Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

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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