violence along the U.S.-Mexico border affect our nation’s border security efforts?

    November 13, 2009

    RECAP/ANALYSIS: A Discussion on Immigration Policy with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano

    Filed under: Events,Immigration — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on November 13, 2009

    Trust.

    We are both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.

    Everyone recognizes that our current system is not  working and our system needs to be changed.

    Those were the central themes this morning when Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke at the Center for American Progress (CAP) on immigration.  As the Obama Administration’s go-to on immigration reform, she has a daunting task ahead as the Administration and Congress tackle an issue that evokes strong positions from Congress, law enforcement, business, labor, religious leaders, and advocates -both pro and anti- across the country and political spectrum.

    There is no question that Secretary Napolitano’s creds on immigration are second to none.  As Governor of Arizona, she gained hands-on experience on balancing the conflicting complex needs and interests of various interests and organizations.  Arizona, after all, is 30% Latino, shares a 370 mile border with Mexico (which includes the  Tohono O’odham Nation that crosses the border and numerous National Parks) and has such characters as the controversial Mariposa Sheriff Joe Arpaio.   While Governor, she did a tremendous job of balancing the economic, enforcement, and family issues surrounding the border. On one hand, she once criticized the wall-only approach of many in Congress by saying “You show me a 50-foot wall, and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder.”  On the other, she was the first Governor to declare a state of emergency and call for the National Guard to patrol the border.  Having worked on the issues since 1993, Secretary Napolitano gets that immigration is a hard and politically volatile issue.

    Her remarks today, however, made it clear that the Obama Administration believes it can make progress on the immigration debate.   The Secretary’s remarks were especially timely as immigration reform is expected to be the next big issue to be tackled by Congress and the Administration after health care  (somewhere in the past month it snuck past climate change, another Administration priority, in the lineup).

    In her remarks, Secretary Napolitano made it clear that this was more than just about immigration. She started her speech by talking about a “new foundation for growth and prosperity,” mentioning health care, climate change and educational reform.  Immigration was the fourth item of that foundation, she said, in the Obama Administration’s determination “to deal with long lingering problems.”

    She noted that immigration has been a problem that been punted year to year, Congress to Congress,  Administration to Administration.  The Secretary said that the immigration story is one we all know. People sneaking across the border for jobs and economic relief.  Select employers flaunting laws by offering subwages to illegal workers, and a resulting population living in the shadows.  From a national security perspective, she said that the Department of Homeland Security needs reform to do its job of enforcing the law and keeping our country secure.  “Laws need to be reformed.”

    The Secretary described immigration reform as a three-legged stool:

    • First, it requires serious and effective enforcement
    • Second, it must address the legal flows for family and workers
    • Third, it must deal with those here in the country illegally

    By addressing these three items, the Secretary indicated the government could build responsibility and accountability into the process.  The three-pronged stool, she noted, also required three participants – employers, immigrants, and government.

    The Secretary noted that the last big immigration effort – in 1986 – failed, in part, because it promised enforcement but could not deliver.  She said “it would not happen again” and that “America needs enforcement.”  She indicated that the Administration fully intended to pursue reforms that address both immigration and enforcement.

    She then alluded to the 2007 attempts to pass comprehensive immigration reform by the Bush Administration (ironically, led by her predecessor Secretary Michael Chertoff, who also faced an uphill battle).  She noted that since then the immigration landscape has changed.   She went on to cite the progress that had been made in a number of areas at the Department of Homeland Security, including:

    • The Southwest Border Initiative announced last March by President Obama which includes assets from DHS, Department of Defense, and Department of Justice.
    • Increased focus on inspection and detection technology.
    • 100% screening of Southbound rail shipments.
    • And increased focus on manpower, technology, and infrastructure.

    The Secretary stated that these items are ones that Congress said were lacking in 2007 when immigration reform fizzled and she believes that the needed progress has been made and that the Administration is showing that it is serious and strategic in its approach to enforcement.  Among some things she said shows progress are:

    • The government has replaced policies that look tough with policies that are designed to be effective;
    • The government has redesigned state and local arrangements to attack the serious criminal alien problem;
    • DHS has expanded Secure Communities;
    • ICE has increased auditing of companies suspected in hiring illegal aliens;
    • DHS has been encouraging workplace compliance by expanding and improving E-Verify; and
    • DHS has expanded use of new biometrics technology that has helped increase the government’s ability for countering immigration fraud.

    So what can we expect in the near year?  Based on the Secretary’s comments today, here are the priorities for the legislation, which she deems a “sensible solution:”

    • Tougher smuggling laws;
    • An update of laws that don’t cover new means of moving stuff by bad actors (stored value cards were given as an example);
    • Interior and worksite enforcement law changes;
    • Changes to provisions relating to immigration-related fraud; and
    • a legal foundation to bringing illegal immigrants out of shadows.

    On this last point, the Secretary emphasized that our nation  won’t have a secure law enforcement/national security system if we have a significant segment of the population that remain in the shadows.   As part of that legal foundation, she would expect that there would be a number of requirements that would need to be met for individuals to gain legal status, including:

    • Registration Requirement
    • Fines
    • Criminal Background Check
    • Requirement to Pay Back Taxes
    • A Requirement to Learn English

    The Secretary made it clear that the effort should not just be an enforcement solution and that the reform must address families, businesses, and workers needs.  In sum, she made it clear – just as when she started – that “immigration must be fixed.”

    While most of the ideas described by Secretary Napolitano are not new and have been tackled in the past,  her outlined approach, while seemingly heavy on enforcement details, is certainly comprehensive.

    What comes next will be the real challenge. Will there be enough “immigration” in the proposed bill to win the support of advocates and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus?  Will there be enough enforcement to win over many of the “enforcement only” or “enforcement first” Members of Congress? Will it be able to maintain the support of a mosaic of business interests (tech companies, agriculture and seasonal employers, etc)?  Will it address the moral and ethic issues that many religious leaders, including the Evangelical right, feel need to be addressed? How does next year being a potentially volatile election year affect the proposed reform, especially for moderate and conservative Democrats (a group that would extend beyond the Blue Dogs, based on 2007 observations and statements)?

    If immigration reform is to be a success, the Administration needs a weathered professional who has seen what the fight ahead looks like.  It appears that they may have found their woman in the desert of Arizona in Secretary Napolitano.

    September 9, 2009

    Legal barrier to E-Verify removed (for now)

    Filed under: Immigration — by Philip J. Palin on September 9, 2009

    A web-based means for employers to verify the legal status of employees went into effect for government contractors on Tuesday, September 8.

    According to Chris Strohm with NextGov, “After months of delay, the Homeland Security Department implemented a rule requiring most federal contractors and subcontractors to use its E-Verify system to prove employees working on government contracts are legally in the country.”

    The rule has been the subject of an extended court challenge by business groups and civil liberties organizations.   The ACLU has argued, “The E-Verify system is based on the Homeland Security and Social Security Administration databases, which have unacceptably high error rates involving U.S. citizens’ records. Discrepancies between workers’ Social Security numbers and Social Security Administration records can result from many innocent factors including clerical errors, name changes due to marriage or divorce or the common use of multiple surnames.”

    In July the Migration Policy Institute released a report recommending several key improvements in the E-Verify program.

    On Friday a federal district court dismissed an injunction plea, which triggered implementation of the rule. The Department of Homeland Security’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency provides details on E-Verify at the USCIS website.

    September 8, 2009

    Fragments from September 10, 2001… Losing momentum with Mexico

    Filed under: Border Security,Immigration,International HLS — by Philip J. Palin on September 8, 2009

    This is the second in a series begun on Monday, September 7.

    Late on Tuesday, September 4, 2001 the President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, arrived in Washington D.C.  for a state visit.  On Wednesday key members of the US and Mexican cabinets met together. 

    Significant attention was given to developing a bilateral approach to immigration reform. President Bush cautioned, “This is a complex issue,” he said. “It’s going to take a while to bring all the different interests to the table. But we’ve made good progress so far.”

    But — with White House blessing — the Mexican President pressed hard for quick action on immigration. “We must, and we can, reach an agreement on migration before the end of this very year, which will allow us before the end of our respective terms to make sure that there are no Mexicans who have not entered this country legally in the United States and that those Mexicans who have come into the country do so with the proper documents,” Fox said.  (See more from CNN.)

    CNN also reported, “He and Bush also are expected to discuss anti-drug efforts and a shared border-control program.” 

    On Thursday, September 6 President Fox addressed a joint session of Congress.  Included in his remarks:

    Take for example our common struggle against the scourge of drugs. It should be clear by now that no government, however powerful, will be able to defeat on its own the forces of transnational organized crime that lie behind drug trafficking. Intense cooperation is required to confront this threat, and trust is certainly a prerequisite of cooperation. This is why, since I took office last year, Mexico has enhanced its cooperation with U.S. authorities. We have arrested key drug kingpins and have extradited drug traffickers wanted by the United States Justice. However, much more needs to be done. Trust will be crucial to enhance intelligence and information-sharing between both governments. We’re committed to becoming a full partner with the United States in the fight against drugs… 

    That night Lou Dobbs was in the CNN anchor’s chair for Kelly Wallace’s report on the speech and related news:

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I’m willing to consider ways to — for a guest worker to earn green card status. And yet I fully recognize there are a lot of people who’ve stood in line, who’ve said I’ll abide by the laws of the United States. And we’re trying to work through a formula that will not penalize the person who’s chosen the legal route and at the same time recognize the contribution the undocumented has made.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    WALLACE: Another big issue: conservative critics who believe President Fox’s plan would basically reward those immigrants who broke the law to enter the U.S. No one, Lou, really expecting a big agreement by the end of this year, but everyone believing President Fox’s visit has increased the urgency on an issue Congress and the president likely to focus on in the months ahead.

    Lou, back to you.

    DOBBS: Kelly, very comforting language used by the president, talking about guest workers, not referring to these people as illegal aliens, but rather undocumented workers. All of this, I presume, designed to soften some of the tension between the two men over the issue and also to, perhaps, assuage the Latino voting public.

    WALLACE: Well, certainly — you certainly know, Lou, that right off the bat the administration was very concerned that it was sort of being accused of supporting blanket amnesty for Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. President Bush saying he is against the “A” word.

    And so you do see him talking about a guest worker program; maybe finding some middle ground. Allowing more Mexicans to come to the U.S., part of this guest worker program, to work here and, of course, to have some benefits and send that money back to Mexico. It’s a way of some middle ground. Obviously a big political issue that — the fight is just ahead.

    Lou, back to you.

    Lou did not comment and moved on to the next story, a 200-point plunge in the Dow Jones.  But I wonder if this is when Lou Dobbs began to perceive the potential for exploiting the “A word”?

    On September 10, 2001 we were actively engaged in seeking innovative bipartisan and bilateral solutions to immigration, drug enforcement, and border issues between the United States and Mexico.  Lou Dobbs was not yet pandering for viewers.

    Should we repudiate such September 10 thinking? 

    Almost eight years to the day after President Fox landed in Washington, his successor reported to the Mexican Congress on his intense struggle against murderous drug cartels. 

    On September 2, 2009, CBS News reported, “‘The past year has been a different year,’ said President Felipe Calderón during his third state of the nation address Wednesday. Different must be a euphemism for horrible. This was bound to be a difficult year to summarize for Mexico’s beleaguered President. In the past year he has been battered with several challenges: the world economic recession, the influenza outbreak, diminishing oil resources, the worst drought the country has seen in years, escalating drug violence, topped by the world’s belief that Mexico is ungovernable.”

    Instead of repudiating September 10 thinking, we might mourn the opportunities lost in the years since.

    May 14, 2009

    Second Day of Congressional DHS Budget Hearings; FEMA stays in

    Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Immigration,Preparedness and Response — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on May 14, 2009

    Yesterday, Secretary Napolitano appeared on Capitol Hill for a second consecutive full day of hearings on the FY2010 proposed DHS budget.   In the morning she was on the House side, testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee. In the afternoon, she switched over to the Senate and testified in front of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.

    During the hearings, Secretary Napolitano faced pointed questions on the elimination of funding for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) and the 60% cut to Fire Act grants  (See my May 8th posting below assessing the Homeland Security Budget Numbers for more information on these cuts).   On SCAAP,   Members put her in awkward spot of having to defend a cut to a program that is 1) not within her Department and 2) that she had supported while Governor and Arizona.   The Secretary noted that the program – as well discussion of its elimination – falls with the Justice Department’s purview and refocused the discussion on what is in her jurisdiction – DHS’ efforts to address the flow of illegal immigration into the country.   As noted in my earlier posting, expect SCAAP funding to be partially, if not fully, restored by the appropriations committees in the FY2010 spending bills.

    On Fire Grants, Members  – in all four hearings – expressed concerns about the cuts. While some of the money was transferred over to SAFER Grants (recruitment and hiring), Members remain committed to providing fire departments with equipment purchasing funds.  The Secretary did attempt to address this issue by mentioning funding in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (aka stimulus bill), but that argument did not appear to convince Members to support the cuts and movement of funds.  Rob Margetta at CQ Homeland Security has a good description of Member reaction in his story detailing the hearings.

    Speaking of first responders, the White House formally notified Congress yesterday that FEMA will remain within the Department.  This was reinforced during the hearings yesterday when Secretary Napolitano was asked about whether FEMA would stay in DHS.   Perfect timing for a decision, as the Senate yesterday confirmed FEMA’s new Administrator, Craig Fugate, after Senator David Vitter (R-LA) dropped his hold on the nomination.  Vitter dropped his hold after he received a letter from FEMA committing to working on solutions that meet the needs of those affected by disasters.  Word is that Administrator Fugate reports to duty on Monday.  With hurricane season only a few weeks away, this appointment (and the decision to keep FEMA in DHS) is both timely and critical.

    Interestingly enough, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee is holding a hearing this morning at 11 am on “an Independent FEMA.”  The hearing will focus on  FEMA “and how it has functioned since its placement in the Department of Homeland Security.” DHS is not slated to testify but it should be interesting to hear what the panelists say about the White House decision, especially in light of Chairman Jim Oberstar’s (D-MN) push for an independent FEMA.  He and other T&I Members introduced H.R. 1174, the FEMA Independence Act of 2009, back in February.

    April 7, 2009

    America echoes Ankara

    Filed under: Immigration,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on April 7, 2009

    President Obama’s Monday speech in Ankara had several audiences and as many purposes.  In the United States it will be heard and read with particular care by the Muslim American community.

    “So let me say this as clearly as I can: The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam,” has been the line most quoted from the speech. The President continued, ”In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical not just in rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject, but also to strengthen opportunity for all its people.”

    The United States, unlike Europe and elsewhere, has not yet suffered from homegrown Islamist terrorism.  Fundamental to our defense-in-depth has been effective economic, political, and cultural integration of Islamic residents.  While in Europe many Muslims are treated as second-class citizens or worse, the American Muslim community overall is better educated and more affluent than average. 

    The President explained, “We seek broader engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect. We will listen carefully, we will bridge misunderstandings, and we will seek common ground. We will be respectful, even when we do not agree. We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country. The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans.”

    Muslims make up less than  two percent -  2.35 million to 3.5 million - of the US population (estimates differ).  A 2007 Pew Research Center survey of Muslim Americans found them to be “largely assimilated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world.”  A Washington Post-ABC News survey completed on March 29 found, however, that 45 percent of Americans self-assess they “do not have a good basic understanding of the teachings and beliefs of Islam” and 48 percent admit to having “unfavorable” views of Islam.

    There is also concern that greater difficulty integrating some recent Somali immigrants may make that Muslim community more vulnerable to radicalization.

    In the substantive close of his address to Turkish parliamentarians the President offered, “There’s an old Turkish proverb: ‘You cannot put out fire with flames.’  America knows this. Turkey knows this. There’s some who must be met by force, they will not compromise. But force alone cannot solve our problems, and it is no alternative to extremism. The future must belong to those who create, not those who destroy. That is the future we must work for, and we must work for it together.”  

    In a joint statement the American Muslim Task Force on Civil Rights and Elections said, “The American Muslim community believes President Obama’s new policy of dialogue and mutual respect will serve our nation and the cause of world peace and stability much better than past policies of unilateralism and confrontation.” 

    But the full AMT statement gives even more attention to  “the deteriorating relations between the FBI and American Muslims, the dissemination of inaccurate and agenda-driven information by DHS-recognized fusion centers, and Muslims’ concerns about Justice Department guidelines implemented in December 2008 that allow race and ethnicity to be factors in opening an FBI probe.”

    Today the President will conclude his visit to Turkey meeting with religious leaders and students.

    Related Links:

    Obama’s entreaty to Islam surprises Muslims from the San Francisco Chronicle

    LI Muslims praise Obama’s speech, but want action from Newsday

    The Muslim next door from Newsweek

    America at a Crossroads: America’s Muslims from the Public Broadcasting System

    February 25, 2009

    Napolitano Testifies

    Filed under: Border Security,Congress and HLS,Immigration,Intelligence and Info-Sharing,State and Local HLS — by Philip J. Palin on February 25, 2009

    If you missed the webcast, Secretary Napolitano testified this morning and into the early afternoon before the House Homeland Security Committee.

    In a brief summation of her prepared remarks the Secretary highlighted three priorities for, as she said, “kicking the tires” at the Department of Homeland Security:
    1. Immigration enforcement,
    2. FEMA working with others, and
    3. Sharing intelligence and analysis.

    The committee’s follow-on questions did not give much attention to immigration policy, probably because this is mostly in the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction. But border security – and especially escalating violence in Mexico – was the focus of many members comments and questions. In response the Secretary noted the Mexican government is undertaking serious and much needed action against narco-terrorists. DHS is attempting to assist by reducing the southward flow of weapons and money. But the Secretary cautioned against militarizing the border, while promising a vigorous response if local authorities perceive the need for help with troubles boiling over the border.

    (Shortly after the House hearing concluded Attorney-General Holder announced the arrest of over 750 individuals associated with Mexican drug cartels.  For more see an AP report and The Washington Times. )

    When Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL) asked whither-goest-FEMA, the Secretary noted,  “I have not yet had a conversation with the President,” and was clearly keeping all options on the table. Still neither the Secretary nor the Committee seemed enthusiastic about FEMA being decoupled from DHS. Several members of both parties expressed opposition to such a move.

    On intelligence gathering and analysis the Secretary gave particular emphasis to the role of non-federal assets. She mentioned that state and local authorities have “more eyes and ears than the federal government will ever have.” In response to several questions she went out of her way to emphasize a leading role for state and local public safety in the national intelligence enterprise.

    In response to a question regarding Mexican drugwar violence the Secretary mentioned, the “best intel is often available from the local sheriff.”  Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) commended the Secretary for her commitment to “bottom-up intelligence.”

    This was the Secretary’s inaugural appearance before the Committee.  Some additional thoughts later tonight or early tomorrow.

    (On Thursday morning the Secretary’s testimony was covered by the Washington Post, New York Times, and other media.)

    February 24, 2009

    Immigration Team Emerging

    Filed under: Border Security,Immigration — by Philip J. Palin on February 24, 2009

     

    Secretary Napolitano has appointed Esther Olavarria Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy.  The Olavarria appointment further strengthens the “fix immigration team” being assembled.  She was part of the Democrat’s so-called “shadow government” at the Center for American Progress where she focused on immigration policy.

    John Morton, a Justice Department career professional, will be nominated by the President to serve as Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Until last month Morton was Acting Chief of the DOJ Domestic Security Section.

    More background on both appointments is available in the DHS news release.

    At the time of her nomination Secretary Napolitano was widely seen as a Governor who effectively threaded-the-needle with tough border security that avoided anti-immigrant fear-mongering.

    In one of her first official acts the new Secretary directed “department offices and components to work together and with state and local partners to review and assess the plans and policies to address: criminal and fugitive aliens; legal immigration benefit backlogs; southbound gun smuggling; cooperation with the National Guard; widows and widowers of U.S. citizens; immigration detention centers; and electronic employee verification.”  On February 20 she was to have received oral reports on this review .

    According to Monday’s USA Today, quoting DHS sources, the economic recession is contributing to a decline in illegal immigration.  This could contribute to a political environment more conducive to crafting an immigration policy fix.

    April 16, 2008

    Fusion Center Hearing Thursday; Korean Visa Waiver MOU Friday

    Filed under: Immigration,Intelligence and Info-Sharing — by Jonah Czerwinski on April 16, 2008

    Thursday, April 17

    2:00 PM EDT
    Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Jack Tomarchio will testify before the Senate Homeland Security Governmental Affairs Committee, Ad Hoc Subcommittee on State, Local and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration on state and local fusion centers
    342 Dirksen Senate Office Building
    Washington, DC

    Friday, April 18

    2:00 PM EDT
    Secretary Michael Chertoff will sign a memorandum of understanding on the Visa Waiver Program with Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan followed by a press availability
    Ronald Reagan Building
    U.S. Customs and Border Protection
    Press Briefing Room
    1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC

    March 13, 2008

    US, EU Convene Over Visa Waiver Today

    Filed under: Immigration,International HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on March 13, 2008

    Led by the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. yesterday signed agreements with Latvia and Estonia enabling them to join the U.S. visa waiver program (VWP). Negotiations with Hungary begin tomorrow in Washington. Enter Commissioner Frattini.

    The European Commissioner handling the Justice and Home Affairs portfolio is itching to get his time with Secretary Chertoff. He told reporters that his “proposal will be to go ahead with political discussions from now until June at a high political level.” Higher than Chertoff? Perhaps he is hoping that Secretary of State Rice will weigh in on his interest in maintaining momentum for an EU-wide visa waiver agreement.

    Chertoff maintains that the U.S. negotiates visa waiver status on a country-by-country basis, but the European Commission views this as an EU issue that should lead to a waiver for all EU member states. Frattini and the EU are being challenged by a split in the ranks.

    The Commission has jurisdiction over visa reciprocity for the EU, but the slow pace of the supranational government led the Czech Republic earlier this year to sign their own deal, which spurred a chain reaction. In addition to Latvia and Estonia, both EU members, 15 other EU countries already participate in the visa waiver program. As the European Commission seeks to negotiate a visa-waiver pact for the entire 27-nation EU, Frattini’s negotiating hand is weakening. Nevertheless, Commissioner Frattini is hoping to use today’s meeting with Chertoff to strike a visa waiver for the EU before October.

    The U.S. needs to be careful in making sure that further negotiations avoid the appearance of undermining EU governance mechanisms. We gain nothing by doing so and risk fracturing a reluctant ally in the fight against terrorism. A unified and well organized EU is better that the sum of its parts in this context. One way to move forward would be to agree to a set of principles in negotiating further agreements with EU nations that protects privacy in the way the EU seeks and accelerates country-by-country progress toward the VWP requirements among remaining EU nations to facilitate a broader blanket for this program.

    February 6, 2008

    New Immigration Rule and New Immigration Pilot Introduced

    Filed under: Border Security,Immigration — by Jonah Czerwinski on February 6, 2008

    Today DHS issued new rules for certain immigration requests that also propose establishing a new pilot program for a land-border exit system. This – in addition to making Lou Dobbs apoplectic – will have significant effects on benefits delivery and may invoke certain security and governance challenges.  It’ll also make it a lot easier for those fruit farmers in Florida this season.  The rule is intended to provide employers with a streamlined hiring process for temporary and seasonal agricultural workers (the H-2A program).

    The proposed rule:

    • Reduces current limitations and certain delays faced by U.S. employers and relaxes the current limitations on their ability to petition for multiple, unnamed agricultural workers.

    • Reduces from six to three months the time a temporary agricultural worker must wait outside the U.S. before he or she is eligible reenter the country under H-2A status.

    • Establishes a land-border exit system pilot program. Under the program, H-2A visa holders admitted through a port of entry participating in the program would also depart through a port of entry participating in the program and present upon departure designated biographical information, possibly including biometric identifiers.

    November 28, 2007

    DHS Agency Holds All-Day Workshop on Employer Verification

    Filed under: Immigration — by Jonah Czerwinski on November 28, 2007

    Yesterday I participated in the USCIS E-Verify Evaluation Workshop here in Washington. The purpose of the one-day workshop was to bring together a cross-section of the stakeholder community (employers, contractors, not that many policy folks) to identify and prioritize issues that should be a part of an upcoming evaluation of the USCIS E-Verify program, which remains in design phase. Lisa Roney, Director of Research and Evaluation at the DHS Office of Policy and Strategy, presided over most of the day.

    e-verify-logo.jpg

    We were broken up into the following working groups:

  • Using Biometrics (e.g., the Photo Tool) for Verification
  • Resolving Tentative Non-confirmations
  • Timing of Employee Verifications
  • Focusing on Special Employer Types: Designated Agents and the Employers Using Designated Agents
  • Focusing on Special Employer Types: Employment Agencies and Temporary Help Services
  • Focusing on Special Employer Types: Infrequent Users (smaller employers and participants rarely or not using E-Verify)
  • Readers may recall the August 31 post here that covered the announcement by DHS Secretary Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Gutierrez on a series of border security and immigration measures that included e-Verify and the Social Security No-Match rule. The Administration has described these efforts as the next best alternative to legislation that would have reformed several immigration polices had any legislation passed. E-Verify is the current form of a program already underway called the Basic Pilot, which is run by USCIS.

    The e-Verify program enables employers to check the work status of their employees online. The-Verify system compares information taken from the I-9 work eligibility verification form and matches it against the Social Security Administration’s database and the DHS immigration databases. An official description of E-verify is available here, along with the agenda from yesterday’s workshop, and a description of the workgroup topics.

    We should see a report based on the workshop out around year’s end.

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