Thursday, August 26, 2010
Too often, political posturing rather than facts dominates the debate surrounding immigration. But when you look at the facts, including record-breaking statistics, our record shows this Administration is serious about sensible and tough enforcement.
Let’s start with the facts. As required by federal law, one of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) primary missions is to remove illegal aliens from this country. Under this Administration, ICE has focused its efforts on removing criminal aliens, recent border entrants, and immigration fugitives. The results have been unprecedented. Last fiscal year, ICE removed a record 389,000 illegal aliens from the United States, 136,000 of whom were criminals. So far this fiscal year, we have removed a record 170,000 criminals and have placed more people—criminal and non-criminal--in immigration proceedings than ever before.
The recent expansion of Secure Communities, which uses biometrics to identify criminal aliens in local jails and prisons, has significantly increased the number of criminal aliens subject to removal. To ensure these individuals who have been convicted of crimes such as assault, arson, drug trafficking, burglary, drunk-driving, do not pose further danger to our communities, ICE has implemented a policy to expedite the removal of convicted criminal aliens and ensure these cases are prioritized by our courts. Simply put, this is a common sense solution to ensure convicted criminal aliens are not released into our communities and address the record backlogs cases our courts currently have pending.
Cross-posted from The USCG Blog.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Written by: LTJG Stephanie Young
This week marks the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Coast Guard response operations in the aftermath of the storm surpassed that of any previous response with a total of 33,545 persons saved.
As Hurricane Katrina approached Florida as a Category 1 hurricane, then AST3 Sara Faulkner was deployed with an aircrew to Air Station Jacksonville in advance of the storm.
The aircrew waited on edge watching weather reports come in, when unexpectedly, the storm changed course. The suspense was broken by a phone call, ordering the aircrew to report back to Aviation Training Center Mobile – immediately.
Flying through the tail end of the hurricane, the HH-65 Dolphin helicopter and crew flew into the harsh conditions of the storm back to their home base. Upon arrival, a fresh aircrew jumped into the helicopter and took off. Faulkner and the aircrew, weighed with anticipation, were told to get rest, as they would be deployed without delay.
She reported to the air station the next morning, before the sun was up. As missions were being flown across dozens of gulf coast towns, her first mission was over Biloxi.
Her anticipation turned instantly to shock as the aircraft took off and she saw the destruction left behind from the violent hurricane.
"You could see the devastation already," said Faulkner. "You could see where winds had ripped the buildings completely apart. You saw buildings pulled out to sea. Mansions were gone and concrete slabs with stairs led to nothing."
As they arrived on scene, Faulkner's senses were heightened. Her ability to hear became critical due to distractions from the radios of at least ten helicopters flying around. Adding to the sheer volume of noise, her eyes became sharper as there was debris as far as she could see.
An HH-65 Dolphin helicopter hoists a rescue swimmer and Katrina survivor to safety. This rescue was just one of the thousands that occurred in the Coast Guard's response and recovery efforts.
"There was clothing hanging in trees so you would think it was a person," said Faulkner. "But when we would fly over it, we would just end up seeing a sweatshirt or an item of clothing, and not people."
From the back of the helicopter, Faulkner and the flight mechanic heard a faint mumble. Looking at each other simultaneously, they knew they heard the word "mayday."
Amongst the flooded town, a yacht had been spotted, surrounded by residential homes and debris.
There were three women aboard the yacht. After their home flooded, they swam amongst the debris looking for shelter. Two were in their 50s, and the third was the mother of the two, in her 80s. Having no familiarity with marine radios they started pressing buttons – miraculously it worked.
One of the women was rescued by the local sheriffs boat, and two were rescued by the aircrew. As the two women were hoisted into the helicopter, their struggle with the storm was evident.
"All of their wounds were already infected," said Faulkner. "The mother was a diabetic and she was going into shock."
As a rescue swimmer and qualified EMT, Faulkner was able to treat the women before they were flown to safety.
Five years later, as an AST2 at Air Station Clearwater, Faulkner is still able to vividly recall what that first rescue meant to her.
"I joined the Coast Guard to be a rescue swimmer and save lives and it was on such a large scale," said Faulkner. "It was ugly at times and bad, but I was just glad to be there to help in any way I could."
Although this first rescue stands out in Faulkner's mind, the women Faulkner and the aircrew rescued that day were just a few of the thousands of rescues the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard performed.
To read more about the men and women who were a part of the response and recovery missions related to Katrina visit here. To hear about another rescue Faulkner was part of, click here to watch a video of her performing her first balcony rescue.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science & Technology Directorate, are releasing plumes of gas and particle tracers in the tunnels of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), known in Boston as “the T”, subway system that covers a good part of the Boston metropolitan area. The gases and particulates are harmless, of course, but can be easily detected by our sensitive equipment. More importantly, they can replicate how more harmful airborne substances could spread through the tunnels and, ultimately, the city above.
It’s a bit different from the way people usually think of the S&T Directorate. Most of the time folks think of us as trying out some new gadget designed to help DHS’s operational components and the nation’s first responders to be safer, faster, or more efficient. Well, we do that kind of stuff too, but it’s these knowledge products that can make a real difference.
What we learn from this experiment will, we hope, help our partners in law enforcement to establish response plans and make operational decisions in the face of an intentional or accidental release of nasty chemicals or biological agents. This could even help in local response to less-catastrophic events, such as dealing with smoke, fuel spills or other everyday chemicals.
This is actually the second series of such tests in “the T”. Last December, we and our partners from MBTA Transit Police, Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory of the United Kingdom, the Chemistry Centre of Western Australia and our technology vendor conducted the same type of experiment amidst cold, snowy winter weather. This week’s comparative test during the hot, humid summer will show us how temperature, humidity and other weather factors influence the movement of airborne material.
This project, funded by S&T’s Chemical & Biological Division, is all part of the Department’s ongoing commitment to preparedness and helping to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure. Boston’s subway system is one of the oldest in the country. It was built in stages over generations, so has a variety of train cars and rail configurations. Conversely, Washington DC’s Metro system is one of the newer subways in the nation. We have conducted similar system-wide studies there in previous years. By looking at the data we collect from the two vastly different systems, we can apply what we learn to other subways systems across the nation and to our international partners—all in the effort to keep travelers safe.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The GFIRST Conference, which takes place August 15-20, is the only event that brings together incident responders and cybersecurity professionals to exchange information and share best practices about the most critical security issues affecting the nation’s cyber infrastructure. This year’s conference, in San Antonio, Texas, is being held in conjunction with the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center's annual meeting, as well at the InfraGard 2010 National Congress meeting.
Visit the website today and explore these vital programs in greater depth: www.dhs.gov/files/programs/federal_network_security.shtm.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Today is a special day for our nation. As the Coast Guard celebrates its birthday, so does the President of the United States, Barack Obama.
The President honored the Coast Guard men and women stationed across the Gulf Coast, the nation and the world with a phone call and letter thanking them for the valued service they provide to the American public.
During the phone call, President Obama said:
Admiral Robert J. Papp, Commandant of the Coast Guard, participates in a phone call from President Obama to wish Coast Guard men and women a happy 220th birthday. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Bender)
“I know that everybody within ear shot has been working extraordinarily hard. Not just to protect and clean up the Gulf but to help keep America safe and secure each and every day. I want all of you to know that I stand with you, as I stand with the Gulf communities, even as you continue the critical mission that you are on but also over the long term until the people of the Gulf have fully recovered from this most recent disaster.
It is a great privilege to share a birthday with the Coast Guard. I am full of admiration for the courage and the dedication and the hard work that each of you do.
I, obviously, am especially looking forward to celebrating sometime this month having finally killed the BP well and gotten the relief well completed. But, I want everybody to know that we could not have done this without you. We still have a lot of work to do. We’re going to need to recover fully in the Gulf and that’s going to take all the efforts of the Coast Guard. We still have a hurricane season ahead of us, which is going to involve all of you in one capacity or another.
Just know that your Commander in Chief is proud of you, the nation is proud of you, and we are very very appreciative of your service.
Happy Birthday Coast Guard and, again, it is a great privilege to share a birthday with you.”
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
It's a simple idea, but a powerful one: that homeland security begins with hometown security. And when we equip local law enforcement, citizens, and communities to understand and combat violent extremism, we make our home towns – and our nation – safer.
From the beginning, DHS has looked for ways to support local law enforcement, communities, and citizens. Today, we took a significant step forward by announcing a series of measures (PDF, 2 pages - 26 KB) that follow on recommendations made by the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC).
In February, I charged the HSAC with determining how DHS could best support state and local law enforcement, and better empower communities, to understand, identify, and combat violent extremism. Over four months, an HSAC working group that included chiefs of police, sheriffs, community leaders, and homeland security experts met to develop recommendations.
Since I received the recommendations (PDF, 30 pages - 174 KB) in May, my Department has worked with HSAC members to develop next steps that we could initiate or implement quickly with our federal, state, and local partners. These steps are designed to strengthen the Department's commitment to supporting locally-based solutions such as community-oriented policing efforts to counter violent extremism and other types of crime.
The steps I announced today include:
- Convening regional summits with state and local law enforcement, government, and community leaders this fall to share information about successful community-oriented policing and other crime reduction programs, and then gathering these best practices and sharing them on the widely-used Lessons Learned Information
Sharing online platform.
- Developing an innovative community-oriented policing curriculum for state and local law enforcement focused on behaviors and indicators of terrorism-related crime, and techniques for enhancing community-based partnerships.
- Producing unclassified case studies examining recent incidents involving violent crime that will provide state and local partners with a greater understanding of common behaviors and indicators exhibited by suspects.
And so today, I was also proud to announce expansion of the "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign to our nation's capital. The campaign, which was originally implemented by New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority with support from DHS, is a simple and effective program to raise public awareness about indicators of terrorism and the importance of reporting suspicious activity to proper law enforcement authorities.
Here in the Washington area, the campaign will draw on the Metropolitan Police Department's long-standing participation in the National Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative. In the coming months, DHS will continue to expand the campaign with public education materials, advertisements and other tools to engage travelers, businesses, community organizations, and public and private sector employees. You can expect to start seeing them here in DC this fall.