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Q&A: DHS Implementation of the Executive Order on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 08:30
Release Date: February 21, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON – On February 20, 2017, Secretary John Kelly signed a memorandum implementing the president’s Executive Order entitled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” issued on January 25, 2017. This document is designed to answer some frequently asked questions about how the Department will operationally implement the guidance provided by the president’s order.

Q1. What is CBP currently doing as part of the construction of the wall?

A1. CBP is taking immediate action in response to the president’s executive order. We have identified locations near El Paso, Texas, Tucson, Arizona, and El Centro, California, where we will build a wall in areas where the fence or old brittle landing-mat fencing are no longer effective.

The Border Patrol is also in the midst of an operational assessment, which will identify priority areas where CBP can build a wall or similar physical barrier on the border where it currently does not exist.

Q2. What does this assessment include?

A2. CBP is considering the following factors:

  • The current state of southern border security
  • All geophysical and topographical aspects of the southern border
  • The availability of federal and state resources necessary to achieve operational control of the southern border

This analysis will inform DHS’s strategy to obtain and maintain operational control of the southern border.

Q3. How long will this assessment take?

A3. The executive order directs DHS to produce a comprehensive study of the security of the southern border within 180 days. However, the Border Patrol’s operational assessment should be completed well before the deadline.

Q4. Where will the initial construction be located?

A4. As noted above, initial construction of new infrastructure will focus on locations near El Paso, Texas, El Centro, California, and in Southern Arizona.

Q5. Will the new wall be uniform in design, scope, and function?

A5: The Border Patrol is in the midst of an assessment of the southern border to identify operational requirements to inform wall design decisions.

Q6. Do you have the funds to construct the wall?

A6. CBP has identified funding to begin immediate construction and is working with the Administration in these efforts.

Q7: Does the Alternatives to Detention program fall under the umbrella of “catch and release” policies being abolished?

A7: No. The use of Alternatives to Detention, including the use of ankle monitors, will continue on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the officers on the ground.

Q8: What are ICE’s priorities under this executive order?

A8: Under the executive order, ICE will not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of immigration law may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.  ICE and CBP priorities are realigned consistent with those set forth in section 5 of Executive Order 13768.

Q9: Will ICE deport people for driving without a license, since it’s often an immigration-related issue?

A9: All of those in violation of immigration law may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.

Q10: What is the new goal for ICE’s detention capacity?

A10: Although detention space may be limited at times, ICE is committed to arresting and processing all removable aliens. ICE agents and officers will make individualized custody determinations in every case, prioritizing detention resources on aliens subject to expedited removal and aliens removable on any criminal ground, national security or related ground or for fraud or material misrepresentation.

Q11: What is ICE planning in terms of obtaining additional detention centers or bed space? Have any contracts or RFPs yet been drafted? How long will it take to obtain additional bed space? How much will it cost per bed/day? Where will they be located?

A11: Following the issue of this order, ICE has already increased its detention capacity by approximately 1,100 beds.

To support the further need for increased detention capacity, particularly along the Southwest Border, ICE is currently defining contracting requirements. A list of potential detention locations is under review, which would supply additional beds. 

Q12: Will ICE still be hiring the 10,000 officers called for in the executive orders?

A12: ICE is currently developing a hiring plan.

Q13: What is the 287(g) program and how will it be used by ICE?

A13: The 287(g) program allows local law enforcement agencies to participate as an active partner in identifying criminal aliens in their custody, and placing ICE detainers on these individuals. Removing criminal aliens from our communities produces a higher level of public safety for everyone. To strengthen the 287(g) program, ICE field leadership has begun examining local operational needs and liaising with potential 287(g) partners and will collaborate with CBP in these efforts. Existing 287(g) applications are also undergoing an expedited review process. 

Q14: Are 287(g) officers now going to do ICE’s job?

A14: The 287(g) program, one of ICE’s top partnership initiatives, enables state and local law enforcement agencies to enter into a partnership with ICE, under a joint memorandum of agreement. The state or local entity receives delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions.

Q15: When will 287(g) task force agreements be available to local jurisdictions? Will these new task force agreements be modeled after the previously canceled task force model?

A15: ICE and CBP will be  is developing a strategy to further expand the 287(g) Program, to include types of 287(g) programs, locations, and recruitment strategies.  To strengthen the 287(g) Program, ICE field leadership has begun examining local operational needs and liaising with potential 287(g) partners and will collaborate with CBP in these efforts. Existing 287(g) applications are also undergoing an expedited review process. To support the training needed for existing and new 287(g) partners, ICE is updating the 287(g) training curriculum.

Q16: How will ICE accommodate an immigration judge in each of its facilities? How about asylum officers?

A16: ICE is working with the Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to review current procedures and resources in order to identify efficiencies and best practices to improve the system. Most dedicated detention facilities already house immigration courts and have enough space to accommodate asylum officers. ICE is also seeking to increase the use of technology, mainly through the use of video teleconferencing, in locations with insufficient space or staffing.

Q17: What are you doing to reduce the reach of violent crime and transnational criminal organizations?

A17: To better target gang members responsible for violent crime and transnational criminal activities, ICE has notified field leadership to immediately assess and, if possible, realign resources to support Operation Community Shield.

Q18: Could USCIS customers be affected by the policies on the detention of aliens seeking admission pending a final determination of their inadmissibility and deportability, including eligibility for immigration relief?

A18: The policies are consistent with INA provisions that mandate the detention of certain aliens seeking admission and allow for the exercise of discretionary parole authority only on a case-by-case basis, and only for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.

Q19: The Secretary’s memorandum outlines certain situations where CBP and ICE may release an alien detained under section 235(b) of the INA, who was apprehended or encountered after illegally entering or attempting to illegally enter the United States. One of the situations is where the alien obtains an administratively final order granting relief or protection from removal or DHS determines that the individual is a U.S. citizen or an alien who is a lawful permanent resident, refugee, or asylee; or holds another valid immigration status such as Temporary Protected Status or a valid non-immigrant visa. 

A19: The guidance is effective upon the establishment of a plan to surge immigration judges and asylum officers to process recent border entrants, and the establishment of appropriate processing and detention facilities.

Q20: How does the expansion of expedited removal account for those who may be eligible for immigration benefits?

A20: The Secretary’s intentions regarding expedited removal are under development and will be set forth and effective upon publication of a notice in the Federal Register.

Q21: How soon will DHS make changes to more closely align its use of the expedited removal authority with Congressional intent?

A21: DHS is working to issue appropriate parameters in which expedited removal in these kinds of cases will be used.

Q22: Is it true that DHS is going to make the threshold for meeting credible fear in asylum cases more difficult to meet?

A22: The goal of DHS is to ensure the asylum process is not abused. Generally speaking, to establish a credible fear of persecution, an alien must demonstrate that there is a “significant possibility” that the alien could establish eligibility for asylum, taking into account the credibility of the statements made by the alien in support of the claim and such other facts as are known to the officer.

Asylum officers are being directed to conduct credible fear interviews in a manner that allows the interviewing officer to elicit all relevant information from the alien as is necessary to make a legally sufficient determination. In determining whether the alien has demonstrated a significant possibility that the alien could establish eligibility for asylum or torture protection, the asylum officer shall consider the statements of the alien and determine the credibility of the alien’s statements made in support of his or her claim and shall consider other facts known to the officer, consistent with the statute.

The asylum officer shall make a positive credible fear finding only after the officer has considered all relevant evidence and determined, based on credible evidence, that the alien has a significant possibility of establishing eligibility for asylum, or torture protection.

Q23: How will the enhancements to asylum referrals and credible fear determinations under INA section 235(b)(1) affect the work of USCIS?

A23: The Secretary’s memorandum outlines several points:

  • The director of USCIS shall ensure that asylum officers conduct credible fear interviews in a manner that allows the interviewing officer to elicit all relevant information from the alien as is necessary to make a legally sufficient determination.
  • The director shall also increase the operational capacity of Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) and continue to strengthen its integration to support the Field Operations Directorate (FOD), Refugee Asylum and International Operations (RAIO), and Service Center Operations (SCOPS), consulting with Operational Policy and Strategy (OP&S) as appropriate.
  • The USCIS director, CBP commissioner, and ICE director shall review their agencies’ fraud detection, deterrence, and prevention measures and report to the Secretary within 90 days regarding fraud vulnerabilities in the asylum and benefits adjudication processes, and propose measures to enhance fraud detection, deterrence, and prevention.
  • The asylum officer, as part of making a credible fear finding, shall determine the credibility of statements made by the individual in support of his or her claim. This determination should include, but is not limited to, consideration of the statistical likelihood that the claim would be granted by the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).
  • The asylum officer shall make a positive credible fear finding only after the officer has considered all relevant evidence and determined, based on credible evidence, that the alien has a significant possibility of establishing eligibility for asylum, or for withholding or deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture, based on established legal authority.
Q24: How does the memorandum address the processing and treatment of unaccompanied alien minors at the border?

A24: The Secretary’s memorandum instructs the USCIS director, CBP commissioner, and ICE director to develop uniform written guidance and training for all employees and contractors of those agencies regarding the proper processing of unaccompanied alien children, the timely and fair adjudication of their claims for relief from removal, and, if appropriate, their safe repatriation at the conclusion of removal proceedings. In developing such guidance and training, they shall establish standardized review procedures to confirm that alien children who are initially determined to be “unaccompanied alien child[ren],” as defined in 6 U.S.C. § 279(g)(2), continue to fall within the statutory definition when being considered for the legal protections afforded to such children as they go through the removal process.

Q25: Is it true that in cases of UACs who travel to the U.S. to reunite with a parent, if a parent is identified by ORR as an appropriate guardian, that parent could also be prosecuted for possibly having their child smuggled into the U.S.?

A25: Correct. The parents and family members of these children, who are often illegally present in the United States, often pay smugglers several thousand dollars to bring their children into this country. Tragically, many of these children fall victim to robbery, extortion, kidnapping, sexual assault, and other crimes of violence by the smugglers and other criminal elements along the dangerous journey through Mexico to the United States. Regardless of the desires for family reunification, or conditions in other countries, the smuggling or trafficking of alien children is intolerable. Accordingly, DHS shall ensure the proper enforcement of our immigration laws against those who—directly or indirectly—facilitate the smuggling or trafficking of alien children into the United States. This includes placing parents or guardian who are removable aliens into removal proceedings, or referring such individuals for criminal prosecution, as appropriate.

Q26: How might the allocation of additional resources and personnel to the southern border for detention of aliens and adjudication of claims affect USCIS personnel?

A26: The screening of credible fear claims by USCIS and adjudication of asylum claims by EOIR at detention facilities located at or near the point of apprehension will facilitate an expedited resolution of those claims and result in lower detention and transportation costs. Accordingly, to the greatest extent practicable, the director of USCIS is directed to increase the number of asylum officers and FDNS officers assigned to detention facilities located at or near the border with Mexico to properly and efficiently adjudicate credible fear and reasonable fear claims and to counter asylum-related fraud.

Q27: How does the Secretary’s memorandum address the use of parole authority, as set forth in INA section 212(d)(5)?

A27: The memo notes that the statutory language appears to strongly counsel in favor of using the parole authority sparingly and only in individual cases where, after careful consideration of the circumstances, parole is needed because of demonstrated urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. It states the practice of granting parole to certain aliens in pre-designated categories in order to create immigration programs not established by Congress has contributed to a border security crisis, undermined the integrity of the immigration laws and the parole process, and created an incentive for additional illegal immigration.

Therefore, the USCIS director, CBP commissioner, and ICE director are directed to ensure that appropriate written policy guidance and training is provided to employees exercising parole authority, including advance parole. These employees should be familiar with the proper exercise of parole under section 212(d)(5) of the INA and exercise such parole authority only on a case-by-case basis, consistent with the law and written policy guidance.  Notwithstanding other implementation guidance, and pending further review by the Secretary and additional guidance from the Director of ICE, the ICE policy directive establishing standards and procedures for the parole of certain arriving aliens found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture shall remain in full force and effect.

Q28: The implementation guidance references rescinding all previous immigration enforcement memos. Does this include the ICE and CBP memorandum on sensitive locations?

A28: No, the sensitive locations guidance remains in effect for both ICE and CBP.

Q29: Is DHS going to being immediately sending Mexican nationals and individuals of other nationalities who traveled through Mexico to the U.S. back to Mexico while they await the outcome of their removal proceedings?

A29: DHS is working with the Mexican government and the Department of State to determine how to best implement this guidance. However, consistent with the law and U.S. international treaty obligations, CBP and ICE personnel shall, to the extent appropriate and reasonably practicable, return aliens described in section 235(b)(2)(A) of the INA, who are placed in removal proceedings under section 240 of the INA—and who, consistent with the guidance of an ICE Field Office Director, CBP Chief Patrol Agent, or CBP Director of Field Operations, pose no risk of recidivism—to the territory of the foreign contiguous country from which they arrived pending such removal proceedings.

Q30: Do these memoranda affect recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)?

A30: No.

Topics:  Border Security, Homeland Security Enterprise, Immigration Enforcement

Q&A: DHS Implementation of the Executive Order on Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 08:30
Release Date: February 21, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON – On February 20, 2017, Secretary John Kelly signed a memorandum implementing the president’s Executive Order No. 13768 entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” issued on January 25, 2017. This document is designed to answer some frequently asked questions about how the Department will operationally implement the guidance provided by the president’s order.

Q1: Under what authority is DHS implementing this executive order?

A1: This executive order is being implemented under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq., and other immigration laws.

Q2: How is ICE conducting interior enforcement operations based on this executive order?

A2: Effective immediately, ICE will direct its personnel as well as its state and local partners through the 287(g) program to apply the enforcement priorities stated in Executive Order No. 13768. 

To that end, within 180 days, ICE will carry out a number of actions to implement the enforcement priorities stated in the executive order. Some of those actions include, but are not limited to, conducting targeted enforcement operations and allocating resources to work in jurisdictions with violent crime tied to gang activities.

Q3: Does this new memoranda substantively change the authority of immigration enforcement officers throughout DHS to exercise traditional law enforcement discretion?

A3: DHS officers and agents maintain discretion to determine which action(s) to take against removable aliens, but they have been provided with additional guidance by the president and secretary. 

Q4: How is ICE holding recalcitrant countries responsible for their failure to cooperate with the removal of their nationals?

A4: The Secretary of Homeland Security and Secretary of State will coordinate to impose appropriate, lawful consequences on foreign governments who refuse to accept the repatriation of their nationals. These consequences range from formal diplomatic communications to visa sanctions.

Q5: What are ICE’s priorities under this executive order?

A5: Under this Executive Order, ICE will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.

Q6: What is ICE doing to support victims, and the family members of victims, of crimes committed by removable aliens?

A6: ICE is currently identifying resources and realigning existing personnel to support and establish the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office.  ICE is in the process of drafting outreach materials for victims and families impacted by immigration crime.

Q7: Does this focus on victims of immigration crime mean that ICE will no longer engage with NGOs and other stakeholders?

A7: ICE will continue to engage with all stakeholders to include NGOs.

Q8: Is it true that under this executive order, ICE has done away with priorities?

A8: Under this Executive Order, ICE will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement. All of those present in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention, and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.

Q9: How soon will you hire the additional 10,000 employees mandated in the executive order? Will the hiring be completed all at once or in phases? Will all of the hires be law enforcement personnel?

A9: ICE is working on implementing a hiring plan.

Q10: Will these additional resources be solely focused on immigration enforcement?

A10: Those hired pursuant to the president’s direction under the executive order will focus on both civil and criminal immigration enforcement. Additional personnel will also be hired to carry out support functions of the executive order.

Q11: What is the 287(g) and how will it be used by ICE?

A11: The 287(g) program allows local law enforcement agencies to participate as an active partner in identifying criminal aliens in their custody, and placing ICE detainers on these individuals.  Removing criminal aliens from our communities produces a higher level of public safety for everyone. To strengthen the 287(g) program, ICE field leadership has begun examining local operational needs and liaising with potential 287(g) partners.  Existing 287(g) applications are also undergoing an expedited review process. 

Q12: Are 287(g) officers now going to do ICE’s job?

A12: The 287(g) program, one of ICE’s top partnership initiatives, enables a state and local law enforcement entity to enter into a partnership with ICE, under a joint memorandum of agreement.  The state or local entity receives delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions.

Q13: How will ICE and CBP engage with governors and others for the purpose of preparing to enter into agreements under 287(g)?

A13: As part of ICE’s outreach, agency personnel will discuss the 287(g) program and how interested parties can enter into a memorandum of agreement.

Q14: When is the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) being terminated?

A14: ICE has terminated the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) and restored Secure Communities, directing its personnel to take enforcement action consistent with the priorities set forth in the executive orders. 

Q15: Has the DHS Secretary reviewed all agency regulations, policies and procedures to ensure consistency with this Executive Order? If so, have any regulations, policies and/or procedures been rescinded?

A15: ICE has terminated the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) and restored Secure Communities, directing its personnel to take enforcement action consistent with the priorities set forth in the executive orders.  ICE has also rescinded priority enforcement categories that previously exempted classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.

Q16: Is the Secretary of Homeland Security working to develop and implement a program that ensures adequate resources are devoted to the prosecution of criminal immigration offenses in the United States?

A16: ICE is using a three pronged approach to ensuring criminal immigration offenses are prosecuted to the fullest extent possible. First, ICE will coordinate with each U.S. Attorney’s Office to revisit local prosecution threshold requirements and advocate for a lower threshold. Second, ICE developed a proposal for a National Lead Development Center to focus on immigration fraud and refer those cases to Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces.  Third, ICE it will coordinate with state and local law enforcement partners to support criminal investigations involving illegal aliens engaged in fraud schemes.

Q17: What are you doing to reduce the reach of violent crime and transnational criminal organizations?

A17: To better target gang members responsible for violent crime and transnational criminal activities, ICE has notified field leadership to immediately assess and, if possible, realign resources to support Operation Community Shield, an international law enforcement initiative that combines Homeland Security Investigations' (HSI) expansive statutory and civil enforcement authorities to combat the growth and proliferation of transnational criminal street gangs, prison gangs and outlaw motorcycle gangs throughout the United States. With assistance from state, local, tribal and foreign law enforcement partners, the initiative helps HSI locate, investigate, prosecute, and where applicable, immediately remove gang members from our neighborhoods and ultimately from the United States. 

Q18: What threshold of abuse of a public benefit program will render someone removable?

A18: Those who have knowingly defrauded the government or a public benefit system will be priority enforcement targets.

Q19: Is there any class of removable individuals in the United States that ICE will deprioritize for removal?

A19: Under this executive order, ICE will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.

Q20: Does ICE still prioritize criminal enforcement priorities?

A20: Under this executive order, ICE will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States. The guidance makes clear, however, that ICE should prioritize several categories of removable aliens who have committed crime, beginning with those convicted of a criminal offence.

Q21: What training do immigration officers receive to make them valid determinations of who could possibly pose a risk to public safety or national security?

A21: ICE officers and agents as well as state and local 287(g) officers are trained to enforce immigration laws both in civil and criminal environments. All of those in violation of immigration law are subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.

Q22: Do these memoranda affect recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)?

A22: No.

Topics:  Border Security, Homeland Security Enterprise, Immigration Enforcement, Land

Secretary Kelly Issues Implementation Memoranda on Border Security and Interior Enforcement Executive Orders

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 08:30
Release Date: February 21, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

Today, Secretary John Kelly issued two memoranda to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) workforce providing further direction to implement the recent executive orders on border security and enforcement of the immigration laws.

In accordance with the Department’s commitment to be transparent with the American people, and to more effectively implement policies and practices that serve the national interest and protect the homeland, consolidated information regarding DHS operations in relation to the executive orders is available at www.dhs.gov/executive-orders-protecting-homeland.

# # #

Topics:  Border Security, Homeland Security Enterprise, Immigration Enforcement

Fact Sheet: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 08:30
Release Date: February 21, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

Interior enforcement of our nation's immigration laws is critically important to the national security and public safety of the United States. Aliens who illegally enter the United States and those who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their visas have violated our nation’s laws and can pose a threat to national security and public safety. This is particularly true for aliens who engage in criminal conduct in the United States. We are charged with faithfully executing the laws of the United States and we will not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. The Executive Order No. 13768 entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” directs our Department and agencies to enforce the law, and we will do so professionally and humanely.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will make use of all available systems and resources to enforce the law. DHS will also ensure that aliens ordered removed from the United States are promptly removed. The victims of crimes committed by removable aliens and the families of victims will also receive support from the Department.

Authorities

The executive order and its implementation is grounded in authorities vested in the President by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, including  authority of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.) and implements responsibilities to ensure that the nation’s immigration laws are faithfully executed.

Actions
  • Enforcing the law. Under this executive order, with extremely limited exceptions, DHS will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to enforcement proceedings, up to and including removal from the United States. The guidance makes clear, however, that ICE should prioritize several categories of removable aliens who have committed crimes, beginning with those convicted of a criminal offense. 
  • The Department’s Enforcement Priorities. Congress has defined the Department’s role and responsibilities regarding the enforcement of the immigration laws of the United States. Effective immediately, and consistent with Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution and Section 3331 of Title 5, U.S. Code, Department personnel shall faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States against all removable aliens. 
  • Strengthening Programs to Facilitate the Efficient and Faithful Execution of the Immigration Laws of the United States. Facilitating the efficient and faithful execution of the immigration laws of the United States—and prioritizing the Department’s resources—requires the use of all available systems and enforcement tools by Department personnel.
  • Exercise of Prosecutorial Discretion. Unless otherwise directed, Department personnel may initiate enforcement actions against removable aliens encountered during the performance of their official duties. Department personnel should act consistently with the President’s enforcement priorities as identified in his executive order and any further guidance issued by the director of ICE, the commissioner of CBP, and the director of USCIS prioritizing the removal of particularly dangerous aliens, such as convicted felons, gang members, and drug traffickers.
  • Establishing the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office. The Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office within the Office of the Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will create a programmatic liaison between ICE and the known victims of crimes committed by removable aliens. The liaison will facilitate engagement with the victims and their families to ensure, to the extent permitted by law, that they are provided with information about the offender, including the offender’s immigration status and custody status, and that their questions and concerns regarding immigration enforcement efforts are addressed.
  • Hiring Additional ICE Officers and Agents. To effectively enforce the immigration laws in the interior of the United States in accordance with the president’s directives, additional ICE agents and officers are necessary. The director of ICE shall—while ensuring consistency in training and standards—take all appropriate action to expeditiously hire 10,000 agents and officers, as well as additional mission support and legal staff necessary to support their activities.
  • Establishment of Programs to Collect Authorized Civil Fines and Penalties. As soon as practicable, the director of ICE, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) shall issue guidance and promulgate regulations, where required by law, to ensure the assessment and collection of all fines and penalties for which the Department is authorized under the law to assess and collect from removable aliens and from those who facilitate their unlawful presence in the United States.
  • Aligning the Department’s Privacy Policies with the Law. The Department will no longer afford Privacy Act rights and protections to persons who are neither U.S. citizens nor lawful permanent residents. 
  • Collecting and Reporting Data on Alien Apprehensions and Releases. The collection of data regarding aliens apprehended by ICE and the disposition of their cases will assist in the development of agency performance metrics and provide transparency in the immigration enforcement mission.
  • No Private Right of Action. This document provides only internal DHS policy guidance, which may be modified, rescinded, or superseded at any time without notice.
Transparency

To promote transparency and make the public aware of the nature of the number of criminal aliens in the United States, the Secretary and the Attorney General will collect relevant data and provide quarterly reports on the immigration status of all aliens incarcerated under the supervision of the Federal Bureau of Prisons; the immigration status of all aliens incarcerated as federal pretrial detainees under the supervision of the U.S. Marshals Service; and the immigration status of all convicted aliens incarcerated in state prisons and local detention centers throughout the United States.

Topics:  Border Security, Homeland Security Enterprise, Immigration Enforcement

Fact Sheet: Executive Order: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 08:30
Release Date: February 21, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

Federal immigration law both imposes the responsibility and provides the means for the federal government, in cooperation with the states, to secure the nation's borders. The purpose of this order is to direct executive departments and agencies to deploy all lawful means to secure the nation's southern border with Mexico, to prevent further illegal immigration into the United States, and to repatriate illegal aliens swiftly, consistently, and humanely.

This includes, among other provisions, establishing operational control of the border, establishing and controlling a physical barrier, detaining illegal aliens at or near the border, ending the practice of “catch and release,” and returning aliens to the territory from which they came pending formal proceedings.

This order also directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to hire an additional 5,000 border agents and to empower state and local law enforcement to support federal enforcement of immigration law, to the maximum extent permitted by law, and to ensure that prosecution guidelines place a high priority on crimes having a nexus to our southern border.

Authorities

This executive order and its implementation is grounded in authorities vested in the President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.) (INA), the Secure Fence Act of 2006 (Public Law 109 367) (Secure Fence Act), and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (Public Law 104 208 Div. C) (IIRIRA), in furtherance of the safety and territorial integrity of the United States as well as responsibilities to ensure that the nation's immigration laws are faithfully executed.

Actions
  • Enforcing the law. Under this executive order, with extremely limited exceptions, DHS will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to enforcement proceedings, up to and including removal from the United States. The guidance makes clear, however, that ICE should prioritize several categories of removable aliens who have committed crimes, beginning with those convicted of a criminal offense. 
  • Establishing policies regarding the apprehension and detention of aliens. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will release aliens from custody only under limited circumstances, such as when removing them from the country, when an alien obtains an order granting relief by statute, when it is determined that the alien is a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident, refugee, or asylee, or that the alien holds another protected status, when an arriving alien has been found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture and the alien satisfactorily establishes his identity and that he is not a security or flight risk, or when otherwise required to do so by statute or order by a competent judicial or administrative authority.
  • Hiring more CBP agents and officers. CBP will immediately begin the process of hiring 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents, as well as 500 Air & Marine agents and officers, while ensuring consistency in training and standards.
  • Identifying and quantifying sources of aid to Mexico. The President has directed the heads of all executive departments to identify and quantify all sources of direct and indirect federal aid or assistance to the government of Mexico. DHS will identify all sources of aid for each of the last five fiscal years.
  • Expansion of the 287(g) program in the border region. Section 287(g) of the INA authorizes written agreements with a state or political subdivision to authorize qualified officers or employees to perform the functions of an immigration officer. Empowering state and local law enforcement agencies to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law is critical to an effective enforcement strategy, and CBP and ICE will work with interested and eligible jurisdictions.
  • Commissioning a comprehensive study of border security. DHS will conduct a comprehensive study of the security of the southern border (air, land, and maritime) to identify vulnerabilities and provide recommendations to enhance border security. This will include all aspects of the current border security environment, including the availability of federal and state resources to develop and implement an effective border security strategy that will achieve complete operational control of the border.
  • Constructing and funding a border wall. DHS will immediately identify and allocate all sources of available funding for the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of a wall, including the attendant lighting, technology (including sensors), as well as patrol and access roads, and develop requirements for total ownership cost of this project.
  • Expanding expedited removal. The DHS Secretary has the authority to apply expedited removal provisions to aliens who have not been admitted or paroled into the United States, who are inadmissible, and who have been continuously physically present in the United States for the two-year period immediately prior to the determination of their inadmissibility, so that such aliens are immediately removed unless the alien is an unaccompanied minor, intends to apply for asylum or has a fear of persecution or torture in their home country, or claims to have lawful immigration status. To date, expedited removal has been exercised only for aliens encountered within 100 air miles of the border and 14 days of entry, and aliens who arrived in the United States by sea other than at a port of entry. The Department will publish in the Federal Register a new Notice Designating Aliens Subject to Expedited Removal Under Section 235(b)(1)(a)(iii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act that expands the category of aliens subject to expedited removal to the extent the DHS Secretary determines is appropriate, and CBP and ICE are directed to conform the use of expedited removal procedures to the designations made in this notice upon its publication.
  • Returning aliens to contiguous countries. When aliens apprehended do not pose a risk of a subsequent illegal entry, returning them to the foreign contiguous territory from which they arrived, pending the outcome of removal proceedings, saves DHS detention and adjudication resources for other priority aliens.  CBP and ICE personnel shall, to the extent lawful, appropriate and reasonably practicable, return such aliens to such territories pending their hearings.
  • Enhancing Asylum Referrals and Credible Fear Determinations. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers will conduct credible fear interviews in a manner that allows the interviewing officer to elicit all relevant information from the alien as is necessary to make a legally sufficient determination. USCIS will also increase the operational capacity of the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate.
  • Allocating resources and personnel to the southern border for detention of aliens and adjudication of claims. CBP and ICE will allocate available resources to expand detention capabilities and capacities at or near the border with Mexico to the greatest extent practicable. CBP will focus on short-term detention of 72 hours or less; ICE will focus on all other detention capabilities.
  • Properly using parole authority. Parole into the United States will be used sparingly and only in cases where, after careful consideration of the circumstances, parole is needed because of demonstrated urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. Notwithstanding other more general implementation guidance, and pending further review by the Secretary and further guidance from the Director of ICE, the ICE policy directive with respect to parole for certain arriving aliens found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture shall remain in full force and effect.
  • Processing and treatment of unaccompanied alien minors encountered at the border. CBP, ICE, and USCIS will establish standardized review procedures to confirm that alien children who are initially determined to be unaccompanied alien children continue to fall within the statutory definition when being considered for the legal protections afforded to such children as they go through the removal process.
  • Putting into place accountability measures to protect alien children from exploitation and prevent abuses of immigration laws. The smuggling or trafficking of alien children into the United States puts those children at grave risk of violence and sexual exploitation.  CBP and ICE will ensure the proper enforcement of our immigration laws against those who facilitate such smuggling or trafficking.
  • Prioritizing criminal prosecutions for immigration offenses committed at the border. To counter the ongoing threat to the security of the southern border, the directors of the Joint Task Forces-West, -East, and -Investigations, as well as the ICE-led Border Enforcement Security Task Forces (BESTs), are directed to plan and implement enhanced counter-network operations directed at disrupting transnational criminal organizations, focused on those involved in human smuggling.
  • Public Reporting of Border Apprehensions Data. In order to promote transparency, CBP and ICE will develop a standardized method for public reporting of statistical data regarding aliens apprehended at or near the border for violating the immigration law.
Transparency

In order to be more transparent with the American people and to more effectively implement policies and practices that serve the national interest, DHS will make data on aliens apprehended at or near the southern border available to the public.

Topics:  Border Security, Homeland Security Enterprise, Immigration Enforcement Keywords:  immigration, immigration enforcement

DHS Statement on Secretary Kelly’s Upcoming Trip to Guatemala and Mexico

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 16:45
Release Date: February 20, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, February 22, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) John Kelly will travel to Guatemala to meet with President Jimmy Morales. Secretary Kelly will also meet with the Ministers of Government and Foreign Affairs as well as observe the arrival of a DHS repatriation flight at the Guatemalan Repatriation and Reception Facility in Guatemala City.

Following his visit to Guatemala, Secretary Kelly will join Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Mexico. During their visit, the two Secretaries will meet with President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto and the Mexican ministers of Interior, Foreign Relations, Finance, National Defense, and Navy. The group will discuss border security, law enforcement cooperation, and trade, among other issues.

# # #

Topics:  DHS Enterprise Keywords:  Secretary, dhs

Written testimony of ICE for a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security hearing titled “A Dangerous and Sophisticated Adversary: The Threat to the Homeland Posed by Cartel Operations”

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 00:00
Release Date: February 16, 2017

210 House Capitol Visitor Center, U.S. Capitol

Chairman McSally, Ranking Member Vela, and distinguished members:

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss threats posed by Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) and the efforts of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify, target, investigate, disrupt, dismantle and bring to justice these criminal elements.

ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) leverages its broad authority, unique investigative tools and global footprint to secure our borders. We work in close coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and many other domestic and international law enforcement and customs partners to target TCOs. Today, I will provide ICE’s perspective on the sophisticated smuggling threats that we face on our Southwest border, the approaches that lead up to our border and some of what we do to address TCOs and their smuggling activities before contraband arrives at our borders, and even in the interior of the United States.

The Cartels along the Southwest Border

The primary Transnational Criminal Organizations that threaten the Southwest Border of the United States are Mexican Drug Cartels (the Cartels). Over the last decade the United States, working with our Mexican law enforcement and military counterparts, has had sustained success in attacking Cartel leaders, as evidenced by the recent extradition of Joaquin Guzman Loera, aka “El Chapo”, to face prosecution in the United States. However, every law enforcement success against the Cartels is challenged by the fact that the Cartels are highly networked organizations with built in redundancies that adapt on a daily basis based on their intelligence about U.S. border security and law enforcement.

I have brought with me today a troubling graphic that represents the interagency assessment of where the various Cartels in Mexico operate and the “approaches” or “corridors” that each controls along the U.S. Southwest border. Mexican cartels, notably Sinaloa, Jalisco New Generation, Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartels, stretch across and beyond the Southwest Border, operating through networks and loose affiliations with smaller organizations in cities across the United States. The areas controlled by each Cartel have evolved over time, often as a result of U.S. or Mexican law enforcement successes that have weakened Cartel influence in certain areas, and as alliances between cartel leadership shifts over time.

In addition to drug smuggling, another criminal threat that we face along our Southwest Border is human smuggling. One, of the questions we are often asked is whether human smuggling organizations are part of the Cartels or operate as distinct criminal enterprises. Based on HSI investigations and intelligence, it is our opinion that, although alien smuggling organizations pay taxes and fees to the Cartels to smuggle in a specific geographic area, they are generally run as distinct criminal enterprises in both Mexico and the United States. Certain members of these criminal enterprises control the major drug markets and others control a portion of the border on behalf of their cartel. We believe that these drug Cartel leaders and associates play a coordinating role in the immediate border areas, dictating when and where human smugglers will be allowed to cross the border. This coordination ensures human smugglers and their human cargo do not bring unwanted law enforcement attention, particularly in the United States, to their smuggling efforts. Our investigations have shown that when human smugglers do not heed warnings from drug smuggling organizations about where and when they smuggle, they can be targeted for physical violence, including murder, by Cartel members.

Smuggling Trends along the Southwest Border

As many of the members of this Subcommittee know firsthand, the Southwest Border is a very diverse environment, starting with a maritime border in the Gulf of Mexico and on the Pacific Ocean that transitions to vast land border areas that include rivers, rural agricultural lands and densely populated urban areas along the nearly 2,000 miles of our border. In response to these vastly different areas, the Cartels adapt their methods and cargo to the smuggling environment. From an operational point of view, this means that there is not a single strategy, tactic or technology that will succeed in eliminating the smuggling threat on every part of the Southwest Border.

Mexico is a major source and transit country for illicit drugs destined for the U.S., including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and, more recently, fentanyl. Intelligence reports indicate that Mexico is not only a source country for the production of fentanyl, it is also a transit country for fentanyl originating from Asia. Finally, in the last two decades, Mexico has also become the largest transit country for South American sourced cocaine destined for the U.S.

As a result of Mexico’s dominant role as either a source or transit point for illicit drugs destined for the U.S., it has also become a primary destination for the illicit proceeds that the Cartels earn from the distribution networks in the U.S. Mexican cartels use a variety of techniques to repatriate illicit proceeds, from bulk cash smuggling to sophisticated trade-based money laundering schemes. Many of the more complex techniques rely on third party money launderers and corrupt financial institutions.

To give you a sense of the variety of smuggling challenges that we collectively face, it is important to start by talking about the specific drug threats, smuggling methods and modes used across the spectrum of the Southwest border.

Heroin

Mexico has become the most significant source of heroin consumed in the United States, and according to the 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary, the U.S. government estimated that Mexican Cartels’ potential production of heroin was 70 metric tons in 2015, a 66 percent increase from 2014. The purity of Mexican-produced heroin has also increased over time, making it more marketable because it can be smoked or snorted as well as injected intravenously.

Fentanyl

The Mexican Cartels have quickly added fentanyl to their smuggled drugs in response to the explosion of opiate abuse in the United States. . Based on recent seizures it has been learned that smugglers are mixing fentanyl in contraband loads also containing heroin and/or methamphetamine, reinforcing the poly-drug nature of the Cartels. While U.S. law enforcement continues to assess how much of the fentanyl market in the United States is supported by Mexican-sourced fentanyl, the size of individual seizures and the proximity of Mexico to the U.S. drug market is a troubling sign.

Cocaine

Mexico is a transit country for South American-sourced cocaine. Cocaine is almost exclusively seized at POEs in non-factory compartments of privately owned vehicles (POVs). Alternatively, the cocaine may be deeply concealed within commercial conveyances and cargo shipments.

Methamphetamine

The majority of methamphetamine consumed in the United States is now produced in Mexico using precursor chemicals from Asia. Methamphetamine is almost exclusively seized in non-factory compartments of POVs. The second most common method of smuggling methamphetamine is by pedestrians who secrete it on their bodies or within body cavities. Methamphetamine is seized in both crystalline and liquid forms.

Marijuana

As I mentioned earlier, the Mexican Cartels cultivate marijuana, with Mexico being the largest foreign supplier of marijuana to the U.S. drug market. The majority of the marijuana seized by DHS agencies is seized as it is being smuggled between the Ports of Entry (POEs). When marijuana is seized at U.S. POEs it is most often found concealed among commercial cargo shipments.

Southwest Border Smuggling Methods and Related Challenges

Recognizing that the border in Southern California is different than the border in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, the Cartels adapt their smuggling methods to suit a specific area. The unifying goal of all smugglers is to try to blend into normal traffic in a given area in order to avoid law enforcement attention. On a daily basis the Cartels conduct surveillance of law enforcement operations along the border, principally focusing on CBP operations at and between the POEs. As the Department changes its tactics and techniques, or introduces new technology and infrastructure, the Cartels adapt their operations and probe our border security to determine the best way to accomplish their goals.

Land Ports of Entry

At POEs along the Southwest land border, smugglers use a wide variety of tactics and techniques for concealing drugs. Our special agents work every day with CBP officers from the Office of Field Operations to identify, seize, and investigate drug smuggling organizations that attempt to exploit POEs to introduce drugs into the United States. Within the POE environment there are three distinct threat areas exploited by the Cartels: Pedestrians; POVs; and Commercial Cargo. Pedestrians are primarily used to smuggle cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine on or within their bodies. POVs are used to smuggle cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine, and marijuana, often using deep concealment methods like non-factory compartments, gas tanks and other voids. At Commercial POEs, the Cartels utilize commercial tractor trailers to commingle narcotics with legitimate commercial goods or to conceal the narcotics within the tractor trailers themselves.

The Cartels also attempt to exploit CBP programs that facilitate the expedited entry of travelers and cargo into the United States. CBP seizures and ICE investigations have documented smuggling organizations’ attempts to exploit the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) and Free and Secure Trade (FAST) Programs.

The Cartels also use spotters/scouts and counter-surveillance techniques both at and between the POEs in order to increase their chances of success in smuggling ventures. Spotters/scouts watch and report on border law enforcement activities.

Between the Ports of Entry

The Cartels use the areas between the POEs primarily to smuggle marijuana in bulk. In these areas, the Cartels use a variety of techniques that are tailored to the terrain and other environmental factors. In Texas, the Rio Grande River creates a natural barrier that poses unique challenges for the U.S. Border Patrol.

Outside of urban areas along the land border, one tactic used by the Cartels is vehicle incursions, or “drive-throughs,” whereby smugglers breach the border by either going over or through border fences. Smugglers move vehicles over the fence using ramps or, on more rare occasions, lift vehicles over the fence using cranes. Going through the fence involves cutting fence panels and lifting them up or creating a gate in the fence allowing a vehicle to pass through. Vehicle incursions often rely on networks of scouts that are staged on the area’s highest points to warn them of U.S. Border Patrol or other law enforcement presence.

In areas where the Cartels cannot conduct vehicle incursions, they have experimented with ways to throw or launch marijuana bundles over the fence to co-conspirators waiting in the United States. Recently, we have seen Cartel attempts to use air or propane cannons to launch bundles of marijuana weighing more than a hundred pounds over the border fence.

Another tactic Cartels use in remote areas between the POEs is to have backpackers carry bundles of marijuana on their backs using improvised backpacks made of burlap or other materials. Backpackers often travel in groups and have been known to travel for days before getting to pre-designated locations where they are picked up by other members of the organization in the United States.

Smuggling by general aviation aircraft from Mexico has not been a significant threat since the late 1990’s. However, in the last decade we have seen the Cartels experiment with the use of ultralight aircraft to smuggle marijuana in Arizona and eastern California. More recently we have also seen the Cartels experiment with the use of small recreational drones to smuggle very small quantities of drugs, often just a couple of pounds.

In 1990 the first cross-border tunnel was discovered in Douglas, Arizona. Since that time a total of 194 tunnels (both completed and in progress) have been located along the Southwest Border, primarily in Arizona and Southern California. The discovery of illicit subterranean tunnels is evidence that smugglers are moving away from traditional smuggling techniques due to enhanced law enforcement efforts. In recognition of the significant smuggling threat present in Arizona and San Diego, ICE leads two Tunnel Task Forces in San Diego and Nogales under the auspices of the Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) Program, described in more detail below.

Maritime Smuggling

As infrastructure, technology and staffing have been added to the border in the San Diego area, we have seen an increase in maritime smuggling of marijuana from Mexico to California coastal areas north of San Diego. The Cartels use pleasure boats or small commercial fishing vessels known as “Pangas” that are able to achieve relatively high speeds under the cover of darkness to attempt to evade detection by CBP and USCG surface patrol vessels and patrol aircraft. Bulk quantities of cocaine are seized along the maritime approaches to our border during the transportation phase through either the Eastern Pacific Ocean or the Caribbean Sea prior to being broken down into much smaller loads for transport along land routes through Central America and Mexico.

Corruption

One of the major factors allowing the Cartels to sustain their existence and proliferate is public corruption in both Mexico and the United States. In Mexico, the Cartels rely on corrupt Mexican law enforcement and other public officials at every level of government to operate. U.S. law enforcement is not immune to corruption by the Cartels, who have used corrupt law enforcement officers from CBP, ICE and other Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies to avoid seizures and arrests.

Attacking Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs)

In response to the smuggling threat along the Southwest Border, we have assigned more than 1,500 special agents and almost 150 intelligence research specialists to our Southwest Border offices.

In fiscal year (FY) 2016, HSI drug smuggling investigations conducted by the five HSI Special Agent in Charge Southwest Border offices resulted in 5,659 criminal arrests, 3,941 indictments, 3,383 convictions and 330 administrative immigration arrests. We have continued to collaborate with our partners in Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies to identify, target, investigate, disrupt, and dismantle the Cartels. The following is a list of the various initiatives we use to combat TCOs:

DHS Joint Task Forces

In 2015 the Secretary of DHS created three Joint Task Forces (JTFs) to address the smuggling threats identified in the Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Plan. Two of the JTFs, JTF East (JTF-E) and JTF West (JTF-W), are geographically focused task forces that concentrate on the southern land and maritime border of the United States and the approaches to our border all the way to Central and South America. HSI has provided Senior Executives to serve as the Deputy Directors of JTF-E and JTF-W, as well as staff-level support in the JTF-E and JTF-W Joint Staffs.

ICE has been designated as the executive agent for the third Joint Task Force, Joint Task Force Investigations (JTF-I), with other DHS components supporting. JTF-I is a joint, integrated, “functional” task force that has the responsibility of targeting top-tier criminal investigations and supporting JTF-E and JTF-W. The success of JTF-I in these diverse environments depends upon a high level of cooperation among HSI and our Federal, State, local, and foreign partners in consolidating resources and leveraging unique international maritime authorities in combating TCOs.

Border Enforcement Security Task Forces (BEST)

Our BEST units employ a threat-based/risk mitigation investigative task force model that recognizes the unique resources and capabilities of all participating law enforcement partners. This model enables each unit to apply a comprehensive approach to combating TCOs, while recognizing the distinctive circumstances and threats facing the various border environments, be it land borders, seaports or airports. Additionally, BEST units are designed to incorporate other DHS-partner agencies, including CBP and the Transportation Security Administration, and are vehicles for establishing unity of effort, the cornerstone of a successful DHS mission. BEST units further solidify HSI’s role as the primary investigative entity for DHS.

We continue to expand the BEST program, which currently operates in 44 locations throughout the United States. BEST leverages more than 1,000 Federal, State, local, and foreign law enforcement agents and officers representing over 100 law enforcement agencies. BEST also provides a co-located space that allows for collaboration in conducting intelligence-driven investigations aimed at identifying, disrupting, and dismantling TCOs that operate in the air, land, and sea environments. In FY 2016, the BEST program accounted for 3,710 criminal arrests, 991 administrative arrests, and prosecutors obtained 2,248 indictments and 1,923 convictions.

Money Laundering Efforts

The Cartels move illicit proceeds, hide assets, and conduct transactions globally. Among the various methods Cartels use to transfer and launder their illicit proceeds are bulk cash smuggling, Trade Based Money Laundering, funnel accounts and professional money launderers, and misuse of Money Service Businesses (MSB) and emerging payment systems. The Cartels exploit vulnerabilities in the financial system and conduct layered financial transactions to circumvent regulatory scrutiny, which presents difficulties for authorities attempting to distinguish between licit and illicit use of the financial system. HSI has refined our ability to target money laundering and financial violations through various techniques, to include interagency investigations, training and capacity-building, targeted financial sanctions, and direct engagement with at-risk financial institutions and jurisdictions.

U.S. Anti-Money Laundering laws and regulations impose customer identification, recordkeeping, and reporting obligations on covered financial institutions that help deter criminals from moving illicit proceeds through the financial system. These preventive measures also create valuable evidentiary trails for law enforcement to employ during an investigation. As such, HSI has an abundance of investigative tools in our arsenal to disrupt and dismantle Cartel money laundering operations as well as to discourage new actors from engaging in illicit activity.

Our National Bulk Cash Smuggling Center (BCSC), located in Burlington, Vermont, generates long-term, multi-jurisdictional bulk cash investigations by analyzing incident reports and conducting intelligence-driven operational support to field offices. When contacted by Federal, State, and local law enforcement for support, the BCSC assists that jurisdiction as much as possible by engaging the full scope of its law enforcement intelligence data sources and referring requests for assistance to local HSI field offices for immediate response. Since its inception in August 2009, the BCSC has initiated or substantially contributed to over 1,428 investigative leads, which have yielded 1,182 criminal arrests, 747 indictments, 546 state or federal convictions, and seizures of bulk cash totaling over $326.5 million.

HIDTA - High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Forces

The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program was initiated in 1990 by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in order to designate certain geographical areas as having especially high concentrations of drug trafficking activities such as distribution, transportation and smuggling. The HIDTA Program provides these areas with federal funding, which supports coordinated law enforcement counter drug efforts.

The ONDCP designates geographic areas as HIDTAs and allocates federal resources to establish formal cooperative law enforcement efforts between local, State, and Federal drug enforcement agencies. HSI, using its combined immigration and customs authorities, leads several HIDTA initiatives along the Southwest Border.

The OCDETF Program allows our Special Agents to partner and collaborate in investigations using our unique and far reaching authorities to enforce and regulate the movement of carriers, persons, and commodities between the U.S. and other nations. We have dedicated personnel on all eleven OCDETF co-located Strike Forces. These Strike Forces logically extend the OCDETF program beyond the creation of prosecutor-led task forces that join together on case-specific efforts and then disband at the end of the investigation. Now, permanent task force teams work together to conduct intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations against the continuum of priority targets. We also participate in the OCDETF Fusion Center, which support investigations of TCOs through interagency coordination.

International Partners and Cooperation

ICE HSI works closely with our Federal law enforcement and international partners to disrupt and dismantle TCOs. We have 63 offices in 47 countries and are uniquely positioned to utilize established relationships with host country law enforcement, to include the engagement of Transnational Criminal Investigative Units (TCIUs). These TCIUs are composed of DHS-trained host country counterparts who have the authority to investigate and enforce violations of law in their respective countries. Since our law enforcement officers working overseas do not possess general law enforcement or investigative authority in most host countries, the use of these TCIUs enables ICE to promote direct action in its investigative leads while respecting the sovereignty of the host country and cultivating international partnerships. These efforts, often thousands of miles from the U.S.-Mexico border in countries like Colombia and Panama, essentially act as an outer layer of security for our Southwest Border.

Working with Mexican Authorities

Mexico has proven to be an outstanding partner in the fight against TCOs, taking down the Cartels’ top leadership and helping in efforts to dismantle these organizations. ICE’s Attaché Office in Mexico City is the largest ICE presence outside of the United States. ICE has coordinated the establishment of TCIUs in Mexico comprised of Mexican law enforcement officers. Through our Attaché in Mexico City and associated sub-offices, HSI assists in efforts to combat transnational drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, human smuggling, and money laundering syndicates in Mexico. ICE Attaché personnel work daily with Mexican authorities to combat these transnational threats. Additionally, ICE—along with other DHS components—actively works through the Department of State to provide training and technical assistance to our Mexican counterparts. The spirit of collaboration and joint effort between DHS components and our counterparts in Mexico is unprecedented.

Conclusion

Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today and for your continued support of ICE and its law enforcement mission. ICE is committed to stemming cross-border criminal organizations through the various efforts I have discussed today. I appreciate your interest in these important issues.

I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

Topics:  International Keywords:  Transnational Crime Organizations, TCO, Transnational Criminal Investigative Units, TCIU, Joint Task Force Investigations, Border Enforcement Security Task Force, International partnerships

Written testimony of CBP for a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security hearing titled “A Dangerous and Sophisticated Adversary: The Threat to the Homeland Posed by Cartel Operations”

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 00:00
Release Date: February 16, 2017

210 House Capitol Visitor Center, U.S. Capitol

Chairwoman McSally, Ranking Member Vela, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear today on behalf of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to discuss the evolving drug smuggling tactics and techniques used by transnational criminal organizations (TCO) and how CBP is working to address this threat and secure our Nation’s borders.

CBP is responsible for America’s frontline border security and has a significant role in the Nation’s efforts to combat the cross-border criminal activity of cartels and other TCOs. Thanks to the support of Congress, in the past decade, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has deployed more personnel, resources, technology, and tactical infrastructure for securing our borders than at any other time in history. As America’s frontline border agency, CBP protects the United States against terrorist threats and prevents the illegal entry of inadmissible persons and contraband, while facilitating lawful travel and trade. CBP’s mission demands we examine all border security threats, from human smuggling to drug smuggling. TCOs continue to exploit the border environment for their own gains, employing various capabilities to carry out illegal operations. We continue to meet and combat these capabilities.

CBP plays a critical role in the effort to keep dangerous drugs from illegally entering the country. Specifically, by leveraging a comprehensive, multi-layered, intelligence driven, and threat-based approach to enhance the security of our borders, we can diminish the effectiveness of TCO drug operations, as well as other border security threats. This dynamic approach to security both reduces the vulnerability of any single operational approach and extends our zone of security to include the avenues of approach, allowing threats to be addressed before they reach our borders. By leveraging international partnerships, we can ensure that our physical borders are not the first or last lines of defense.

The Current Border Environment

The border environment today is both challenging and complex. TCOs continually adjust their operations to circumvent detection and interdiction by law enforcement, and are quick to take advantage of technology advances, cheaper transportation and improvements to distribution methods, and improving fabrication and concealment techniques. Also, while the threats of illegal immigration and drug smuggling continue to be the principal criminal concerns in the border environment, TCOs continue to maintain a diverse portfolio of crimes to include fraud, weapons smuggling, kidnapping, and extortion. DHS, with the support of Congress, has made significant improvements to the physical security infrastructure along the Southwestern border and has invested in personnel, training, and information sharing. These investments have been valuable in combating the TCOs and have helped shape the current border environment.

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, CBP officers and agents seized and/or disrupted more than 3.3 million pounds of narcotics across the country1 including approximately 46,000 pounds of methamphetamine, 4,800 pounds of heroin, and 440 pounds of fentanyl. The vast majority of CBP drug interdictions occur along the Southwest land border from all environments and transportation modes.

Much of the illegal drug trafficking encountered by CBP officers and agents is facilitated by TCOs operating in Mexico. The reach and influence of Mexican cartels, notably Los Zetas, and the Gulf, Juarez, Jalisco New Generation, and Sinaloa Cartels, stretches across and beyond the Southwest border, operating through networks and loose affiliations with smaller organizations in cities across the United States. According to a 2016 Drug Enforcement Administration report, Mexican TCOs pose the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States. These criminal organizations traffic heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana throughout the United States, using established transportation routes and distribution networks.2 TCOs also maintain influence over U.S.-based gangs as a way to expand their domestic distribution process. Gang members are heavily involved in the domestic distribution of narcotics and, to a lesser extent, the actual movement of contraband across the Southwest border.

1 FY 2016 Border Security Report, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/assets/documents/2016-Dec/CBP-fy2016-border-security-report.pdf
2 Drug Enforcement Administration, 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary, “Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations”, page 1, DEA-DCT-DIR-001-17, November 2016. https://www.dea.gov/resource-center/2016%20NDTA%20Summary.pdf.

 

TCO Operations

In examining TCOs, it is apparent that they continue to seek ways to exploit the border environment. These TCOs pose a significant threat to both U.S. and international security. The illegal operations of TCOs affect both public safety and economic stability. Not only are these criminal networks resilient, but they maintain illicit pathways through foreign countries and towards the U.S. border, which could be exploitable by terror organizations to move personnel and assets into the United States. Furthermore, their operations are often diversified with separate operational cells, and with TCO participants often having the capability to participate in multiple roles. These TCOs are highly mobile and maintain sophisticated cross-border networks and are involved in a wide range of organized criminal activities including firearms trafficking, drug smuggling, and alien smuggling (See Exhibit 14). Additionally, TCOs operate throughout the spectrum of the border environment including at and between the ports of entry (POE), and in the various domains such as land, air, and sea.

The vast expanses of remote and rugged terrain between our POEs, and the large volume of trade and traffic at our POEs, continue to be targeted for exploitation by TCOs. These groups use a wide range of ever-evolving methods to move illicit goods into the United States. Some of these techniques include the movement of drugs by foot, conveyance, tunneling, and even through the use of projectile-type systems. These groups also rely on supporting tactics such as counter surveillance, concealment, and logistical support to further their illegal drug smuggling operations.

The Southwest land border POEs are the major points of entry for illegal drugs, where smugglers use a wide variety of tactics and techniques for concealing drugs. CBP officers regularly find drugs ingested, concealed in body cavities, taped to bodies (body carriers), hidden inside vehicle seat cushions, gas tanks, dash boards, tires, packaged food, household and hygiene products, in checked luggage, and concealed in construction materials on commercial trucks. While many smuggling attempts occur at POEs, the mail and express consignment environment, as well as maritime cargo also remain attractive options for smugglers.

TCOs have increased both the number and the sophistication of smuggling tunnels (See Exhibits 11-13). The tunnel threat consists of four categories of tunnels: conduit, rudimentary, interconnecting, and sophisticated. In the Arizona border regions specifically, TCOs also continue to attempt “drive-throughs” – incursions into U.S. territory by driving vehicles on ramps over the fence, or by attempting to cut the fence to drive vehicles containing illegal drugs across the border. Drive-through incursions generally involve large loads of illegal drugs, an expansive network of individuals (to include scouts), strategic logistics, and sophisticated communications equipment. TCOs have also improved their capabilities in passing drugs over existing fencing. Whereas TCOs previously threw, by hand, small loads of drugs over the border fence, they now utilize compressed air cannons to launch bundles of illicit narcotics in excess of 100 pounds over the border fence. These illegal operations are indicative of the ever-evolving and persistent intent of TCOs to exploit the border environment.

As interdiction and enforcement efforts along the U.S.-Mexico border have become more effective, TCOs continue to use maritime and air smuggling routes to transport contraband into the United States. TCOs use a variety of methods to enter the United States via maritime routes, including the use of small open vessels known as “pangas.” These small, wood or fiberglass, homemade fishing vessels cross the border at night, attempting to use their relatively high speed and small radar signature to evade detection by CBP and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) patrol vessels and aircraft. TCOs also use pleasure boats or small commercial fishing vessels — Sometimes equipped with hidden compartments — and attempt to blend in with legitimate boaters and transport contraband during broad daylight. Smuggling operations using this technique rely on the sheer number of similar boats on U.S. waters on any given day to elude detection. TCOs have also turned to new methods of smuggling by air with the emergence in recent years of the use of ultralight aircraft (See Exhibit 1). Under the cover of darkness, ultralights fly across the Southwest border and airdrop drugs to waiting ground crews.

TCOs regularly use counter surveillance tactics. This type of activity ranges from the use of scouts, individuals performing surveillance activity against law enforcement agencies, to more complicated activity such as interception of law enforcement communication. Scouts embed deep in the remote, rugged, terrain as well as urban communities, watching and reporting on border law enforcement activities. TCOs who deploy these scouts utilize a robust, highly technical, communication method – with the deliberate intent of concealing their communication from law enforcement (See Exhibits 2-5). While some of these operations are illegal in their execution (such as attempts to illegally obtain law enforcement sensitive information) others simply exploit the public venues from which, and within which, law enforcement operates (such as monitoring the coming and going of patrol vehicles from a border patrol station).

As TCOs involved in smuggling continue to explore new tactics and techniques to attempt to evade detection and interdiction, CBP, our Federal partners, and other law enforcement entities continue to adapt and increase our enforcement resources, enhancing our capabilities, and refine our strategies to anticipate and disrupt TCO activity.

CBP Efforts, Resources, and Capabilities to Counter TCOs

Addressing the TCO threat necessitates a united, comprehensive strategy and an aggressive approach by multiple entities across all levels of government. In close coordination with local, state, tribal, international and Federal law enforcement partners – specifically U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the USCG – CBP’s continued efforts to interdict illegal aliens, drugs, cash, and weapons at the border are a key aspect of U.S. border security efforts. We must also concentrate on increasing our understanding and identification of transnational criminal networks in order to identify, interdict, investigate, and prosecute TCOs and their criminal activity.

Along U.S. Borders

Since 2004, the number of Border Patrol agents has nearly doubled, from approximately 10,800 in 2004 to over 19,500 agents today. Along the Southwest border, DHS has increased the number of law enforcement on the ground from approximately 9,100 Border Patrol agents in 2001 to more than 16,000 today. At our Northern Border, the force of 500 agents that we sustained 15 years ago has grown to over 2,000.3

To combat the threat of TCO drug smuggling activities along the Southwest border between the POEs, CBP relies on a network of systems comprising of information, integration, personnel, technology, and infrastructure. CBP has deployed sophisticated detection technology, including fixed towers, mobile surveillance units, ground sensors, and thermal imaging systems to increase the ability to detect illegal cross-border activity and contraband and maintains 654 miles of border fencing and other tactical infrastructure in key trafficking areas. The CBP ReUse effort utilizes Department of Defense (DOD) technologies, including aerostat technology, spectrometers, land, air, and maritime radar, and night-vision equipment that are not needed by DOD but can be used to satisfy critical border security missions with minimal up-front costs for DHS. These resources are matched with personnel of various skill sets who work with other Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to interdict TCO drug smuggling operations.

As part of its efforts to prevent the illicit smuggling of drugs and other contraband, CBP maintains a high level of vigilance on avenues of egress from our Nation’s borders. TCOs deploy a sophisticated network of scouts into rough and remote terrain as well as highly populated urban areas along the Southwest border, making the identification and disruption of scout activity highly challenging. CBP utilizes predictive analysis, available technology, targeted enforcement, and the ability to rapidly readjust counter surveillance activities to affect and degrade the ability of scouts to operate in a given environment. When the location of a scout is discovered, we work quickly to counter the scout’s ability to take advantage of major vantage points and force spotter displacement or relocation; thus forcing them into more costly, vulnerable, and continuous reorganization.

When tunnels are detected and investigated, each U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) sector follows established protocols for coordination, confirmation, assessment, investigation, exploitation, and remediation. The USBP is an active participant in ICE Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) tunnel task forces. Since 2010, CBP has operated a Tunnel Detection and Technology Program, to integrate the efforts of CBP, ICE, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), to address tunnel-related activities and technology.

As an example of further CBP counter tunnel efforts, in March of 2016, collaboration through the cross-border coordination initiative and bi-national tunnel teams led Mexican officials to alert USBP agents in Nogales, Arizona, that a tunnel entrance in Nogales, Sonora had been located. During their investigation, USBP discovered that the incomplete cross-border tunnel extended approximately 30 feet into the United States. Since agents discovered the first illicit tunnel in 1990 in Douglas, Arizona, there have been 195 i1licit cross-border tunnels discovered - 194 along the Southwest border and one discovered along the Northern border near Lynden, Washington. Investigating a cross-border tunnel is a particularly dangerous task that requires an agent to crawl into what is usually a dark and confined space of unknown structural integrity and the potential to encounter a variety of threats. In some of the most narrow, dangerous tunnels, the Nogales tunnel team deploys a wireless, camera-equipped robot to investigate the passages. After a tunnel is investigated, the passage must be thoroughly remediated, or blocked to prevent further use.

At U.S. Ports of Entry

To support CBP’s evolving, more complex mission since September 11, 2001, the number of CBP officers ensuring the secure flow of people and goods into the nation through POEs has increased from 17,279 customs and immigration inspectors in 2003, to over 21,000 CBP officers and 2,400 agriculture specialists today. At POEs, the Office of Field Operations (OFO) utilizes CBP officer expertise and experience, technology, such as non-intrusive inspection (NII) x-ray and gamma ray imaging systems, and canine teams to detect the illegal transit of drugs hidden on people, in cargo containers, and concealed in conveyances (See Exhibit 6 and 8-10).

As of February 1, 2017, 313 Large-Scale (LS) NII systems are deployed to, and in between, our POEs. In FY 2016, LS-NII systems were used to conduct more than 6.5 million examinations resulting in more than 2,600 seizures and over 359,636 pounds of seized narcotics. NII systems are particularly valuable in detecting concealed contraband in vehicles. Two months ago, CBP officers working at the World Trade Bridge in Laredo, Texas, referred a driver and vehicle for secondary inspection. Using both non-intrusive inspection equipment and a narcotics-detection canine, CBP officers discovered and seized 201 pounds of alleged crystal methamphetamine concealed in fiberglass pottery, with a street value of more than $4 million.4

Personal vehicles are not the only means by which TCOs attempt to smuggle illegal drugs. In April 2016, CBP officers used non-intrusive inspection equipment to discover approximately 121 pounds of heroin and eight pounds of cocaine in a shipping container of vegetables transiting from Ecuador to Miami, Florida, through the Red Hook Container Terminal in Brooklyn, New York.5 TCOs also move drugs – especially hard drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine – in smaller quantities to try to evade detection. This past December, CBP officers working express consignment operations in Cincinnati intercepted a shipment containing 53.46 pounds of methamphetamines concealed in decorative concrete sculptures shipped from Mexico.6

The OFO National Canine Program (NCP) deploys specialized detection canine teams throughout the nation. OFO’s 489 canine teams are trained to detect narcotics, currency, firearms, and concealed humans. The majority of the canine teams are concentrated in four field offices along the Southwest border. Of those 489 canine teams, 49 of these teams also trained to detect firearms and currency. During FY 2016, OFO canine teams were responsible for the seizure of 533,783 pounds of narcotics, $38,629,557 in seized property, and $21,530,795 in currency seized. The currency/firearms detection canine program was also responsible for 154 firearms and 14,000 rounds of ammunitions seized.

Because TCOs are also known to use legitimate commercial modes of travel and transport to smuggle drugs and other illicit goods, CBP partners with the private sector to provide anti-drug smuggling training to air, sea, and land commercial transport companies (carriers). The overall goals of these programs and their training component are to encourage commercial carriers to share the burden of stopping the flow of illicit drugs; to deter smugglers from using commercial carriers to smuggle drugs; and to provide carriers with the incentive to improve their security and their drug smuggling awareness. The Carrier Initiative Program is a voluntary training program directed at employees of carriers with route systems that are high risk for drug smuggling. The Super Carrier Initiative Program is for those carriers that face an extraordinarily high risk from drug traffickers. Participating carriers sign agreements stating that the carrier will exercise the highest degree of care and diligence in securing their facilities and conveyances, while CBP agrees to conduct site surveys, make recommendations, and provide training. CBP and various carriers have signed over 3,800 Carrier Initiative Agreements and 27 Super Carrier Agreements.

In the Air and the Sea

To advance counternarcotic efforts in the air and at sea, CBP deploys capable and effective aerial and marine assets, including manned aircraft, unmanned aircraft systems and strategic and tactical aerostats, providing critical surveillance coverage and domain awareness (See Exhibit 7). CBP’s Air and Marine Operations (AMO) employs high speed Coastal Interceptor Vessels specifically designed and engineered with the speed, maneuverability, integrity and endurance to intercept and engage a variety of suspect non-compliant vessels in offshore waters, including the Great Lakes on the northern border.

CBP AMO P-3 Orion Aircraft (P-3s) have also been an integral part of the successful counternarcotic missions operating in coordination with Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S). The P-3s patrol in a 42 million-square mile area known as the Source and Transit Zone, which includes more than 41 nations, the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and seaboard approaches to the United States. In Fiscal Year 2016, CBP's P-3s operating out of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Jacksonville, Florida, flew more than 6,100 hours in support of counternarcotic missions resulting in 129 interdiction events of suspected smuggling vessels and aircraft. These events led to the total seizure of 87,657 kg of cocaine with an estimated wholesale value of $2.5 billion.7

In the air domain, AMO detects, identifies, investigates, and interdicts potential air threats to the United States including general aviation (GA) aircraft involved in the transit of contraband. The Air and Marine Operations Center (AMOC), a state-of-the-art law enforcement surveillance center, monitors complex airway traffic to identify illicit use of aircraft and those attempting to blend in with legitimate traffic. CBP’s eight Tethered Aerostat Radar Systems (TARS) form a network of long-range radars deployed along the border, which can identify and monitor low-altitude aircraft and vessels. TARS and hundreds of other domestic and international radar data are integrated through AMOC, located in Riverside, California, to identify and track suspect aircraft incursions. Also, AMO actively participates in Operation Martillo, an international counter illicit trafficking initiative whereby U.S. and regional partner nations’ military and law enforcement agencies patrol the air and sea environments in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the Eastern Pacific on a year-round basis.

3 As of January 7, 2017.
4 https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/local-media-release/cbp-officers-seize-more-4-million-crystal-meth-world-trade-bridge
5 https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/local-media-release/cbp-officers-seize-approximately-121-pounds-heroin-and-8-pounds-cocaine
6 https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/local-media-release/cincinnati-cbp-seizes-stone-statue-filled-meth
7 Drug Enforcement Administration, 2013 United States Illicit Drug Prices, page 7, DEA-DCW-DIR-012-15, January 2015. 2013 National Price Range, Cocaine, Approximately $28,700 per kilogram.

 

Intelligence and Information Sharing

Substantive and timely information sharing is critical in targeting and interdicting TCOs involved with drug-trafficking along the Southwest and Northern borders. CBP contributes to several initiatives to improve and integrate the combined intelligence capabilities of multiple Federal entities – including DHS, the Intelligence Community, and DOD – as well as our state, local, tribal, and international partners. For example, CBP participates in the Office of National Drug Control Policy-led Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy implementation effort, which includes a focus on the improvement of intelligence and information sharing among law enforcement agencies on the Federal, state, local and tribal levels From the use of labs to improved relationships with partners, we are committed to the creation of an intelligence and information enterprise for the benefit of all those combating drug smuggling. Improved technology and enhanced capabilities have expanded the collection, analysis, and dissemination of information among law enforcement partners working to dismantle TCO networks.

For example, the CBP Laboratories and Scientific Services Directorate uses advanced techniques to provide qualitative identification and quantitative determination as well as analysis of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine to assist with identifying potential drug smuggling routes. In addition, S&T is working to develop, test, and pilot new technology for securing and scanning cargo, improving surveillance of the Southern border, and enhancing detection capabilities for radar-evading aircraft. S&T is also pursuing and fielding new technology to monitor storm drains, detect tunnels, track low-flying aircraft, monitor ports, and enhance current mobile/fixed radar and camera surveillance systems to increase border security. S&T-developed technology recently put into operational use at the U.S.-Mexico border includes a new general aviation aircraft scanner in Laredo, Texas, and a new Brownsville-Matamoros Rail Non-Intrusive Inspection Microwave Data Transmission System.

CBP also hosts monthly briefing/teleconferences with Federal, state and local partners regarding the current state of the border – the Northern border and Southwest border – in order to monitor emerging trends and threats and provide a cross-Component, multi-agency venue for discussing trends and threats. The monthly briefings focus on narcotics, weapons, and currency interdictions and alien apprehensions both at and between the POEs. These briefings/teleconferences currently include participants from the Government of Canada, the Government of Mexico; ICE; USCG; DEA; FBI; U.S. Northern Command; Joint Interagency Task Force-South; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; U.S. Attorneys’ Offices; Naval Investigative Command; State and Major Urban Area Fusion Centers; and other international, Federal, state, and local law enforcement as appropriate.

CBP also contributes to the whole-of-government effort to combat narcotics-related threats by sharing critical information on travelers and cargo with investigative and intelligence partner agencies to identify and disrupt sophisticated routes and networks. Recognizing the need for open and sustainable channels to share information with our law enforcement and intelligence partners, personnel are co-located at the National Targeting Center to support efforts to combat narcotics and contraband smuggling by integrating real-time intelligence and all-source information into CBP targeting efforts and enforcement actions.

Information exchange with our partners within the Government of Mexico, facilitated by the CBP Attaché office in Mexico, has allowed for an unprecedented exchange of real time information through deployments of personnel between our countries. Representatives from Mexican Customs (Servicio de Administración Tributaria) are deployed at the CBP National Targeting Center in Sterling, Virginia, to share information and assist in targeting narcotics and other contraband. Likewise, CBP personnel are assigned to Mexico City and Panama under the Joint Security Program where we exchange alerts on suspicious TCO movements through the monitoring of our Advance Passenger Information System.

Enhancing counternarcotic information sharing in the air and maritime environments, the AMOC integrates data from multiple sensor sources to provide real-time information on suspect targets to responders at the Federal, state, and local levels. AMOC’s capabilities are enhanced by the continued integration of DHS and other Federal and Mexican personnel to increase efforts to identify, interdict, and investigate suspected drug trafficking in the air and maritime domains.

Operational Coordination

A whole-of-government approach that leverages interagency and international partnerships as a force multiplier has been and will continue to be the most effective way to keep our border secure. Providing critical capabilities toward the whole-of-government approach, CBP works extensively with our Federal, state, local, tribal, and international partners to address drug trafficking and other transnational threats along the Southwest border, Northern border, and coastal approaches. Our security efforts are enhanced through special joint operations and task forces conducted under the auspices of multi-agency enforcement teams, composed of representatives from international and U.S. Federal law enforcement agencies who work together with state, local, and tribal agencies to target drug and transnational criminal activity, including investigations involving national security and organized crime.

Under the Department’s Unity of Effort initiative, and with the establishment of three new DHS Joint Task Forces (JTFs), CBP is enhancing our collaboration with other DHS components – specifically ICE and USCG – to leverage the unique resources, authorities, and capabilities of each agency to more effectively and efficiently execute our border security missions against transnational criminal organizations, drug-trafficking, and other threats and challenges. The operation of the JTFs increases information sharing with Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and improves border-wide criminal intelligence-led interdiction operations to disrupt and dismantle TCO operations. CBP, together with our international, Federal, state, local, and tribal partners, is committed to reducing the risk associated with TCOs by addressing threats within the Southern Border and Approaches Joint Operating Area.

Joint Task Force-West (JTF-W), with CBP as executive agent, developed specific security objectives to frame and focus operations against prioritized TCOs, including integrating and aligning our intelligence capabilities; institutionalizing integrated counter-network operations to identify and target TCOs and illicit networks; prioritizing investigative efforts to disrupt, degrade, and dismantle TCOs and illicit networks; and strengthening international, prosecutorial, and deterrent efforts against TCO enterprises and significant activity impacting the JTF-W Joint Operating Area. Additionally, JTF-W continues to plant the seed for the next evolution of border security by targeting priority TCOs and their supporting illicit networks in ways never done before. As a result of the joint infrastructure that has been established during this past year, JTF-W is now able to plan, coordinate and execute integrated counter network operations beyond traditional DHS component operational capabilities and the immediate border. The ability to leverage the full spectrum of DHS intelligence, interdiction and investigative efforts has maximized consequence application to illicit network members exploiting our operational seams, prosecutorial thresholds and those abusing current immigration benefits.

TCO activity is a global problem and CBP continues to work with our international partners, especially the Government of Mexico to share information and leverage resources to combat this threat. Through the 21st Century Border Management Initiative, the U.S. Government, and the Government of Mexico are working to strengthen our collaborative relationship and efforts to secure and facilitate the cross-border flows of people and cargo. International Liaison Units (ILU) facilitate cooperation between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement authorities as part of a multi-layered effort to target, disrupt, and dismantle criminal organizations.

The Cross Border Coordination Initiative (CBCI) provides an operational framework to enhance public safety and degrade and disrupt the ability of TCOs to engage in the smuggling of illegal drugs, currency, weapons, ammunition, and people. CBP works with the Government of Mexico to deliver targeted consequence strategy through patrols, interdictions, prosecution, investigations and intelligence. In FY 2016, USBP and the Mexican Federal Police conducted 1,584 coordinated patrols. Additionally, bi-national operations, such as Operation Double Threat/Blue Thunder, are innovative and mutually beneficial mirrored patrols that are key to border security and safety for both countries. Operation Double Threat/Blue Thunder took place between USBP and Mexican Federal Police on April 17-30, 2016, in Sonora and Nogales, Arizona. During the time of the operation, entries and arrests dropped by almost 50 percent in the targeted zone, and 3,504 kg of marijuana, 727g of cocaine and 55g of methamphetamine were seized.

On Eastern Pacific and Western Caribbean waters, CBP partners with the USCG and the Mexican Navy (SEMAR) to conduct maritime operations on both sides of the border and maintain a dynamic presence. For example, AMO along with DOD’s Air Forces North (AFNORTH) have partnered to deploy International Air and Marine Operations Surveillance Systems (I-AMOSS) to SEMAR locations. This system has proven to be an invaluable part of their anti-cartel mission and contributes to CBP/USCG/SEMAR joint planning. As such, efforts to expand this capability to other SEMAR locations are underway. Moreover, AMO supports SEMAR with Operation Albatros, providing maritime patrol aircraft over the Eastern Pacific with a SEMAR host-nation-rider onboard acting as a mission commander. Albatros patrols target cocaine-laden vessels transiting from the source and transit zone to the shores of Mexico.

CBP is committed to working with the Government of Mexico to identify and prosecute TCOs, and is working with Mexico Attorney General (PGR) to explore additional areas where CBP and the Government of Mexico can target and degrade TCOs. For example, the Operation Against Smugglers Initiative on Safety and Security (OASISS) is a bi-national prosecutorial program with the PGR that is focused on combating human smuggling across the Southwest border, by identifying and prosecuting Mexican nationals arrested for alien smuggling in the United States. Since the implementation of OASISS in August 2005 to October 2016, a total of 2,556 cases have been generated in the United States. From these cases, a total of 3,009 principals have been presented to the Government of Mexico for prosecution, and 2,196 of those principals were accepted for prosecution. In FY 2016 alone, 99 criminal cases were generated in the United States with a total of 111 principals and 70 of those principals were accepted by the Government of Mexico for prosecution.

AMOC’s coordinating efforts with the Government of Mexico and the deployment of shared surveillance technology continue to enable the Government of Mexico to focus aviation and maritime enforcement efforts to better combat TCO operations in Northern Mexico and the contiguous U.S.-Mexico border. AMOC’s joint collaboration with the Government of Mexico leverages intelligence and operational capabilities to further both air and maritime domain awareness. During FY16, this improved collaboration resulted in 15 Mexico-based seizures, six of which were mixed loads of narcotics. Smuggling events involved aircraft, semi-submersibles, pleasure craft, and panga type conveyances. The most recent example of these efforts was in October 2016, when AMOC detected and tracked an aircraft to a landing in Baja California, Mexico and alerted Mexican authorities. Mexican air and ground forces responded and reported the seizure of a Cessna 206, one vehicle, and 504 lbs. of methamphetamine.

In January 2016, AMO’s Tucson Air Branch participated in Operation “El Diablo Express,” a HSI-led investigation, resulting in a multi-agency operation that utilized HSI, DEA, FBI, Arizona DPS, Scottsdale PD, other CBP components, and Mexican Government agents. The operation was designed to combat Mexican drug cartels operating in Sonora, Mexico, south of Arizona. AMO air crews were instrumental in escorting Mexican Government aircraft and personnel through Arizona airspace on the day of mission, and provided real time information to them as they covertly crossed the border back into Mexico to conduct an early morning raid on a suspected drug cartel location, leading to multiple arrests and seizures.

It is important to acknowledge the significant strides that Mexico has taken in recent years to address transnational organized crime generally and narcotics smuggling specifically. Our relationship with Mexican counterparts is stronger today than it has ever been and their officers face the same challenges and threats that CBP experiences. We receive information from Mexican authorities on a daily basis that helps us better target narcotics smugglers at the border. In 2016, CBP’s Commissioner participated in a high level bilateral and interagency security cooperation meeting in Mexico City, where senior Mexican officials committed to working with the U.S. Government even more closely—including expanding efforts to combat heroin cultivation, production, and trafficking, and sharing more information on smuggling routes and networks. CBP will continue to work in close cooperation with our counterparts in Mexico as we seek to identify, interdict, investigate, and prosecute TCOs.

Conclusion

CBP, through collaboration and coordination with our many Federal, state, local, tribal, international government, and other partners, has made great strides in protecting the integrity and security of our borders. The investments over the years in our border security have been valuable and have helped shape the current border environment. Vulnerabilities have been addressed and this has led to the reduction of illicit activity in many areas along the border. CBP continues to maintain a vigilant watch on the changing dynamics of border security threats.

With continued support from Congress, CBP, in coordination with our partners, will continue to refine and further enhance the effectiveness of our detection and interdiction capabilities to combat transnational threats and the entry of illegal drugs into the United States. Furthermore, through the JTFs, we will continue to work with the intelligence community and our law enforcement partners to improve the efficiency of information sharing with relevant partners, to guide strategies, identify trafficking patterns and trends, develop tactics, and execute operations to address the challenges and threats posed by TCOs to the safety and security of the American public. The establishment of JTFs marks a renewed commitment to seek out and coordinate optimal, multi-component authorities, capabilities, competencies, and partnership expertise to combat all threats to the homeland.

Chairwoman McSally, Ranking Member Vela, and distinguished Members of Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I look forward to your questions.

Exhibits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Topics:  Air, Border Security, Information Sharing, International, Land Keywords:  Smuggling, Transnational Crime Organizations, TCO, Operational Coordination, Tunnel Detection, JTF, joint task force, International partnerships, U.S. Ports of Entry

Written testimony of USCG for a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security hearing titled “A Dangerous and Sophisticated Adversary: The Threat to the Homeland Posed by Cartel Operations”

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 00:00
Release Date: February 16, 2017

210 House Capitol Visitor Center, U.S. Capitol

Good morning Madam Chairwoman and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee. It is a pleasure to be here today to discuss the Coast Guard’s role in combating transnational organized crime and specifically how we address the drug smuggling methods of these networks.

Drug trafficking has destabilized regional states, undermined the rule of law, terrorized citizens, and driven both families and unaccompanied children to migrate to the U.S. To be clear, the flow of illicit drugs funds Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) networks, which pose a significant and growing threat to national and international security.

Today’s Coast Guard is a direct descendant of the Revenue Cutter Service, created by Alexander Hamilton in 1790, to stem the flow of maritime contraband into our newly-formed Republic. It is one of the nation’s five Armed Services, and the only branch of the military within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). While our missions and responsibilities have grown significantly since then – addressing a full range of security, safety, and stewardship concerns – our anti-smuggling roots continue to be an essential part of our service to the Nation. The Coast Guard is the lead federal maritime law enforcement agency, the lead federal agency for drug interdiction on the high seas, and the only agency with both the authority and capability to enforce national and international law on the high seas, outer continental shelf, and shoreward from the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to our inland waters.

For over two centuries, the Coast Guard has built a reputation as one of the most agile and adaptive agencies within the Federal Government; these qualities have served the Coast Guard well in its efforts to combat smugglers’ ever-evolving conveyances and tactics. The modern role of the Coast Guard in this fight can be traced to the demand for a variety of illegal drugs. From 1973 through 1991, the Coast Guard removed over 26 million pounds of marijuana, targeting and interdicting a variety of smuggling conveyances including commercial fishing vessels, ocean going cargo freighters, and pleasure craft. Beginning in the late 1990s, through the present day, cocaine has been the predominant drug being trafficked via maritime routes, bringing with it shifts in smuggling tactics. Cartels initially began using some of the very same conveyances used by marijuana smugglers, which included multi-ton loads of cocaine vulnerable to interdiction by Coast Guard forces. Cartels quickly adapted to Coast Guard efforts and began expanding tactics to include the ubiquitous “go-fast vessel,” as well as more modern conveyances including the purpose-built self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS), to disperse loads onto more numerous and harder to detect conveyances.

Today we face a sophisticated and well funded adversary that leverages high-tech conveyances such as low profile vessels and semi-submersibles, employs multiple go-fast vessels to outnumber interdicting forces, and deploys GPS beacons if forced to jettison bales of contraband to allow later relocation; all are advanced and coordinated means to avoid detection and evade apprehension.

The change in flow of cocaine toward the U.S. from South America from 2015 to 2016 was the largest increase the service has observed to date. The rise of cocaine production is attributed to the largest single-year increase of coca cultivation in Colombia ever recorded (immediately following the second largest single-year increase in more than a decade). To meet this growing threat, the Coast Guard has dedicated additional focus and assets to the Western Hemisphere Transit Zone1, and is investing in the people and platforms necessary to carry out an agressive interdiction effort, in addition to helping build regional partner capabilities.

1 The maritime portion of the Western Hemisphere Transit Zone is a six million square-mile area, roughly twice the size of the continental United States. The Transit Zone includes the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern Pacific Ocean.

 

Current Threat: Transnational Organized Crime, Violence, and Instability

One of the goals of the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction program is to interdict illicit traffic as close to the source zone as possible. This helps to stem the flow of drugs from reaching the Central America, Mexico, and the United States. Over the past five years, Coast Guard cutters and aircraft have removed more than 630 metric tons of high-purity cocaine from the high seas, with a wholesale value of nearly 18 billion dollars2. Our annual seizures at sea amount to more than three times the quantity of cocaine seized at our borders and within the U.S. combined. Despite these successes, TOC networks operate throughout Central America, vying for power through drug-fueled violence and corruption of government officials; in fact, eight out ofthe world’s ten countries with the highest per capita rates of homicide are along the cocaine trafficking routes in the Western Hemisphere3.

In response, the Coast Guard released its Western Hemisphere Strategy that indentifies three priorities for the maritime domain in the Western Hemisphere: Combating Networks, Securing Borders, and Safeguarding Commerce. To meet these priorities, the strategy emphasizes the importance of a robust offshore Airborne Use of Force (AUF) enabled cutter capability, which is supported by fixed wing maritime patrol aircraft and sophisticated intelligence capabilities.

2 [US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, 2013 United States Illicit Drug Prices, DEA Intelligence Report, DEA-DCW-DIR-012-15, January 2015.. ]
3 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), UNODC Research and Trend Analysis Branch, Global Study on Homicide 2013,

 

Combating TOC Networks - A Layered Approach to Drug Interdiction

The Coast Guard uses a “maritime trident” of cutters, boats, and aircraft in a layered approach to combat TOC networks as they transport illicit goods from the source zone, through Central America and Caribbean islands, into the U.S. This approach maintains operational control by confronting the threat beyond our land borders, beyond Mexico, and beyond Central America on the high seas where traffickers are most exposed and vulnerable to interdiction by the United States. This layered approach begins overseas, spans the offshore regions, and continues into our territorial seas and our ports of entry.

The Coast Guard is the major maritime interdiction asset provider to Joint Interagency Task Force – South (JIATF-S), which executes the Department of Defense statutory responsibility for the detection and monitoring of illicit drug trafficking in the air and maritime domains bound for the United States in support of law enforcement agencies such as the Coast Guard. Our most capable force package is flight deck equipped major cutters with embarked Airborne Use of Force (AUF)-capable helicopters and deployable pursuit-capable boats, supported by fixed wing maritime patrol aircraft, along with Coast Guard law enforcement detachments embarked on U.S. and allied ships. When they are able to target cases, they have been 80-90 percent effective in disrupting drug shipments.

As an example of their effectiveness, Coast Guard Cutter HAMILTON, the fourth and newest of nine National Security Cutters (NSC) to be built for the Coast Guard, returned to her homeport of Charleston, South Carolina from her inaugural patrol on December 16, 2016. On deck, she carried more than 24 metric tons of high-purity cocaine from 27 different interdictions by U.S. forces with a street value of nearly $700 million4. These interdictions also netted 111 suspects bound for U.S. prosecution.

Our interdicting capabilities continue to prove their value against TOC networks’ conveyance of choice – the go-fast vessel. In 2016, our Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) of AUF-capable helicopters – along with partner aircraft from the U.S. Navy, the Netherlands, and United Kingdom operating under our law enforcement authority with Coast Guard precision marksmen – set a record 63 at-sea interdictions, netting over 44 metric tons of cocaine.

In addition, the Coast Guard began providing high speed pursuit boats and crews to U.S. Navy Patrol Coastal class ships operating in the transit zone in 2016 to increase interdiction opportunities. Coupled with Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments, this innovative force package capability netted 11 interdictions and removed 6.5 metric tons of cocaine in just a few months. In total for fiscal year 2016, the Coast Guard removed 201 metric tons of cocaine (7.1% of estimated flow)5 and 52,600 pounds of marijuana from the transit zone, worth an estimated wholesale value of $5.7 billion.

The importance of interdictions transcends the direct removal of drugs taken off the high seas; when the Coast Guard apprehends suspects from drug smuggling cases, they disclose information during prosecution and sentencing that is used to help indict, extradite, and convict drug kingpins in the effort to disrupt and dismantle TOC networks. Interdictions also take profits out of the pockets of criminal networks by denying them financial resources. Additionally, they contribute to actionable intelligence on future events, producing follow-on seizures and intelligence. TOC networks cause much of the corruption and violence that spurs the increased migrant flow seen in recent years.

While more than 90 percent of our 2016 interdictions were cued by intelligence, the Coast Guard’s aging major cutters limit our ability to respond to all intelligence cued events. Critical acquisitions like the National Security Cutter (NSC) and Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) are essential to our long-term success in our fight against TOC networks.

4 [US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, 2013 United States Illicit Drug Prices, DEA Intelligence Report, DEA-DCW-DIR-012-15, January 2015..
5 [US Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, Review of U.S. Coast Guard’s Fiscal Year 2016 Drug Control Performance Summary, OIG Report, OIG-17-33, February 1, 2017. ]

 

International Cooperation

In coordination with JIATF-S, the Coast Guard is engaging with partner nations in Central and South America, and Mexico, leveraging their capabilities and local knowledge to improve maritime governance in the littoral regions being exploited by TOC networks. Among the efforts to foster international cooperation and build partner capacity, Coast Guard personnel are posted as attachés, liaisons, and drug interdiction specialists at several of our embassies in the Western Hemisphere. These personnel develop strategic relationships with partner nations that facilitate real-time operations coordination, confirmation of vessel registry, waivers of jurisdiction, and disposition of seized vessels, contraband, and detained crews. The Coast Guard’s law enforcement, legal, and regulatory expertise are in high demand from Central American partners, whose Navies more closely resemble the U.S. Coast Guard than the U.S. Navy. Coast Guard International Training teams, as well as Coast Guard units deployed in the region increase professional interaction, shiprider activities, and training in conjunction with operations, and also execute maritime exercises coincident with port visits and patrols.

Working in conjunction with the Departments of State and Justice, the Coast Guard has negotiated, concluded, and maintains over forty-five counterdrug bilateral agreements and operational procedures with partner nations throughout the world, the majority of which are in the Western Hemisphere. These agreements enable the Coast Guard to rapidly gain authority to board suspect vessels, prevent suspect vessels from using under patrolled territorial waters of partner nations as safe havens, and coordinate interdiction and apprehension operations in the transit zone. Highlighting their importance to Coast Guard counterdrug efforts, 59 percent of all Coast Guard interdictions in fiscal year 2016 involved the use of a bilateral agreement or operational procedures agreement.

The Arrival Zone

Closer to U.S. shores, Coast Guard operational commanders work with the other operational components within DHS and across the interagency to provide a robust presence in the U.S. maritime approaches by deploying Fast Response Cutters, high speed pursuit boats, medium range fixed-wing aircraft, and land-based AUF-capable helicopters. To achieve unity of effort, the Coast Guard is a major contributor to DHS’ Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Plan. The Coast Guard Atlantic Area Commander, Vice Admiral Karl Schultz, serves as the Director of Joint Task Force East overseeing coordination efforts for DHS components operating in the maritime approaches in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and eastern Pacific Ocean.

Conclusion

The Coast Guard endeavors to secure our vast maritime border by identifying emergent threats, countering them in a layered approach, utilizing strong international relationships, and maximizing domestic and regional partnerships; this approach has been key to combatting TOC networks. The Coast Guard stands ready to meet offshore, coastal, and inland drug trafficking threats in the maritime domain posed by TOC networks.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today, and thank you for your continued support of the U.S. Coast Guard. I would be pleased to answer your questions.

Topics:  Air, International, Maritime Keywords:  Transnational Organized Crime, TOC, drug interdiction

Statement on Secretary Kelly’s Upcoming Trip to Germany

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 18:33
Release Date: February 15, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON – On Thursday, February 16, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) John Kelly will travel to Munich, Germany, where he will participate in the 53rd Munich Security Conference. While in Germany, Secretary Kelly will also participate in bilateral meetings with international counterparts to discuss mutual priorities and continued cooperation to ensure global security.

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Topics:  DHS Enterprise Keywords:  Secretary, department of homeland security

DHS Statement on Arrest of Admitted Alien Gang Member in Washington

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 16:57
Release Date: February 15, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON - Under Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy, aliens granted deferred action from deportation who are subsequently found to pose a threat to national security or public safety may have their deferred action terminated at any time and DHS may seek their removal from the United States.  This includes those who have been arrested or convicted of certain crimes, or those who are associated with criminal gangs.  Since the start of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012, approximately 1,500 recipients have had their deferred action terminated due to a criminal conviction, gang affiliation, or a criminal conviction related to gang affiliation. 

On February 10, Daniel Ramirez-Medina, a gang member, was encountered at a residence in Des Moines, Washington, during an operation targeting a prior-deported felon. He was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and was transferred to the Northwest Detention Center to await the outcome of removal proceedings before an immigration judge.   

This case illustrates the work ICE fugitive operations teams perform every day across the country to remove public safety threats from our communities when they encounter them. ICE officers, along with their law enforcement partners, have and will continue to enforce our nation’s laws to protect public safety, national security, and to preserve the integrity of our immigration system. 

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Topics:  Immigration Enforcement Keywords:  immigration enforcement

Statement from Secretary Kelly on Director Clancy’s Retirement

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 08:50
Release Date: February 15, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON – On behalf of the entire Department of Homeland Security, I thank U.S. Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy for his decades of selfless service. During his tenure with the Secret Service, Director Clancy brought a wealth of experience, knowledge and heart to an agency entrusted with one of the most challenging duties of law enforcement – protecting from harm our nation and those who lead it.

Though his leadership and wisdom will be missed, I am pleased that Director Clancy has offered to help guide DHS and the Administration in transitioning to a new agency director.

Director Clancy has my deepest gratitude and profound respect for his 30 years of dedicated service to our country.

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Topics:  DHS Enterprise Keywords:  secret service

USCIS to Welcome More than 25,000 New U.S. Citizens During Presidents Day Naturalization Ceremonies

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 15:30
Release Date: February 14, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will honor Presidents Day by welcoming more than 25,000 new U.S. citizens during 162 naturalization ceremonies across the country from Feb. 14 through Feb. 22.           

“It fills me with pride to know that 25,000 immigrants will take the Oath of Allegiance and become U.S. citizens during the week that celebrates Presidents Day,” said USCIS Acting Director Lori Scialabba. “These new U.S. citizens will be given rights, responsibilities and opportunities that will strengthen and shape the future of our great nation, just as generations of immigrants have done before them. By choosing to naturalize, they are confirming their commitment to our country and furthering our legacy as a nation of immigrants.”

Acting Deputy Director Tracy Renaud will administer the Oath of Allegiance to 50 candidates and deliver keynote remarks during a naturalization ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 22,at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Museum & Gardens in Mount Vernon, Virginia.

Other special ceremonies during the week include:

  • Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site in Buffalo, New York, on Feb. 21.
  • Washington Crossing Historic Park in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania, on Feb. 21.

A complete list of 2017 Presidents Day-themed naturalization ceremonies is available in the News section of uscis.gov.

USCIS invites new citizens and their families and friends to share their experiences from the ceremonies through Twitter, using the hashtag #newUScitizen.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on Facebook (/uscis), Twitter (@uscis), YouTube (/uscis) and Instagram (@uscis).

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Topics:  Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman Keywords:  USCIS, naturalization, naturalization ceremonies, Naturalizations, citizenship

ICE-led Probe Leads to Indictment of 10 Alleged Northern California Gang Members on Drug Trafficking and Extortion Charge

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 10:58
Release Date: February 14, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

SAN JOSE, Calif. – A federal grand jury indicted 10 alleged Northern California gang members for conspiring to commit extortion by force and conspiring to engage in drug trafficking following an intensive five-year probe by special agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

According to the indictment unsealed Monday, seven of the defendants conspired to extort drug dealers while the other three defendants conspired to engage in trafficking methamphetamine.

The defendants charged with extortion are: Velarmino Escobar-Ayala, aka Meduza; Tomas Rivera, aka Profugo; Ismael Alvarenga-Rivera, aka Casper; Willfredo Edgardo-Ayala, aka Chino; Jose David Abrego-Galdamez, aka Largo; Melvin Lopez, aka Sharky; and Alexander Martinez-Flores, aka Pocar.

Specifically, the indictment alleges the defendants conspired to obtain property from drug dealers in Santa Cruz by threatening violence against the dealers and other persons close to them. Further, the indictment alleges the defendants planned to engage in the extortion by threatening force, violence, and fear to obtain money they had demanded.

The indictment alleges the three remaining defendants: Gerber Morales, aka Choco; Emilio Escobar-Albarnga, aka Diablo; and Josue Alcedis Escobar-Cerritos, aka Penguino, were engaged in a drug trafficking conspiracy. According to court documents, from March 2015 until the present, the three defendants conspired to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine.

According to court papers filed Monday by the government, the charges stem from a multi-year investigation into the activities of a violent Santa Cruz street gang known as Santa Cruz Salvatrucha Locos 13 (SCSL13). Court documents state that “SCSL13 is a subset of the larger Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) gang organization.” The government alleges the defendants are all either active members or recruits performing criminal tasks on behalf of SCSL13.

The defendants were arrested Monday morning as part of a multi-agency criminal enforcement operation led by HSI that included more than 200 local and federal law enforcement personnel. The coordinated arrests and searches took place in three cities – Santa Cruz, Watsonville, and Daly City. 

The defendants made their initial appearance Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins. The extortion conspiracy count is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charge related to the distribution of methamphetamine carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, a maximum prison term of 40 years, and a fine of up to $5 million.

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Topics:  Immigration Enforcement Keywords:  immigration enforcement, HSI, drug bust

Statement From Secretary Kelly On Recent ICE Enforcement Actions

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 14:49
Release Date: February 13, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON – Last week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched a series of targeted enforcement operations across the country. These operations targeted public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges.

ICE officers in the Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York City areas of responsibility arrested more than 680 individuals who pose a threat to public safety, border security or the integrity of our nation’s immigration system. Of those arrested, approximately 75 percent were criminal aliens, convicted of crimes including, but not limited to, homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, indecent liberties with a minor, drug trafficking, battery, assault, DUI and weapons charges.

ICE conducts these kind of targeted enforcement operations regularly and has for many years.

The focus of these enforcement operations is consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations teams on a daily basis.

President Trump has been clear in affirming the critical mission of DHS in protecting the nation and directed our Department to focus on removing illegal aliens who have violated our immigration laws, with a specific focus on those who pose a threat to public safety, have been charged with criminal offenses, have committed immigration violations or have been deported and re-entered the country illegally.

I commend the heroic efforts of the dedicated officers of ICE’s Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations and those who provided assistance from ICE Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Marshals Service, as well as cooperating state and local law enforcement agencies. These professionals put their lives on the line to protect our communities and country. There is no greater calling that to serve and protect our nation – a mission that the men and women of ICE perform with professionalism and courage every single day.

Topics:  DHS Enterprise, Homeland Security Enterprise, Immigration Enforcement Keywords:  immigration enforcement, law enforcement

Pool Notes From Secretary Kelly’s Trip To San Diego

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 21:51
Release Date: February 10, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) John Kelly visited San Diego, where he met with DHS employees and state and local law enforcement officials.  Below are pool notes compiled by Elliot Spagat of the Associated Press.

Pool photos from Denis Poroy of the Associated Press are available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/dhsgov/

Pool footage is also available from KFMB San Diego.

B-roll from other portions of his trip is available by emailing mediainquiry@dhs.gov.

Pool Notes from Elliot Spagat, Associated Press:

US Homeland Security John Kelly’s meeting with federal, state and local law enforcement officials was scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. PST in a conference room at San Diego’s San Ysidro port of entry, the nation’s busiest border crossing. It came near the end of Kelly’s two-day tour of the nation’s border with Arizona and California.

Kelly arrived at 4:10 p.m., shook hands, and was introduced by Pete Flores, US Customs and Border Protection’s San Diego fild office director.

Kelly: “Politics aside (Trump is) our president now and we have to help make America succeed. So I would just offer that he’s got an agenda, more or less the same agenda he talked about during his campaign. Unlike a lot of candidates for public office, he’s actually doing what he said he was going to do, or trying to do what he’s said he’s going to do.”

I was in McAllen, Texas, last week, yesterday in Arizona, and today here. I met with DHS employees and also with local law enforcement officials “trying to get my hands around and better understand the border communities.”

“(I) learned a lot about the border, learned a lot about what this physical barrier should like. Trump talked about a wall, a physical barrier of some type.

I got an “earful” from law enforcement officials about where they would most like to have a wall. 

“I’ll take that on board, we’ll bring it back to Washington, put in the blender and come up with a solution.”

Feedback from DHS employees on the border is that we need a wall but, knowing that it can’t be built in an afternoon or maybe even a year, I could really use 31 miles here right now, and, if you have capacity, another 64 miles there. “That’s why I’m here to find out those kind of things.”

Big Bend, Texas. “I’ve never been there but it’s more like a Grand Canyon kind of setting and maybe a different kind of barrier would be appropriate there. The terrain is so rugged.”

San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman: Asks for a definition of a sanctuary city

Kelly: “I don’t have a clue .... It’s inconceivable to me that people who are sworn to protect their communities would not want someone, anyone to remove criminals from their communities and send them somewhere else. I’m stunned when people say, well, we’re not going to cooperate with you even in the event of convicted criminals.

I understand that every community is different. You are all under different pressures.’

It would be hard for me to justify giving grant money to cooperate with removal operations and you were not able to help us with that.

“I promise you we’ll work with you and will make no Draconian moves until I fully understand what a given locale might be doing or not doing.”

Zimmerman: We have “something special in San Diego” in terms of cooperation among law enforcement agencies.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore: Echoes Zimmerman comments on collaboration among law enforcement agencies in San Diego “but as far my patrol deputies and police officers out working in the community, we don’t want to be perceived as immigration. Kelly says, “Right,” and Gore says, “I think we’re all pretty much on the same sheet of music.”

Gore then addresses cooperation with ICE in San Diego County jails. I’ve ICE employees in our jails for probably 15-20 years. We can no longer hold people under ICE detainers under the law. Best outcome is for ICE to take custody of people in our facilities but recognize that they can’t be everywhere in California. What could help us is if we can get some type of warrant or court order to hold them.

“That would be a big step in the right direction. And what the state of California is going to come up with down the road, it makes me shudder. I’m really concerned about that because I don’t want to see politics get in the way of good public safety.”

Kelly: “If we can do what we’re asking, for sure. I don’t know if it’s doable relative to case law and all the rest of it.”

The meeting continued but the pool was asked to leave at 4:25 p.m.

Confirmed attendees (* indicates I saw them in the room; others may have been there but I didn’t confirm):

  • US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly* and aides*;
  • US Border Patrol Chief Ronald Vitiello*;
  • Mark Ghilarducci,* California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services director and homeland security adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown;
  • Mark Pazin,* California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services law enforcement division chief;
  • Joe Farrow, California Highway Patrol commissioner;
  • Jim Abele, California Highway Patrol’s border division chief;
  • David Baldwin, California National Guard adjutant general;
  • Bill Gore,* San Diego County sheriff;
  • Ray Loera,* Imperial County sheriff;
  • Shelley Zimmerman,* San Diego police chief;
  • Roxanna Kennedy,* Chula Vista (Calif.) police chief;
  • Walter Vasquez, La Mesa (Calif.) police chief;
  • Manuel Rodriguez, National City (Calif.) police chief;
  • Craig Carter,* Escondido (Calif.) police chief;
  • Joe Froomin, Coronado (Calif.) police chief;
  • Frank McCoy, Oceanside (Calif.) police chief;
  • Aniello Gallucci, Carlsbad (Calif.) police chief;
  • Jeffrey Davis, El Cajon (Calif.) police chief;
  • Pete Flores,* US Customs and Border Protection San Diego office field director;
  • Richard Barlow,* US Border Patrol San Diego sector chief;
  • John Priddy, US Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations director for San Diego;
  • David Shaw,* special agent in charge of US Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego;
  • Gregory Archambeault,* US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s San Diego enforcement and removal operations field office director;
  • Capt. Joseph Buzzella,* US Coast Guard San Diego sector commander.
Topics:  Law Enforcement Partnerships Keywords:  law enforcement, Port of Entry

Readout of Secretary Kelly's Meeting with Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Luis Videgaray Caso

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 09:37
Release Date: February 9, 2017

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly met with Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Luis Videgaray Caso to discuss the strong partnership and shared values between the United States and Mexico, noting that preservation of the social and economic interconnectedness of our countries is a matter of national and economic security.

Secretaries Kelly and Videgaray discussed the development over the last decade of an unprecedented level of trust and operational collaboration between our nations, and the importance of continuing this close work and cooperation as regional partners. Secretary Kelly affirmed the commitment of DHS to working with Mexican partners to engage on common economic and security opportunities and challenges, such as border security, migration management, repatriation and cross-border trade.

The Department remains committed to fostering and deepening its relationship with Mexico and exploring how we can further collaborate to address larger regional challenges.

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly met with Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Luis Videgaray Caso to discuss the Department’s strong partnership with Mexico and the commitment to shared international interests in border security, migration management, repatriation and cross-border trade. (DHS Photo/Jetta Disco.)

 

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Topics:  Border Security, Trade Keywords:  Border Security, immigration enforcement

Readout Of Secretary Kelly’s Meeting With European Union Commissioner Avramopoulos

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 16:31
Release Date: February 8, 2017

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly met with European Union (EU) Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos to discuss the strong partnership between DHS and the EU in the pursuit of global security.

The DHS-EU security relationship is focused on protecting our public and the transatlantic relationship from the threats of terrorism and irregular migration. Secretary Kelly emphasized the Department’s deep commitment to help the EU fight the terrorist threat, and lent his support to ongoing EU efforts to improve European capabilities in counterterrorism, and border and aviation security. Secretary Kelly highlighted U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ongoing support to EUROPOL on terrorism investigations.  Additionally, the Secretary offered to further collaborate on technology solutions to collect and analyze biometric and biographic information on travelers, irregular migrants and refugees.

The Department of Homeland Security is dedicated to the shared international security priorities with the European Union, and will continue to share information and best practices in the furtherance of these shared interests.

Secretary Kelly and European Union (EU) Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos meet to discuss the strong partnership between DHS and the EU in the pursuit of global security. (DHS Photo/Jetta Disco.)

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Topics:  International Keywords:  europe

Written testimony of FEMA for a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing titled “Emergency Management in Indian Country: Improving FEMA’s Federal-Tribal Relationship with Indian Tribes”

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 00:00
Release Date: February 8, 2017

628 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Good afternoon, Chairman Hoeven, Vice Chairman Udall, and members of the Committee. I am Alex Amparo, Assistant Administrator with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Thank you for this opportunity to meet with you today to discuss ways in which FEMA is improving relationships with federally recognized Indian tribes.

FEMA is committed to our partnership and collaboration with federally recognized Indian tribes, and to providing support in their preparation for, protection against, mitigation of, response to, and recovery from all hazards and disasters. FEMA has a strong tradition of engagement with federally recognized Indian tribal governments (tribal governments). However, since the passage of the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act (SRIA) in 2013, the agency has dedicated additional resources to ensuring that tribal governments are fully woven into the fabric of our mission.

Today, I can tell you that FEMA recognizes the unique relationship between Indian Country and the Federal Government, and the unique conditions that affect Indian Country. We work side-by-side with our tribal partners on all aspects of our mission, and we continue to posture ourselves to better support our tribal partners at any time. To reinforce how we recognize these important relationships, I would like to specifically outline FEMA’s approach as described in: 1) FEMA’s Tribal Policy; 2) FEMA’s Tribal Consultation Policy; and, 3) FEMA’s Tribal Declaration Pilot Guidance.

FEMA’s Tribal Policy

The U.S. Government has a unique nation-to-nation relationship with federally recognized tribal governments based on the Constitution of the United States, treaties, statutes, executive orders, and judicial decisions. In 2016, FEMA updated its agency-wide tribal policy. The policy outlines a framework for nation-to-nation relations with federally recognized tribal governments that recognizes tribal sovereignty, self-governance, and the general trust relationship, consistent with applicable authorities.

Key principles of our policy include:

  1. Recognizing the unique nature of each tribal community and the need to work with all members of tribal communities, FEMA commits to building strong and lasting partnerships with tribal governments to assist in preparing for all threats and hazards, including those unique to tribal communities.
  2. FEMA will respect and support the unique status of sovereign tribal governments by engaging in meaningful dialogue that will assist tribal communities with any emergency management needs, which fall under the authority of FEMA.
  3. FEMA acknowledges the inherent sovereignty of tribal governments, the general trust relationship with the federal government, and the nation-to-nation relationship between the U.S. Government and tribal governments as established by the U.S. Constitution, statutes, treaties, court decisions, executive orders, regulations, and policies as the foundation of this policy.

In updating this policy, FEMA conducted tribal consultation in 2016, to facilitate tribal feedback on the proposed policy revisions. FEMA held 23 separate events nationwide consisting of 18 regional in-person listening sessions, two national webinars, and three tribal association conference presentations during the tribal consultation period reaching more than 300 tribal participants. FEMA received more than 100 comments in-person and through email, which the agency adjudicated to finalize this revised policy.

For FEMA, this consultation effort on the updated FEMA Tribal Policy represented a significant outreach. To accomplish this FEMA developed structures throughout the agency to support improving our relationships with federally recognized Indian tribal governments. In 2014, FEMA hired a National Tribal Affairs Advisor, Milo Booth (Tsimpshian from the Metlakatla Indian Community in Metlakatla, Alaska), to lead the Tribal Partners Branch (TPB) at FEMA headquarters. In 2016, Margeau Valteau (Navajo from Window Rock, Arizona) joined the TPB as a tribal specialist.

FEMA tribal liaisons, located in our regional offices, are the first resource and point of contact for tribal nations that have questions or require technical assistance on agency programs. Following the federal recognition of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe in 2016, FEMA added a Regional Tribal Liaison to FEMA Region III giving each FEMA regional office at least one tribal liaison supporting tribal affairs. While these tribal liaisons are a critical piece to our outreach and work with tribal governments, it is important to know that all FEMA employees who administer our various programs are available to assist in delivering programs and resources to Indian Country.

In addition to Tribal Affairs staffing, FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) provides training to tribal governments and their employees to develop their emergency management capabilities. During fiscal year 2016, EMI delivered 55 tribal courses to 763 tribal attendees and 94 other partners. The tribal curriculum courses are delivered by a team of instructors who are selected for their extensive experience working with and for tribal governments in emergency management and the majority of the instructors are tribal members. In addition to providing tribal curriculum courses on the EMI campus in Emmitsburg, Maryland, EMI also provides these courses off-site, traveling out to Indian Country to reach tribal communities directly. EMI currently has planned 21 courses on their 2017 schedule, and will likely increase course deliveries as the year progresses.

FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) provides training to tribal emergency responders. In fiscal year 2016, CDP hosted its first Tribal Training Week and trained 157 tribal emergency responders from 46 tribal nations. During the week, CDP conducted five courses followed by an operational Integrated Capstone Event full-scale exercise. In 2016, 793 tribal first responders completed courses at the CDP, a 245 percent increase from 2015. This year CDP will host the 2017 Tribal Nations Training Week from March 19 to 25.

Exercises

In addition to providing training, FEMA also coordinates exercises with tribal nations to examine and validate capabilities critical to their readiness.

In September 2015, in Great Falls, Montana, more than 100 people came together to simulate the response to crude oil train derailment on the Blackfeet Nation. FEMA’s National Exercise Division coordinated the exercise, Montana Operation Safe Delivery, along with Blackfeet Nation, the State of Montana, and FEMA Region VIII staff. This is one of three in a nationwide series of exercises and the only one to take place on a tribal nation. The goal of the exercise was to examine and confirm the capabilities needed to respond to, reduce the effects of, mitigate the consequences of, and recover from a train derailment involving crude oil. The two-day seminar and tabletop exercise brought together all seven tribal nations in Montana to participate in and learn from a simulated volatile incident.

In June 2016, FEMA Region X conducted a four-day functional earthquake and tsunami exercise, Cascadia Rising. At least 24 tribes in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho participated in various ways ranging from tsunami evacuation drills to full integration in the local Emergency Operations Center. During Cascadia Rising, FEMA exercised its internal capacity to respond to multiple direct disaster declarations from tribal governments.

Tribal participation continues to improve our discussions about pre-landfall hurricane preparedness as well. For the third year in 2016, tribal emergency managers participated in FEMA’s annual hurricane preparedness video teleconference with FEMA leadership and state emergency management directors in hurricane-prone areas.

By both providing staff resources at the national and regional level, as well as mission critical training opportunities for tribes, FEMA gains a better understanding of the unique circumstances that affect tribal governments and identifies creative solutions to these unique challenges to better partner with tribal governments and emergency management professionals to serve the needs of disaster survivors.

FEMA Tribal Consultation Policy

FEMA’s Tribal Consultation Policy governs precisely how we engage Indian tribes in meaningful consultation. It was developed and issued pursuant to E.O. 13175 of November 6, 2000, Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments and Presidential Memorandum, Tribal Consultation (74 Fed. Reg. 57881) that direct agencies to engage in regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials in the development of federal policies that have tribal implications, and to strengthen the government-to-government relationship between the United States and Indian tribes.

The current consultation policy was signed in August 2014, and outlines the specific roles and responsibilities for various FEMA officials, as well as a detailed outline on how consultation is achieved and when it takes place. As a result of this policy, if a tribal government was not consulted on an existing policy or action by FEMA that they determine affects their community or has tribal implications, they may contact the National Tribal Affairs Advisor and request to be a consulting party. Much like how the FEMA Tribal Policy was updated, we anticipate updating the FEMA Tribal Consultation Policy in 2017. We look forward to engaging our tribal partners during the comment period to ensure that our update reflects the evolving needs of Indian Country.

Underlying FEMA’s work and mission is the whole community approach that reinforces that FEMA is only one part of our nation’s emergency management team. We must leverage all of our collective team resources in preparing for, protecting against, responding to, recovering from, and mitigating against all hazards. Tribal nations are critical components in our whole community, and our commitment to addressing their needs is evident in our strategic priority to be survivor-centric in mission and program delivery. To further survivor-centric outcomes, FEMA leadership adopted a “cut the red tape” posture to focus on the needs of survivors and to develop and execute programs and policies with survivors’ perspectives in mind. FEMA recognizes that the consistent participation and partnership of tribal governments is vital in helping FEMA achieve its mission, so an ongoing dialogue with tribal governments and periodic updates of our policies is key to ensuring these goals are met.

FEMA’s Tribal Declaration Pilot Guidance

On January 29, 2013, President Obama signed into law the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-2) (SRIA), one of the most significant pieces of legislation impacting disaster response and recovery since the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006.

Section 1110 of SRIA, “Tribal Requests for a Major Disaster or Emergency Declaration under the Stafford Act” authorized federally recognized Indian tribal governments (tribal governments) the option to request a Stafford Act emergency or major disaster declaration independent of the state if they chose to do so. As amended, the Stafford Act now better reflects the sovereignty of tribal governments and acknowledges FEMA’s nation-to-nation relationship with tribal governments. This new authority also requires the President to “consider the unique conditions that affect the general welfare of Indian tribal governments” when issuing regulations to implement this new authority. FEMA developed a phased implementation to ensure consideration of the unique needs of tribal governments, which are further outlined below.

In consultation with federally recognized tribal governments, we are working thoughtfully and deliberately to develop regulations that best reflect the unique situation of tribal governments. Therefore, FEMA began implementing the new authority in three phases: (1) use of adapted state regulations; (2) implementation of pilot guidance; and (3) final rulemaking.

Immediate Use of Regulations

Immediately after SRIA’s enactment, FEMA used existing state declaration regulations and criteria to process declaration requests from tribal governments. Since the passage of SRIA, there have been eight major disasters declared in Indian Country: The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (North Carolina), the Navajo Nation (Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah), the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (North Dakota and South Dakota), the Karuk Tribe (California), the Santa Clara Pueblo Tribe (New Mexico), which has received two disaster declarations, the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians (California), and the Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Reservations (South Dakota). Through these declarations, Public Assistance, Individual Assistance, and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding is being provided directly to the tribal governments.

On February 14, 2013, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) submitted a request for a declaration due to severe weather which resulted in flooding, road damage, and landslides in the EBCI Qualla Boundary and associated lands. A Major Disaster Declaration was signed on March 1, 2013, as the first direct federal to tribe disaster declaration under SRIA. The tribe’s existing relationship with the state of North Carolina and the FEMA Region IV Tribal Liaison was strengthened and additional connections with FEMA were created during the event. These connections allowed less turmoil for the tribe when performing multiple processes and mission support in an environment of inexperienced applicants. Lessons learned included clarification and guidance regarding policies and procedures on tribal declarations and the need for more cultural awareness by FEMA staff.

In August 2015, the President declared a disaster for the Oglala Sioux tribe as a result of severe storms, straight line winds, and flooding. As part of the assistance made available through the disaster declaration, FEMA and the Oglala Sioux Tribe completed a permanent housing construction mission that delivered 196 manufactured homes, and repaired an additional 107 homes on the tribe’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The housing mission was part of the first ever Presidential major disaster declaration for Individual Assistance granted directly to a tribal nation. The agency hired 25 local tribal members to assist in that effort and their roles were vital in the success of the mission. In addition, following the disaster, eleven tribal members joined the FEMA Reservist program.

FEMA gathered critical information, best practices, and process challenges that have informed the development of the Tribal Declarations Pilot Guidance that serves as a comprehensive resource for tribal governments on Stafford Act declarations, disaster assistance, and related requirements.

Pilot Guidance Development

FEMA’s disaster declaration regulations were developed to evaluate states’ capacity and their need for supplemental disaster assistance. Since these parameters may not be indicative of a tribal nation’s ability to respond and recover from a disaster, FEMA augmented its procedures and criteria to reflect the capacity and needs of tribal governments. Before entering the rulemaking process, FEMA intends to utilize the pilot period to inform the development of regulations, ultimately leading to final regulations which reflect the unique needs of tribal governments.

Tribal participation and input was critical to the development of the Tribal Declarations Pilot Guidance. In 2013, FEMA initiated tribal consultation to inform the development of the first draft guidance. FEMA hosted 26 listening sessions nationwide. FEMA sent written correspondence from the FEMA Administrator to all 567 federally recognized tribes, and issued advisories to national and regional tribal organizations and associations to advise them of the consultation. FEMA regional and headquarters leadership presented at numerous tribal conferences to provide an overview of the declaration process and to solicit feedback.

In 2014, FEMA conducted 60 listening sessions around the country, from Northern Alaska to Montana, Oklahoma to Florida, and to Maine with 540 participants and 220 tribes represented. Through these listening sessions, FEMA gathered more than 1,000 comments on the first draft guidance as well as strengthened relationships with tribal governments. We learned more about the challenges that tribal communities face, the response and recovery capabilities of tribal governments, and their understanding of Stafford Act assistance. FEMA regions have been extremely proactive in meeting consultation requests of Native Alaskan Villages and Indian tribal governments. For instance, FEMA Region X senior staff flew to Alaska to consult with the Aleut Communities of St. Paul and St. George Islands.

The second draft of the guidance was posted to the Federal Register for a 90-day public comment period that ended in April 2016. In addition to posting in the Federal Register, FEMA conducted additional consultation over the 90-day period with over 500 tribal officials representing 178 federally recognized tribal governments through participation in 54 listening sessions nationwide. Nearly 800 comments were received and adjudicated. The final Tribal Declarations Pilot Guidance is a culmination of all of the interaction and feedback through consultation with tribal governments that has occurred over the past several years. In total, FEMA received over 2,000 comments and conducted 140 listening sessions nationwide.

The pilot guidance describes the process by which tribal governments will use to request Stafford Act declarations, during the pilot period, and the criteria FEMA will use to evaluate direct tribal declaration requests and make a recommendation to the President. It is the culmination of over three years of tribal consultation and development of multiple drafts of the guidance. The guidance incorporates key changes based on comments FEMA received from tribes. These changes include the establishment of a Public Assistance minimum damage amount for tribal declarations of $250,000; the addition of historic preservation as a demographic factor that may influence the impacts of a disaster; expansion of eligibility under the Individuals and Households Program to include non-enrolled tribal community members, when requested by the tribal government; and modifying and adding definitions of terms.

The extensive consultation FEMA conducted with tribal governments in the development of the Tribal Declaration Pilot Guidance was not only valuable in informing what the pilot would look like, but also was invaluable to improving our understanding of the needs and unique characteristics of Indian Country. Additionally, it serves as a good example of FEMA’s commitment to improving our relationships with tribal governments.

Additional Ongoing Initiatives to Support Tribal Governments

The Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA) supports tribal governments by providing direct assistance and support in the development of FEMA approved Hazard Mitigation Plans and guidance in the development of projects for Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) grants. Hazard mitigation planning enables tribal governments to identify risks and vulnerabilities associated with natural disasters, and develop long-term strategies for protecting people and property from future hazard events. FIMA currently uses regional and headquarter resources to provide outreach and technical assistance to tribal governments in support of these activities. FIMA developed guidance documents, outreach materials and provided training opportunities to educate tribal governments in developing hazard mitigation plans and grant applications, and provided technical assistance to tribal governments applying for, and developing HMA Grants for projects including development of hazard mitigation plans. FIMA also developed resources to assist tribal governments with accessing the eGrants System, and applying directly to FEMA for HMA Grants. In the past two years a portion of the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant funds have been set-aside for tribal applications. Tribal nations occupy three of the ten non-FEMA positions on the External Stakeholders Working Group that was formed to increase engagement and transparency with external (non-federal) partners.

In 2016, FIMA conducted tribal consultation on the Tribal Mitigation Planning Guidance that guides agency officials in the interpretation of regulatory requirements in their review and approval of tribal mitigation plans. The underlying regulatory requirements for tribal mitigation planning in 44 CFR Part 201 have not changed. The goal of this update was to simplify and streamline the document, introduce a set of Guiding Principles for Tribal Mitigation Plan Review, and to improve alignment with similar state and local guidance on mitigation planning.

Conclusion

The development and update of FEMA’s Tribal Policy, Tribal Consultation Policy, and Tribal Declaration Pilot Guidance shows just part of our commitment to supporting federally recognized tribal governments in their preparation for, protection against, mitigation of, response to, and recovery from all hazards and disasters. The agency continues to seek feedback from our tribal partners and to improve how we can engage and work with them.

We look forward to our continued collaboration to further support tribal governments as they build their emergency management capabilities. Thank you.

Topics:  Disaster Response and Recovery, Disasters, Plan and Prepare for Disasters Keywords:  emergency management, tribal governments, Tribal Declarations

Testimony of the Honorable John F. Kelly Regarding a Hearing on “Ending The Crisis: America’s Borders and the Path to Security” Before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 14:13
Release Date: February 7, 2017

Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.
210 House Visitors Center
Washington, DC

Introduction

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Thompson, and distinguished Members of the Committee:

It is a great honor and privilege to appear before you today to discuss the crucial mission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to protect the homeland and secure our nation’s borders.

Over the past 45 years, it has been my privilege to serve my nation as both an enlisted Marine and an officer. I have worked with our allies across agencies, the private sector, and with independent experts to identify innovative, comprehensive solutions to current and emerging threats. These assignments—while varied—share the common characteristics of working within and leading large, complex, and diverse mission-focused organizations while under great pressure to produce results.

I am humbled to once again to be called to serve, this time with the men and women of DHS. As a Department, we face diverse challenges and adversaries that do not respect our rule of law or our borders. As Secretary, you have my commitment to tirelessly protect our country from threats, secure the border, and enforce the law while expediting lawful trade and travel. In pursuit of those missions, please know that I take seriously our legal responsibilities to balance the security of our homeland with the protection of privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties.

The President’s Executive Orders

During his first two weeks in office, President Trump issued executive orders to secure our borders, enforce our immigration laws, and protect the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States. The President has gotten right to work, fighting on behalf of American families and workers—and these moves will strengthen our national security.

The purpose of the order on border security is to direct executive departments and agencies to deploy all lawful means to secure the nation’s southern border, prevent further illegal immigration into the United States, and to repatriate illegal aliens swiftly, consistently, and humanely.

This executive order establishes the foundation for securing our southern border by providing the tools, resources, and policy direction for DHS’s dedicated men and women who are responsible for securing the border—to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism. In accordance with existing law, DHS is immediately taking all appropriate steps to plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using the materials and technology that will most effectively achieve operational control of the southern border. In addition, DHS is immediately taking all appropriate action to ensure that the parole and asylum provisions of federal immigration law consistently applied with the requirements of the law, and not exploited to prevent the removal of otherwise removable aliens.

The executive order on interior immigration enforcement provides DHS with the tools it needs to enforce federal immigration laws within the United States. It will remove many of the obstacles that have been making it more difficult for the dedicated men and women of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to carry out their mission, which includes arresting, detaining, and removing illegal aliens from the United States. Essentially, it will restore the highly successful Secure Communities Program, which allows ICE to target more easily criminal aliens for removal.

A third executive order, signed by the President on January 27, will protect all Americans from certain foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist attacks in the United States by preventing such individuals from exploiting our immigration laws. The order suspends entry into the United States from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan Syria, Libya and Yemen until we complete comprehensive review. It directs federal agencies to implement uniform screening standards across all immigration programs. It suspends the Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, giving us time to assess the vulnerabilities in the program and establish additional procedures to ensure refugees admitted do not pose a threat to national security or public safety. It orders completion of the biometric entry-exit system. It also ensures that applicants for visas are personally interviewed before their visas are approved in compliance with Section 222 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

As the President has stated, “Homeland Security is in the business of saving lives, and that mandate will guide our actions.” These executive orders further that goal by enhancing border security, promoting public safety, and minimizing the threat of terrorist attacks by foreign nationals in the homeland. More important, however, these executive orders emphasize the rule of law as a bedrock principle of our immigration system and provide clearly defined consequences for those who would violate our laws.

Border Security and Immigration Enforcement

As a nation, control of our borders is paramount. Without that control, every other form of threat—illicit drugs, unauthorized immigrants, transnational organized crime, certain dangerous communicable diseases, terrorists—could enter at will. DHS was created to prevent terrorist attacks against the United States. The principal means of prevention within the United States is effective border control, denying admission to aliens who seek to harm Americans or violate our laws, and countering efforts to recruit individuals to undertake terrorist acts.

Achieving this priority begins with physical obstacles like a border barrier and supporting infrastructure and surveillance capabilities. In this effort, I am committed to executing President Trump’s plan to secure our southern border with effective physical barriers, advanced technology, and strategic deployment of law enforcement personnel. While the presence of physical barriers and additional technology is essential, it must be bolstered by persistent patrol and the vigilance of the dedicated men and women of DHS.

We must augment our expanded border security initiatives with vigorous interior enforcement and administration of our immigration laws in a manner that serves the national interest. This effort will include greater cooperation and coordination between DHS’s operational components, which are responsible for administering immigration benefits and enforcing our nation’s existing immigration laws.

Within DHS and our federal, state, local, and international partners, we must expand our vetting of those seeking to enter our country—particularly of those individuals from high-risk countries—including refugees. We currently lack a comprehensive strategy with uniform screening standards to prevent terrorists from entering the country. Unfortunately, our country has recently admitted some foreign nationals without an adequate understanding of their allegiances and intentions. Additionally, because they are apprehended by DHS law enforcement agents, we know there continue to be any number of so-called “special interest aliens” that make their way into our country illegally each year.

Last year, more than 415,816 migrants, mostly from Central America and Mexico—including over 137,614 unaccompanied children and individuals travelling in family units—were apprehended on our southern border. Many of those arriving at our southern border have fled violence, poverty, criminal networks, and gangs in their native countries. While the vast majority are fleeing violence or seeking economic opportunity, a small number of individuals could potentially be seeking to do us harm or commit crimes. Regardless of purpose or circumstance, the ease with which human smugglers have moved tens of thousands of people to our nation’s doorstep also serves as another warning sign: these smuggling routes are a potential vulnerability of our homeland.

Our vigorous response to these threats must include increased border security infrastructure, personnel, and technology. However, we cannot just play defense in securing our borders. Border security requires a layered approach that extends far beyond our shores, throughout the hemisphere, in partnership with our neighbors to the south and north.

Along nearly 7,000 miles of land border, approximately 95,000 miles of shoreline, and at 328 ports of entry and numerous locations abroad, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has a critical role in preventing the illegal entry of people and goods into the United States.

Across the wide expanses of our nation’s land, air, and maritime environments, CBP has worked to address the changing demographics of attempted border crossers and to maintain border security through significant investments in enforcement resources, technology, infrastructure, and enhanced operational tactics and strategy. Through advances in detection capabilities, such as fixed, mobile, and agent-portable surveillance systems, tethered and tactical aerostats, unmanned aircraft systems, and ground sensors, which work in conjunction with tactical border infrastructure and agent deployment, CBP is enhancing its ability to quickly detect, identify, and respond to illegal border crossings.

At our nation’s air, land, and sea ports of entry, more travelers and cargo are arriving than ever before. To maintain the security of growing volumes of international travelers, CBP performs a full range of inspection activities and continues to enhance its pre-departure traveler vetting systems and integrate biometric technologies. CBP has also made significant developments in its intelligence and targeting capabilities to segment and target shipments and individuals by potential level of risk to identify and stop potentially dangerous travelers or cargo before boarding an aircraft or conveyance bound for the United States.

Beyond managing the influx of people and cargo arriving in the United States, CBP is working with other DHS agencies to strengthen its capabilities to identify foreign nationals who have violated our immigration laws, as well as to track suspect persons and cargo exiting the country. CBP is also leveraging its newly-established Counter Network Program, which focuses on detecting, disrupting, and dismantling transnational criminal organizations, by expanding information sharing, increasing partnerships and collaboration that enhance border security, conducting joint exploitation of intelligence, and co-managing of operations with interagency and international partners. These efforts are building toward a safer and more secure border environment, one that supports the safety and success of each agent and officer in the field.

In the maritime environment, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) utilizes a multi-faceted layered approach to interdict threats far from the borders of our nation to combat the efforts of transnational criminal organizations. Targeting the primary flow of illicit drug traffic has a direct and damaging impact on these networks.

Successful Coast Guard interdictions in the maritime transit zones feed a cycle of success—subsequent prosecutions lead to actionable intelligence on future events, which produces follow-on seizures and additional intelligence. Suspects from these cases divulge information during prosecution and sentencing that is critical to indicting, extraditing, and convicting drug kingpins and dismantling these sophisticated networks.

USCG secures the maritime domain by conducting patrols and coordinating with other federal agencies and foreign countries to interdict aliens at sea, denying them illegal entry via maritime routes to the United States, its territories and possessions. Thousands of aliens attempt to enter this country illegally every year using maritime routes, many via smuggling operations. Interdicting these aliens at sea reduces the safety risks involved in such transits. We can quickly return these interdicted aliens to their countries of origin, avoiding the costlier processes required if they successfully enter the United States.

Interagency and International Cooperation

As Secretary, I will advocate for expanding cooperation inside the interagency and with partner nations, particularly Canada and Mexico. Interagency relationships and bilateral cooperation are critical to identifying, monitoring, and countering threats to U.S. national security and regional stability. While DHS possesses unique authorities and capabilities, we must enhance and leverage our coordination with federal, state, local, and tribal partners. The magnitude, scope, and complexity of the challenges we face—illegal immigration, transnational crime, human smuggling and trafficking, and terrorism—demand an integrated counter-network approach.

Regionally, we must continue to build partner capacity. Illegal immigration and transnational organized crime threaten not only our own security, but also the stability and prosperity of our Latin American neighbors. In Colombia, for example, we learned that key principles to defeating large cartels and insurgents are the same as defeating criminal networks: a strong, accountable government that protects its citizens, upholds the rule of law, and expands economic opportunity for all. It taught us that countering illicit trafficking and preventing terrorism often go hand-in- hand, and that U.S. interagency cooperation, coupled with a committed international partner, can help bring a country back from the brink. I believe we can apply these lessons across our many international partnerships and in furtherance of our government’s many missions beyond our borders.

Presently, we have a great opportunity in Central America to capitalize on the region’s growing political will to combat criminal networks and control hemispheric migration. Leaders in many of our partner nations recognize the magnitude of the tasks ahead and are prepared to address them, but they need our support. As we learned in Colombia, sustained engagement by the United States can make a real and lasting difference.

Conclusion

The security challenges facing DHS and our nation are considerable, particularly along the southern border. We have the laws in place to secure our borders. We also have outstanding men and women working at DHS, and in other federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies, who are committed to the border security mission. Finally, we now have a clear mission objective and the will to complete that mission successfully. We must accelerate our collective efforts to enforce the laws on the books and support those sworn to uphold the law. You have my commitment to work tirelessly to ensure that the men and women of DHS are empowered do their jobs.

I believe in America and the principles upon which our country and way of life are guaranteed, and I believe in respect, tolerance, and diversity of opinions. I have a profound respect for the rule of law and will always strive to preserve it. As I mentioned in my confirmation hearing, I have never had a problem speaking truth to power, and I firmly believe that those in power deserve full candor and my honest assessment and recommendations. As Secretary, I recognize the many challenges facing DHS and I will do everything within my ability to meet and overcome those challenges, while preserving our liberty, upholding our laws, and protecting our citizens.

Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today and for your continued support of DHS. I am confident that we will continue to build upon the momentum by our previous operational achievements around the world. I remain committed to working with this Committee to forge a strong and productive relationship going forward to secure our borders and help prevent and combat threats to our nation.

I would be pleased to answer any questions.

Topics:  Border Security, International, Transportation Security Keywords:  international travel, international, coast guard, Canada-United States partnership, Mexico, cbp, Customs and Border Protection, immigration, immigration enforcement

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