DHS

Subscribe to DHS feed
Updated: 20 min 51 sec ago

Readout Of Secretary Kelly’s Meeting With President Of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernandez

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 18:00
Release Date: March 22, 2017

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

WASHINGTON— On Wednesday, March 22, Secretary Kelly met with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez to discuss bilateral and regional security and economic issues of mutual interest.  During the meeting, President Hernandez outlined his administration’s recent successes in increasing citizen security, strengthening law enforcement institutions, and strengthening the Honduran economy.  President Hernandez specifically mentioned several achievements, to include falling rates of violent crime, job creation and growth, and the extradition of criminals to the United States, and thanked Secretary Kelly for his support in reaching these goals.

Secretary Kelly highlighted the importance of joint collaboration to combat transnational crime, reduce narcotics trafficking, share information, and promote economic opportunity in the region.  Both leaders emphasized the close relationship between DHS and the Government of Honduras and expressed enthusiasm for their shared partnership going forward.  The Honduran delegation included the Secretary General Coordinator General of the Government, Special Envoy to the United States, and Minister of Economic Development.  Key DHS officials, to include U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Thomas Homan, and U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Paul Zukunft, were also present.

At the end of the meeting, President Hernandez and Secretary Kelly signed an agreement to share aviation information that will augment the Honduran Government’s ability to identify criminals and potential terrorists entering or transiting Honduras.

Secretary Kelly meets with President of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernandez to discuss bilateral and regional security and economic issues of mutual interest. (DHS Photo/Barry Bahler)

# # #

DHS Statement on Attack at U.K. Parliament

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 13:48
Release Date: March 22, 2017

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

WASHINGTON - The Department of Homeland Security stands in solidarity alongside our friends in the United Kingdom in condemning the terrible attack at Parliament today.  With our partners in federal law enforcement, we are in close contact with our British counterparts to monitor the tragic events and to support the ongoing investigation.  At this time our domestic security posture remains unchanged.  However, our frontline officers and agents continue to stay vigilant in safeguarding the American people and our homeland.

 

###

Topics:  International Keywords:  United Kingdom, law enforcement partnerships

Written testimony of USCG Commandant for a Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries & Coast Guard hearing titled “State of the Coast Guard: Ensuring Military, National Security, and Enforcement Capability an

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 00:00
Release Date: March 22, 2017

253 Russell Senate Office Building

Good afternoon Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. I appreciate the opportunity to testify today and thank you for your enduring support of the United States Coast Guard.

As the world’s premier, multi-mission, maritime service, the Coast Guard offers a unique and enduring value to the Nation. The only branch of the U.S. Armed Forces within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a federal law enforcement agency, a regulatory body, a first responder, and a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community – the Coast Guard is uniquely positioned to help secure the border, combat transnational criminal organizations (TCO), and safeguard America’s economic prosperity.

Indeed, the Coast Guard’s combination of broad authorities and complementary capabilities squarely align with the Administration’s priorities, and I am proud of the return on investment your Coast Guard delivers on an annual basis.

I appreciate the unwavering support of this Subcommittee to address our most pressing needs. I will continue working with Secretary Kelly, the Administration, and this Congress to preserve momentum for our existing acquisition programs and employ risk-based decisions to balance readiness, modernization, and force structure with the evolving demands of the 21st century.

Appropriately positioned in DHS, the Coast Guard is a military Service and a branch of the Armed Forces of the United States at all times.1 We are also an important part of the modern Joint Force,2 and a force multiplier for the Department of Defense (DoD). I am proud of our enduring defense contributions to Combatant Commanders around the globe.

In addition to the six cutters operating as part of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) since 2003, other defense operations include:

  • Port Security Units (PSUs) support Combatant Commanders with 24-hour protection of vessels, waterways, and port facilities. These specialized teams have deployed almost continuously to strategic ports in Kuwait and in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 2002.
  • Deployable Specialized Forces Advanced Interdiction Teams support U. S. Central Command (CENTCOM) vessel board, search, and seizure operations.
  • Aircrews perform rotary-wing air intercept operations in support of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Specially trained aviators intercept aircraft that enter restricted airspace in the National Capital Region and during National Security Special Events around the country.
  • Assets and personnel deploy worldwide in support of defense operations and fully participate in major international exercises. As the Coast Guard is similar in size, composition, and missions to most of the world’s navies, we are a frequent engagement partner of choice to support Combatant Commander goals.

Like the other military Services, the Coast Guard supports all efforts to rebuild the Armed Forces.

Secretary Kelly leads the Department’s efforts to secure our borders, and the Administration’s strategy “to deploy all lawful means to secure the Nation’s southern border…”3 relies on the Coast Guard supporting a comprehensive security strategy. The Coast Guard protects the maritime border – not just here at home, but also off the coast of South and Central America. As Secretary Kelly has stated, “…the defense of the southwest border really starts about 1,500 miles south…”4

We continue to face a significant threat from TCOs, and the Coast Guard is positioned to attack these criminal networks where they are most vulnerable, at sea. We leverage over 40 international maritime law enforcement bilateral agreements to enable partner nation interdictions and prosecutions, and employ a robust interdiction package to seize multi-ton loads of drugs at sea before they can be broken down into small quantities ashore.

In close collaboration with partner Nations and agencies, the Coast Guard works to engage threats as far from U.S. shores as possible. In 2016, Coast Guard and partner agencies interdicted more cocaine at sea than was removed at the land border and across the entire nation by all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies – combined. A service record 201.3 metric tons of cocaine (7.1% of estimated flow)5 was removed from the western transit zone, 585 smugglers were detained, and 156 cases were referred for prosecution.

Coast Guard readiness relies on the ability to simultaneously execute our full suite of missions and sustain support to Combatant Commanders, while also being ready to respond to contingencies. Your Coast Guard prides itself on being Semper Paratus – Always Ready, and predictable and sufficient funding is necessary to maintain this readiness in the future. Prudence also demands we continue investing in a modernized Coast Guard. Indeed, recapitalization remains my highest priority, and today’s activities will shape our Coast Guard and impact national security for decades. Your support has helped us make tremendous progress, and it is critical we build upon our successes to field assets that meet cost, performance, and schedule milestones. I am encouraged by our progress to date.

In 2016, we awarded a contract to complete build out of our fleet of 58 Fast Response Cutters – at an affordable price – and the last four ships (numbers 19 through 22) were delivered by Bollinger Shipyards with zero discrepancies. In September, we achieved a monumental goal with the award of a contract for Detail Design and Construction of the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC). These cutters will eventually comprise 70 percent of Coast Guard surface presence in the offshore zone. OPCs will provide the tools to more effectively enforce federal laws, secure our maritime borders by interdicting threats before they arrive on our shores, disrupt TCOs, and respond to 21st century threats. With the continued support of the Administration and Congress, we anticipate ordering long lead time material for the first OPC later this year, and plan for its delivery in 2021.

We also generated momentum to build new polar icebreakers. In July of last year, we made a commitment to partner with the Navy to establish an Integrated Program Office to acquire new heavy icebreakers. This approach leverages the expertise of both organizations and is delivering results. The recent award of multiple Industry Studies contracts – a concept the Navy has utilized in previous shipbuilding acquisitions to drive affordability and reduce schedule and technical risk – is an example of the positive results of this partnership. We will continue refining the system specification and prepare to release a request for proposal for Detail Design and Construction in FY 2018.

We are also making progress with unmanned aerial systems. A recent small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) proof of concept aboard a National Security Cutter (NSC) validated this capability and will enhance the effectiveness of these cutters. In its inaugural month underway, STRATTON's sUAS flew 191 flight hours, providing real-time surveillance and detection imagery for the cutter, and assisting the embarked helicopter and law enforcement teams with the interdiction or disruption of four go-fast vessels carrying more than 5,000 pounds of contraband. In addition, we are exploring options to build a land-based UAS program that will improve domain awareness and increase the cued intelligence our surface assets rely upon to close illicit pathways in the maritime transit zone. While long-term requirements are being finalized, I can fully employ a squadron of six platforms outfitted with marine-capable sensors now and am moving out to field this much-needed capability.

In addition to the focus on recapitalizing our surface and aviation fleets, we are also mindful of the condition of our shore infrastructure. Investments in shore infrastructure are also critical to modernizing the Coast Guard and equipping our workforce with the facilities they require to meet mission.

America’s economic prosperity is reliant on the safe, secure, and efficient flow of cargo through the Maritime Transportation System (MTS), which sees $4.5 trillion of economic activity annually. The Nation’s maritime industry and the MTS face many challenges, including growing demands, a global industry-driven need to reduce shipping’s environmental footprint, and the ever-increasing complexity of systems and technology.

Coast Guard marine safety programs employ our unique capabilities to ensure a safe, secure, and environmentally sound MTS. We do this by developing risk-based standards, training and employing a specialized workforce, and conducting investigations into accidents and violations of laws so standards can be improved. We are mindful of the need to facilitate commerce, not impede it, and remain committed to our prevention missions.

While readiness and modernization investments will improve current mission performance, the right force is central to success. I am incredibly proud of our 88,000 active duty, reserve, civil service, and auxiliary members. I am working aggressively to validate a transparent and repeatable model to identify the appropriate force structure required for the Coast Guard to simultaneously respond to global, national, and regional events.

Funding 21st century Coast Guard platforms and people is a smart investment, even in this challenging fiscal environment. Modern assets bring exceptional capability, but our greatest strength will always be our people. Coast Guard operations require a capable, proficient, and resilient workforce that draws upon the broad range of skills, talents, and experiences found in the American population. Together, modern platforms and a strong, resilient workforce will maximize the Coast Guard’s capacity to meet future challenges.

History has proven that a responsive, capable, and agile Coast Guard is an indispensable instrument of national security. With the continued support of the Administration and Congress, the Coast Guard will continue to live up to our motto. We will be Semper Paratus – Always Ready. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today and for all you do for the men and women of the Coast Guard. I look forward to your questions.

1 14 USC § 1.
2 In addition to the Coast Guard’s status as an Armed Force (10 U.S.C. § 101), see also Memorandum of Agreement Between the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security on the Use of Coast Guard Capabilities and Resources in Support of the National Military Strategy, 02 May 2008, as amended 18 May 2010.
3 Executive Order on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, 25 January 2017.
4 Secretary Kelly Hearing Testimony, “Ending the Crisis: America’s Borders and the Path to Security” before the House Homeland Security Full Committee and Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security Joint Hearing on America’s Borders, Panel 1, 07 February 2017.
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. ]

 

Topics:  Border Security, Maritime, Preventing Terrorism

Q&A: Aviation Security Enhancements for Select Last Point of Departure Airports with Commercial Flights to the United States

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 06:27
Release Date: March 21, 2017Q1: Why is the U.S. Government taking these steps now? Are these new policies in response to a specific terrorist threat or plot?

A1: The U.S. Government is concerned about terrorists' ongoing interest in targeting commercial aviation, including transportation hubs over the past two years, as evidenced by the 2015 airliner downing in Egypt, the 2016 attempted airliner downing in Somalia, and the 2016 armed attacks against airports in Brussels and Istanbul. Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.

Based on this trend, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in consultation with relevant Departments and Agencies, has determined it is prudent to enhance security, to include airport security procedures for passengers at certain last point of departure airports to the United States. These enhancements include more stringent measures applied to 10 specific airports.

The enhancement in security will require that all personal electronic devices (PEDs) larger than a cell phone or smart phone be placed in checked baggage. These items will no longer be allowed to be carried onto aircraft at 10 select airports where flights are departing for the United States. Approved medical devices may be brought into the cabin after additional screening.

This security enhancement will be implemented through a Security Directive (SD)/Emergency Amendment (EA) process, which includes industry notification, to affected air carriers that will implement the requirements.

Q2: Why is DHS/TSA doing this now?

A2: The Department of Homeland Security, in close cooperation with our intelligence community partners, continuously assesses and evaluates the threat environment. While a number of existing security measures remain in place, others will be modified, as deemed necessary to protect travelers. DHS will continue to adjust its security measures to ensure thehighest levels of aviation security without unnecessary disruption to travelers.

Q3: Is there a specific or credible threat to aviation?

A3: We have reason to be concerned about attempts by terrorist groups to circumvent aviation security and terrorist groups continue to target aviation interests. Implementing additional security measures enhances our ability to mitigate further attempts against the overseas aviation industry.

Q4: Did new intelligence drive a decision to modify security procedures?

A4: Yes, intelligence is one aspect of every security-related decision. The record of terrorist attempts to destroy aircraft in flight is longstanding and well-known. We continually re-assess
old intelligence and collect new intelligence.

Q5: How did you select these airports and which ones are affected?

A5: DHS, in close cooperation with our intelligence community partners, selected these airports based on the current threat picture. The affected overseas airports are: Queen Alia International Airport (AMM), Cairo International Airport (CAI), Ataturk International Airport (IST), King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED), King Khalid International Airport (RUH), Kuwait International Airport (KWI), Mohammed V Airport (CMN), Hamad International Airport (DOH), Dubai International Airport (DXB), and Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH).

Q6: Could more airports be added in the future, and might some of those be in the U.S.?

A6: As threats change, so too will TSA’s security requirements.

Q7: How long will these new procedures remain in place?

A7: The new procedures remain in place until the threat changes. These are risk-based decisions and TSA continuously assesses security risks and seeks to balance necessary security requirements with their operational impact on the industry.

Q8: Why won’t these procedures continue indefinitely, like the prohibition on bringing liquids through security screening?

A8: See above.

Q9: How are you defining, “larger than a smart phone?”

A9: The size and shape of smart phones varies by brand. Smartphones are commonly available around the world and their size is well understood by most passengers who fly internationally. Please check with your airline if you are not sure whether your smartphone is impacted.

Q10: Why does this only apply to large electronic devices? Why doesn’t this apply to mobile phones?

A10: TSA seeks to balance risk with impacts to the traveling public and has determined that cell phones and smart phones will be allowed in accessible property at this time.

Q11: Is air travel safe?

A11: Yes. Today, all air travelers are subject to a robust security system that employs multiple layers of security, both seen and unseen, including:

  • Intelligence gathering and analysis
  • Cross-checking passenger manifests against watchlists
  • Thorough screening at checkpoints
  • Random canine team screening at airports
  • Reinforced cockpit doors
  • Federal air marshals
  • Armed pilots
  • A vigilant public

In combination, these layers provide enhanced security creating a much stronger and protected transportation system for the traveling public. TSA continually assesses and evaluates the current
threat environment and adjusts security measures as necessary to ensure the highest levels of aviation security without unnecessary disruption to travelers.

Q12: How will TSA ensure foreign airports and air carriers are complying with the new procedures?

A12: TSA conducts assessments of foreign airports and inspections of airlines to ensure all U.S. regulations and International security standards are being met at last point of departures to the United States. TSA directly assesses the security posture of last points of departure airports under the Foreign Airport Assessment Program (FAAP) and evaluates the implementation of the internationally recognized International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards. TSA also utilizes its regulatory authorities over the air carriers which serve the United States to implement enhanced security measures at foreign locations. As an element of each air carrier’s legally binding approval to operate to and from the United States, the airline agrees to meet all security requirements stipulated by TSA.

Q13: How does this affect the American public, either those traveling to/from these selected airports and those flying within the U.S.?

A13: All passengers flying through and from these locations will have to place electronic devices that are larger than a cell phone/smart phone in their checked bags regardless of the passenger’s citizenship.

Q14: Will the security procedures continue to apply to both international and domestic passengers?

A14: This applies to all passengers traveling from 10 specific airports overseas.

Q15: Why are you only implementing these measures overseas, could the same tactics be used domestically?

A15: Electronic devices will still be allowed on all flights originating in the United States. Security procedures, both seen and unseen, are in place to mitigate the risk to flights in the United States.

Q16: Does TSA have to hire additional officers, or transfer some to the affected airports, to ensure the new screening procedures are followed?

A16: No additional TSA personnel are needed because TSA does not conduct screening at airports outside the United Sates.

Q17: Are the security measures introduced on July 2, 2014 still in place?

A17: A number of those implemented security measures remain in place while others may be modified as deemed necessary to protect travelers. Since July 2, 2014, a number of foreign governments have themselves enhanced aviation security, buttressing and replacing our own measures at these airports when it became routine at overseas airports for security officials to ask some passengers to turn on their electronic devices, including cell phones, before boarding flights to the United States.

Q18: How many flights does this affect?

A18: This will only impact flights from 10 of the more than 250 airports that serve as last points of departure to the United States. This will only impact a small percentage of flights to the United States. The exact number of flights will vary on a day to day basis.

Q19: How many passengers will be affected?

A19: These measures will apply to all passengers on flights from the 10 last points of departure airports, a small fraction of passengers travelling to the United States by air each day.

Q20: Will this affect passengers enrolled in trusted traveler programs?

A20: These measures will apply to all passengers on flights from certain locations regardless of trusted traveler status.

Q21: What do you recommend passengers do if they are flying out of one of the last point of departure airports?

A21: Passengers should pack large personal electronic devices in checked bags and contact their air carrier with additional questions.

Q22: How will this affect the screening process at the airport?

A22: Generally, passengers will be instructed to place large electronic devices in their checked bags when traveling from one of the last point of departure airports. We provided guidance to the airlines who will determine how to implement and inform their passengers.

Q23: How will this affect passengers with connections?

A23: TSA recommends passengers transferring at one of the 10 affected airports place any large personal electronic devices in their checked bags upon check-in at their originating airport.

Q24: Can you provide any examples of recent terrorist plotting against the aviation sector? Please highlight the trend you’re concerned about.

A24: Although the U.S. has instituted robust aviation security measures since 9/11, our information indicates that terrorist groups’ efforts to execute an attack against the aviation sector are intensifying given that aviation attacks provide an opportunity to cause mass casualties and inflict significant economic damage, as well as generate overwhelming media coverage.

We note that disseminated propaganda from various terrorist groups is encouraging attacks on aviation, to include tactics to circumvent aviation security. Terrorist propaganda has highlighted the attacks against aircraft in Egypt with a soda can packed with explosives in October 2015, and in Somalia using an explosives-laden laptop in February 2016.

Terrorists have historically tried to hide explosives in shoes in 2001, use liquid explosives in 2006, and conceal explosives in printers in 2010 and suicide devices in underwear in 2009 and 2012. Within the last year, we have also seen attacks conducted at airports to include in Brussels and Istanbul.

Q25: How were these countries informed?

A25: USG officials coordinated with their foreign counterparts to inform them of the changing threat. TSA has a formal process for notifying airlines through the EA/SD process. This process was used to notify affected airlines of the needed changes.

Q26: How will this be implemented?

A26: The Airlines will have 96 hours to implement. The manner of an EA/SD is to tell an airline the end result required (no electronic devices larger than a cell phone allowed in the cabin) and allow them the flexibility to implement within their business model.

Q27: Will U.S. direct hires/diplomats posted in these countries be told to take other routes/airlines?

A27: No. U.S. government employees in the affected countries have the option, but are not required, to modify their travel routes. The new routes must comply with all U.S. government travel regulations.

Q28: Will this apply to flights departure to affected countries?

A28: No. At this time, evaluated intelligence says that the threat exists at the 10 last point of departure airports.

Q29: Does this start tomorrow?

A29: Airlines were notified on March 21st at8:00 a.m. EDT. They have 96 hours within which to comply.

Q30: How long will these enhanced security measures be in effect?

A30: These measures will be in effect indefinitely. However, DHS and TSA continue to evaluate our aviation security processes and policies based on the most recent intelligence.

# # #

Topics:  Air Keywords:  aviation, aviation security

Fact Sheet: Aviation Security Enhancements for Select Last Point of Departure Airports with Commercial Flights to the United States

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 06:12
Release Date: March 21, 2017

Office of Public Affairs
Contact: 202-282-8010

Overview: Change to international travel carry-on items

Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation and are aggressively pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items. Based on this information, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Transportation Security Administrator Acting Administrator Huban Gowadia have determined it is necessary to enhance security procedures for passengers at certain last point of departure airports to the United States.

These enhancements apply to 10 specific airports. The affected overseas airports are: Queen Alia International Airport (AMM), Cairo International Airport (CAI), Ataturk International Airport (IST), King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED), King Khalid International Airport (RUH), Kuwait International Airport (KWI), Mohammed V Airport (CMN), Hamad International Airport (DOH), Dubai International Airport (DXB), and Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH).

The aviation security enhancements will include requiring that all personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone or smart phone be placed in checked baggage at 10 airports where flights are departing for the United States.

Impacted International Flights Bound for the United States

These enhanced security measures will only affect flights from 10 of the more than 250 airports that serve as last points of departure to the United States. A small percentage of flights to the United States will be affected, and the exact number of flights will vary on a day to day basis. Airlines will know in advance which flights are affected by these measures

Large Electronic Devices

Electronic devices larger than a cell phone/smart phone will not be allowed to be carried onboard the aircraft in carry-on luggage or other accessible property. Electronic devices that exceed this size limit must be secured in checked luggage. Necessary medical devices will be allowed to remain in a passenger’s possession after they are screened.

The approximate size of a commonly available smartphone is considered to be a guideline for passengers. Examples of large electronic devices that will not be allowed in the cabin on affected flights include, but are not limited to:

  • Laptops
  • Tablets
  • E-Readers
  • Cameras
  • Portable DVD players
  • Electronic game units larger than a smartphone
  • Travel printers/scanners

There is no impact on domestic flights in the United States or flights departing the United States. Electronic devices will continue to be allowed on all flights originating in the United States.

For more information and travel tips, please visit www.TSA.gov.

# # #

Topics:  Air Keywords:  aviation security, aviation

Written testimony of ICE for a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing titled “Fentanyl: The Next Wave of the Opioid Crisis”

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 00:00
Release Date: March 21, 2017

2123 Rayburn House Office Building

Chairman Murphy, Ranking Member DeGette, and distinguished members:

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the heroin and fentanyl crisis in the United States and the efforts of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to target, investigate, disrupt, dismantle and bring to justice the criminal elements responsible for the manufacturing, smuggling, and distribution of dangerous opioids.

As the largest investigative agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigates and enforces more than 400 federal criminal statutes to include the Immigration and Nationality Act (Title 8), U.S. customs laws (Title 19), general federal crimes (Title 18), and the Controlled Substances Act (Title 21). HSI special agents use this authority to investigate all types of cross-border criminal activity and work in close coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in a unified effort with both domestic and international law enforcement partners, to target Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) that are supplying heroin and fentanyl to the United States.

Today, I would like to highlight our efforts to reduce the supply of heroin and fentanyl to the United States and the operational challenges we encounter.

Introduction to Fentanyl

Before we can discuss illicit fentanyl targeting and supply reduction, we need to understand what fentanyl is and how it is produced.

The United States is in the midst of an illicit fentanyl crisis that is multi-faceted and deadly. Fentanyl is a Schedule II synthetic opioid, used medically for severe pain relief in patients that are already opioid tolerant, and it is 50-100 times more potent than morphine. For reference, as little as two milligrams of pure fentanyl can be fatal. Based on investigations, United States law enforcement has identified two primary sources of the US illicit fentanyl threat: China and Mexico.

China is a global supplier of illicit fentanyl and the precursor chemicals used to manufacture the drug. Additionally, Chinese laboratories openly sell fentanyl, to include fentanyl analogues, and other fentanyl-related substances. In China, criminal chemists work around their government’s control efforts by modifying chemical structures ever so slightly to create substances not recognized as illicit in China but having the same deadly effects. Although there is ongoing collaboration with China, the lack of current Chinese laws that prohibit analogue manufacturing or export is one of the challenges we face in stemming the flow of illicit fentanyl from China.

China-sourced illicit fentanyl is primarily used by counterfeit tableting organizations in Mexico and the United States that focus on supplying people who misuse prescription pain pills. Counterfeit tablet suppliers often purchase powdered fentanyl through the anonymity of the internet and can access open source and dark web marketplaces for the tools needed for manufacturing. Fentanyl, pill presses and binding agents are then shipped into the United States primarily via international mail services and express consignment couriers. Illicit fentanyl products attributed to China are generally unadulterated.

Mexican drug cartels also obtain illicit fentanyl and precursor materials required to manufacture fentanyl-related substances from China and primarily use fentanyl as an adulterant in heroin that is produced in Mexico. The cartels have discovered that manufacturing fentanyl is much more cost effective, efficient, and draws less law enforcement attention than cultivating opium poppies to produce heroin. Because of the potency of fentanyl, only microgram quantities are needed to produce an effect. Fentanyl can be diluted and adulterated with other agents to produce dozens of kilograms of heroin-like substitute and can be added to heroin to create a synergistic effect. The adulterated heroin can sell at the traditional heroin street price or much higher if it is advertised as having a stronger effect. When smuggled adulterated heroin is discovered and seized by law enforcement, it has a much lower cost of replacement to the organization. Fentanyl seized at our Southwest Border Region is typically 5-10 percent in purity with the balance being diluents, such as dipyrone, mannitol or lactose.

Once illicit fentanyl is distributed in local American drug markets, many people who use drugs (whether heroin or prescription pain pills) are unaware of the presence of the more potent fentanyl in their narcotic. As fentanyl used in suspected heroin or counterfeit pills is more potent than the drugs they resemble, it readily leads to overdosing. Alternatively, the improper mixing of fentanyl can easily lead to batches of pills with a higher concentration of fentanyl, what is known as “hot spots”, leading to overdose and death. These batches may then be distributed within a specific geographic area and result in an increased number of overdose occurrences and deaths in that area. This is often how law enforcement learns that fentanyl or an analogue has been introduced into a local drug market.

The addictive nature and demand for opioids paired with the low cost/high potency of fentanyl used in counterfeit opioid production has led TCOs to compete for a portion of the U.S. illicit drug market.

ICE’s Efforts to Reduce the Supply of Fentanyl

In accordance with the President’s February 9, 2017, Executive Order on Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking, HSI will be working to reduce the supply of Fentanyl.

Heroin Availability Reduction Plan

In response to the dramatic increase in the availability of opioids, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), in close coordination with Federal departments and agencies, developed the Heroin Availability Reduction Plan (HARP) to reduce the supply of heroin and illicit fentanyl in the United States market through supply chain disruption and in detection and intelligence collection as outlined in the plan’s strategy. ICE has been involved in supporting the HARP since its inception.

Pursuant to the HARP, ICE is targeting supply chain networks, coordinating with domestic and international partners, and providing field training to highlight officer safety, trends, and collaboration benefits.

In support of the detection and analysis effort, ICE is fully engaged with the DEA Special Operations Division (SOD) and the CBP National Targeting Center, to identify shipment routes; targeting parcels that may contain heroin, illicit fentanyl, fentanyl- related substances and manufacturing materials; and fully exploiting financial and investigative analyses.

ICE Lines of Effort

Network Identification

The DEA's Special Operations Division (SOD) Heroin and Fentanyl Task Force (HFTF) is supported by ICE, CBP, DEA, and several other federal agencies. The SOD-led, interagency task force exploits electronic communications to proactively identify, disrupt, and dismantle the production, transportation, and financial networks behind the heroin and illicit fentanyl distribution organizations that impact the United States.

The HFTF focuses on the collaborative authorities and efforts of each invested agency’s resources, in order to better share and deconflict information. The HFTF works together to target international and domestic organizations by proactively working with field office. The taskforce also assists in coordinating and linking investigations from the street level dealer to the international source of supply.

ICE supports field investigations related to heroin and illicit fentanyl and the overdoses that occur as a result of use. ICE and the HFTF are currently coordinating with the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Program, its Fusion Center and ONDCP’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) taskforces to exploit communication data and social media information that are associated with reports of overdoses within a geographical area. This is in direct support of the OCDETF National Heroin Strategy. Coordination with OCDETF and HIDTA has proven helpful in multi-jurisdictional investigations and in their successful prosecutions.

HSI special agents actively pursue the financial networks used to sustain the heroin and illicit fentanyl trade. As with sources of supply, the financial methods used by smugglers and traffickers have also adapted with current trends. The wholesalers and end users utilize Money Service Businesses (MSBs), Bank to Bank wire transfers, PayPal, and virtual currencies (such as Bitcoin), to name a few, to successfully finance the supply chain and remit illicit proceeds. ICE continues to engage financial industry partners, specifically MSBs, to better identify the movement of illicit proceeds tied to fentanyl.

ICE recognizes that the private sector represents America’s first line of defense against money laundering. Through our Illicit Finance and Proceeds of Crime Unit (IFPCU), ICE partners with the U.S. financial industry, along with state and federal agencies, to combat financial and trade crimes associated with heroin and fentanyl smuggling and distribution.

In targeting virtual currency transactions of heroin and illicit fentanyl, ICE uses blockchain analysis to track transactions between criminal parties. Blockchain is a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publically. ICE has seen a substantial increase in cases in which private parties are acting as money service businesses to exchange digital currencies into fiat currency to enjoy the illicit proceeds of narcotics smuggling. The IFPCU also utilizes resources provided by the Treasury Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture’s Third-Party Money Laundering Initiative to support complex financial investigations. ICE’s Bulk Cash Smuggling Center also supports investigations through counter money laundering efforts that target TCOs that supply heroin and fentanyl.

The sources, brokers, and U.S. distributors of heroin and illicit fentanyl often communicate via dark web marketplaces, internet chat rooms, Peer to Peer applications, emails, skype, or other means of electronic communication. ICE’s Cyber Division further exploits these methods of communication in furtherance of field initiated criminal investigations. Moving forward, ICE’s Cyber Division will focus on exploiting the digital footprints left by the criminal parties. These exploitations will provide additional investigative avenues and exponentially increase targetable data points.

ICE has seen heroin and illicit fentanyl supply chains that are not only engaged in the importation of raw powder from foreign sources and counterfeit pills but also in the importation of the precursor chemicals used to produce finished product in the United States. The flow continues to transit through postal systems, express consignment couriers, and land borders. The finished product appearance can vary based on demand and the target market. In addition to the chemicals and/or binding agents, regional distributors often procure pill making implements (pill presses, fillers, cleaners and dyes) to effectively produce finished product clandestinely. ICE currently works with DEA, CBP, and United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) to target and investigate these precursor and manufacturing imports.

Support to CBP Targeting and Interdiction

Every day, CBP’s National Targeting Center (NTC) works quickly and quietly to identify people and products that pose potential threats to our nation’s security, and to stop them from entering the United States. The NTC employs highly skilled targeting specialists using state-of-the-art technologies to identify high-risk people and cargo in the air, land, and sea environments that enter and leave the United States. The NTC carefully targets and coordinates examination of shipments and travelers who may be associated to transnational criminal organizations and/or the smuggling of heroin and fentanyl.

ICE participates at CBP’s NTC through the National Targeting Center – Investigations (NTC-I) program, which leverages intelligence gathered during ICE investigations and exploits it using CBP holdings to target the flow of drugs into the United States. The NTC-I works to share information between CBP and ICE entities world-wide.

NTC-I conducts post seizure analysis based on ICE seizures in the field and CBP seizures at the ports of entry. The analysis is critical to identifying networks that transport heroin and illicit fentanyl-related substances into and throughout the United States. A key component of the post seizure analysis is the financial investigation. The NTC-I focuses on the financial element of the smuggling organization by exploiting information gathered from multiple financial databases.

The NTC-I works closely with CBP to target illicit shipments imported into the United States from abroad for interdiction at international mail facilities. CBP works to target parcels based on numerous characteristics and provides investigative information on past seizures and active smuggling networks to aid in the targeting effort. Partnering with express consignment couriers has proven valuable in identifying additional data sets for targeting and exploitation.

The recent partnership and consistent collaboration between ICE, CBP, USPIS, and DEA has greatly contributed to the success in combatting illicit shipments of heroin and fentanyl-related substances. Sources in China frequently utilize the international mail services to ship fentanyl in small parcels to avoid detection by CBP. The NTC-I leverages the working relationship with USPIS target these shipments for interdiction at U.S. airport hubs and local post offices. The NTC-I has been instrumental in coordinating interdiction and extended border searches on illicit fentanyl-related shipments leading to multiple seizures in the United States and abroad.

International Partners and Cooperation

ICE works closely with our domestic and international law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations.

ICE, in support of DEA and the Department of State, has met with law enforcement counterparts from China, Mexico, and South American countries for the purposes of sharing targeting information regarding known sources of heroin, illicit fentanyl, and precursor supply, for interdiction and effective organization dismantlement.

We have traveled with DEA and CBP to China in pursuit of the successful identification and nomination of fentanyl Consolidated Priority Organization Targets (CPOTs) on several occasions, have hosted China counterparts in the United States at the Special Operations Division, and will return to China for continued coordination in April.

CPOT is the command and control element of a major transnational criminal organization and/or money laundering enterprise that significantly impacts the United States illicit drug supply and is designated by the Attorney General and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) member agencies. CPOTs represent the “most wanted” transnational criminal and money laundering organizations.

The successful identification and nominations of heroin and illicit fentanyl CPOT targets provide a first step into the designation of fentanyl “kingpins” under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, and the ultimate imposition of economic sanctions against CPOTs and their business networks through the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

ICE has also met with Canadian officials to share trends and targeting strategy in fentanyl-related investigations. Like the United States, our Canadian counterparts have expressed that a fentanyl crisis is also occurring within Canada. ICE has traveled with DEA to Canada on at least three (3) occasions to compare heroin and fentanyl trends, case models, and known targetable data sources. Further, command and control structures, communications, distribution routes, and the logistical movement of fentanyl-related shipments have been shared.

Officer Safety

Illicit fentanyl is not only dangerous for people who use drugs, but for law enforcement, public health workers and first responders who could unknowingly come into contact with it in its different forms. Working dogs are also at risk of exposure.

Law enforcement is presented with several challenges when dealing with fentanyl. Accidentally inhaling the substance during law enforcement activity or during field testing of the substance is one of the biggest dangers with fentanyl. A secondary safety threat, the absorption through the skin, may also produce a response; however, severity of skin absorption for most forms of illicit fentanyl is debated in the scientific and medical communities. In either exposure case adverse health effects can include disorientation, coughing, sedation, respiratory distress or cardiac arrest

Field testing proves to be difficult, because fentanyl is not one of the classic drugs that are familiar to law enforcement. Undercover activities and controlled purchases are also risky, as many regional distributors themselves are unaware of the presence of fentanyl in their heroin product. This leads narcotics officers to believe they are conducting a controlled purchase of heroin or cocaine, when in fact, they may be purchasing illicit fentanyl. Additionally, delays in laboratory testing due to drug seizure volumes are also problematic in quickly identifying fentanyl.

Naloxone is an antidote for opioid overdoses, including those caused by fentanyl. When quickly and properly administered, it can restore normal breathing and consciousness to individuals experiencing an opioid overdose/accidental exposure.

ICE is currently in the process of obtaining and distributing naloxone kits and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to trained special agents in order to prevent fentanyl overdose exposure to law enforcement and is working to develop interim guidance and policy on the handling and transporting of fentanyl evidence.

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 battling the U.S. heroin and illicit fentanyl crisis through the various efforts I have discussed today. I would like to reiterate that this problem set is an epidemic that demands urgent and immediate action across law enforcement interagency lines in conjunction with experts in the scientific, medical, and public health communities. I appreciate your interest in this important issue and look forward to your questions.

Topics:  International, Law Enforcement Partnerships Keywords:  Fentanyl, opioids, TCO, Transnational Crime Organizations, Homeland Security investigations

DHS Releases U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Declined Detainer Outcome Report

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 11:17
Release Date: March 20, 2017

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

WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security today issued the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Declined Detainer Outcome Report required by President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, signed on January 25.  This report will be issued weekly to highlight jurisdictions that choose not to cooperate with ICE detainers or requests for notification, therefore potentially endangering Americans. ICE places detainers on aliens who have been arrested on local criminal charges or who are in local custody and for whom ICE possesses probable cause to believe that they are removable from the United States, so that ICE can take custody of the alien when he or she is released from local custody.

“When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect the public safety and carry out its mission,” said Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan. “Our goal is to build cooperative, respectful relationships with our law enforcement partners. We will continue collaborating with them to help ensure that illegal aliens who may pose a threat to our communities are not released onto the streets to potentially harm individuals living within our communities.”

The Declined Detainer Outcome Report is a weekly report that lists the jurisdictions that have declined to honor ICE detainers or requests for notification and includes examples of criminal charges associated with those released aliens. The report provides information on declined detainers and requests for notification for that reporting period. A jurisdiction’s appearance on this report is not an exclusive factor in determining a jurisdiction’s level of cooperation with ICE. This report is intended to provide the public with information regarding criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignores or otherwise failed to honor any detainers or requests for notification with respect to such aliens.

Related Materials:

# # #
 

 

Topics:  Immigration Enforcement Keywords:  immigration, immigration enforcement

Q&A: U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement Declined Detainer Outcome Report

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 11:13
Release Date: March 20, 2017Q: What is a detainer?

A: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issues detainers to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to provide notice of its intent to assume custody of a removable alien detained in federal, state, or local custody.  A detainer requests that the law enforcement agency notify ICE as early as practicable—ideally at least 48 hours—before a removable alien is released from criminal custody and briefly maintain custody of the alien for up to 48 hours to allow DHS to assume custody for removal purposes.

Q: What is a declined detainer?

A: When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release a criminal alien onto the streets, they have declined an ICE detainer. This undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission. Federal immigration laws authorize DHS to issue detainers and provide ICE broad authority to detain removable aliens.

Q: How is an individual placed under a detainer?

A: When an individual is booked into custody by a law enforcement agency, his or her biometric data is automatically routed through federal databases to the FBI.  The FBI shares this information with ICE. If ICE has probable cause to suspect the individual is a removable alien, ICE sends a detainer to the law enforcement agency.

Q: Why is ICE providing these reports now?

A: The president’s Executive Order 13768, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, and DHS Secretary Kelly’s memorandum on the implementation of the same, instructs the ICE Director to make this report public.

Q: Why do some jurisdictions ignore detainers?

A: In some cases, state or local laws, ordinances, or policies restrict or prohibit cooperation with ICE.  In other cases, jurisdictions choose to willfully decline ICE detainers and release criminals back into the community.  The results in both cases are the same: aliens released onto the streets to potentially reoffend or harm individuals living within our communities.

Q: Why should the public care if jurisdictions don’t observe ICE detainers?

A: If jurisdictions do not honor ICE detainers, criminals are released into communities, where they can commit more crimes and are subject to at-large arrests which may be disruptive to communities. Three examples of criminal aliens who are subject to removal but were released despite the issuance of an active detainer within the last few months follow; all have been re-arrested and are currently in custody:

  • Milton Berrera-Lopez was released from local custody when a detainer lodged with Philadelphia authorities was not honored. The Guatemalan national has a previous conviction for two counts of indecent exposure involving minors.
  • Estivan Rafael Marques Velasquez, a self-admitted MS-13 gang member, was released from New York City custody with an active ICE detainer in place. The Salvadoran national has a criminal history in the United States which includes reckless endangerment in the second degree, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, and disorderly conduct.
  • Ramon Aguirre Ochoa was deported in May 2009. In 2015, he was arrested on domestic aggravated assault charges in Philadelphia. The charges were dismissed, despite ICE filing a detainer to take custody and remove him from the country again. Philadelphia ignored that detainer and released Aguirre Ochoa back into the community. He was arrested again in Philadelphia on July 26, 2016, and charged with involuntary sexual intercourse, unlawful contact with a minor, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, indecent assault on person less than 13, indecent exposure, and simple assault.
Q: Does ICE still work with jurisdictions that do not observe detainers on other law enforcement actions?

A: Yes. ICE is committed to maintaining and strengthening its relationships with local law enforcement. ICE continues to collaborate with all law enforcement agencies to help ensure that individuals who may pose a threat to our communities are not released onto the streets to potentially reoffend and harm individuals living within our communities.

Q: Where does the list come from?

A: ICE maintains records for each detainer or request for notification that is issued and updates those records when a detainer or request for notification is declined. The list is generated from this data.

Q: Why is the public safer when jurisdictions honor ICE detainers?

A: When criminal aliens are released from local or state custody, they have the opportunity to reoffend. There are also many risks and uncertainties involved when apprehending dangerous criminal aliens at-large in the community. It takes careful planning and extensive resources to mitigate those risks and make a safe apprehension in a community setting. It is much safer for everyone—the community, law enforcement, and even the criminal alien—if ICE officers take custody of the alien in the controlled environment of another law enforcement agency as opposed to visiting a reported alien’s residence, place of work, or other public area.

Q: What is ICE’s overall mission? Why do they want the detainers enforced?

A: ICE is committed to using its unique enforcement authorities and available resources and tools to promote national security, uphold public safety, and preserve the integrity of our immigration system. The use of detainers is an efficient, effective and safe means to carry out ICE’s mission.

Q: Are detainers placed on random criminal aliens?

A: ICE places detainers on individuals whom ICE has probable cause to suspect are removable aliens in state and local law enforcement agency custody on criminal charges.

Q: Are the jurisdictions or agencies on this list considered sanctuary locations?

A: The Declined Detainer Outcome Report (DDOR) is intended to provide the public with information regarding criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignores or otherwise failed to honor any detainers or requests for information with respect to such aliens.  As set forth in Executive Order 13768, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, the Secretary has the authority to designate, in his discretion and to the extent consistent with law, a jurisdiction as a sanctuary jurisdiction.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to evaluate the appropriate criteria for such designation. 

Q: How does the report inform the decision on whether a location is a sanctuary jurisdiction?

A: The president’s Executive Order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, requires publication of this report. The report lists locations that have ignored or otherwise failed to honor an immigration detainer or request for notification. As set forth in the Executive Order, the Secretary has the authority to designate, in his discretion and to the extent consistent with law, a jurisdiction as a sanctuary jurisdiction.  DHS continues to evaluate the appropriate criteria for such designation. 

Q: My jurisdiction is on the Declined Detainer Outcome Report.  Will we lose our federal funding? What federal funding might my jurisdiction lose? For example, if a natural disaster occurs, will we receive federal assistance?

A: The DDOR is intended to provide the public with information regarding criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignores or otherwise failed to honor any detainers or requests for notification with respect to such aliens. ICE does not administer grants, and inclusion on the DDOR will not automatically result in ineligibility for grants.  Section 9(a) of the Executive Order recognizes the authority of the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in their discretion and consistent with law, to ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with 8 USC § 1373 are not eligible to receive federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary.  DHS is currently working to develop a process, in coordination with the Department of Justice and other interagency partners, to address this requirement of the EO.

Q: Does this report include Requests for Notification (I-247N)? If so, why?

A: Yes. The Request for Voluntary Notification (Form I-247N) is one of the tools ICE has used to notify law enforcement agencies of its interest in taking custody of an alien in state or local custody. The declination of Requests for Voluntary Notification also result in the release of criminal aliens, which provides an unnecessary risk to public and officer safety as ICE personnel are forced to arrest such aliens in an at-large setting.  Although this report includes information relating to Form I-247N, DHS will be replacing Forms I-247D, I-247N, and I-247X in the near future.  Information related to the superseding detainer form and its predecessors will be documented and reported by ICE going forward. Until fully vetted, reviewed, and approved, ICE will utilize the existing detainer and notification forms as an interim measure.

Q: This report notes that it may reflect instances in which a law enforcement agency may have provided notification to ICE in advance of an alien’s release, but where the LEA did not provide “sufficient advance notification” for ICE to arrange the transfer of custody prior to release due to geographic limitations, response times, or other logistical reasons.  What is sufficient advance notification?

A: Lack of sufficient advance notification is based on the judgment of immigration officers, taking into consideration geographic limitations, response times, and other local logistical details. Advance notification is sufficient when ICE is given enough time to mobilize its resources to effectuate a safe transfer into ICE custody.  Sufficient advance notice is a commonly understood standard for law enforcement jurisdictions working closely together.

Q: How many of these instances were included in this report for my jurisdictions?  Please provide the details of these instances and why ICE thought they did not have sufficient advance notification.

A: Detainers and Requests for Notification are not honored for a variety of reasons, as noted in the Declined Detainer Outcomes Report. ICE documents non-honored Detainers and Requests for Notification once discovered by ICE personnel during their enforcement activities.  In instances of insufficient notification to ICE, these are generally cases in which the law enforcement agency did not provide ICE with enough time to mobilize its resources to effectuate a safe custody transfer.

Q: Is DHS changing its legal position that ICE detainers are voluntary?

A: DHS has not retreated from its position that detainers serve as a legally-authorized request, upon which a law enforcement agency may rely, to continue to maintain custody of the alien for up to 48 hours so that ICE may assume custody for removal purposes.

Q: The February 21 DHS implementing memorandum on the Executive Orders stated that DHS will eliminate the existing forms (I-247D, I-247N, and I-247X) and replace them with a new form to more effectively communicate with recipient law enforcement agencies.  Why are old forms still being used?  When will they be replaced?

A: DHS is in the process of creating a new detainer form to more effectively communicate with recipient law enforcement agencies. Although this report includes information relating to Form I-247N, DHS will be replacing Forms I-247D, I-247N, and I-247X in the near future.  Information related to the superseding detainer form and its predecessors will be documented and reported by ICE going forward.  Until fully vetted, reviewed, and approved, ICE will utilize the existing detainer and notification forms as an interim measure.

Q: Why are jurisdictions listed here when they are prohibited from honoring detainers based on state laws, binding judicial opinions, or consent decrees limiting detainer compliance?

A: Regardless of the reason for which a jurisdiction does not honor ICE detainers or requests for notification, such action by the jurisdiction nonetheless adversely impacts public safety.  When a jurisdiction declines to honor an ICE detainer or request for notification, a criminal alien is released into the community, where he or she has the opportunity to commit additional crimes, rather than being safely detained and processed for removal by ICE. 

Q: What does “notable criminal activity” mean?  Why aren’t all criminal charges and convictions listed in this report?

A: “Notable criminal activity” documents egregious charges and convictions of the alien for whom a detainer was not honored.  This report includes criminal charges contained in local, state, and federal indexes and recorded in ICE's database.

Q: I have information that contradicts what is on this report.  What is the process for correcting the information on this report?

A: Concerns from the community can be relayed to a local community relations officer who may be contacted via a local ICE field office, which can be found at: https://www.ice.gov/contact/field-offices

Q: Is this report inclusive of all declined detainers?

A: This report is inclusive of declined detainers that were not honored by a law enforcement agency, discovered by ICE personnel during their enforcement activities as not being honored, and documented in ICE systems during the reporting period specified.

Q: Can I get more information about a specific case?

A:   Members of the public may submit requests for information to ICE’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Office.  Each request will be evaluated under the disclosure provisions of FOIA.

# # #

Topics:  Immigration Enforcement Keywords:  immigration, immigration enforcement

Fact Sheet: U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement Declined Detainer Outcome Report

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 11:02
Release Date: March 20, 2017

Office of Public Affairs
Contact: 202-282-8010

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issues detainers and requests for notification to law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to provide notice of its intent to assume custody of an individual detained in federal, state, or local custody. Detainers are placed on aliens arrested on criminal charges for whom ICE possesses probable cause to believe that they are removable from the United States.

A detainer requests that a LEA notify ICE as early as practicable—ideally at least 48 hours—before a removable alien is released from criminal custody and then briefly maintain custody of the alien for up to 48 hours to allow DHS to assume custody for removal purposes.  A request for notification requests that a LEA notify ICE as early as practicable – ideally at least 48 hours –before a removable alien is released from criminal custody.

These requests are intended to allow a reasonable amount of time for ICE to respond and take custody of the alien. When LEAs fail to honor immigration detainers or requests for notification and release serious criminal offenders, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission. The Declined Detainer Outcome Report (DDOR), which meets the requirement outlined in the president’s Executive Order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, is a weekly report that lists the LEAs that declined ICE detainers or requests for notification and includes criminal charges associated with those released aliens.

The DDOR may reflect instances in which the LEA may have technically provided notification to ICE in advance of an alien’s release, but where the LEA did not provide sufficient advance notification for ICE to arrange the transfer of custody prior to release due to geographic limitations, response times, or other logistical reasons. In these instances, ICE records the detainer or request for notification as declined by the LEA.

This report only reflects the data related to the release of criminal aliens that is available to ICE. In uncooperative jurisdictions like Cook County, Illinois, and the City of Philadelphia, ICE is barred from interviewing arrestees in local custody. Therefore, in these communities a large number of criminals who have yet to be encountered by ICE are arrested by local authorities and released in these communities without any notification to ICE.

ICE continues to collaborate with all law enforcement agencies to help ensure that aliens who may pose a threat to our communities are not released onto the streets to potentially reoffend and harm individuals living within our communities. However, in some cases, state or local laws, ordinances or policies restrict or prohibit cooperation with ICE. In other cases, jurisdictions choose to willfully decline ICE detainers or requests for notification and release criminals back into the community.

When criminal aliens are released from local or state custody, they have the opportunity to reoffend. There are also many risks and uncertainties involved when apprehending dangerous criminal aliens at-large in the community. It takes careful planning and extensive resources to mitigate those risks and make a safe apprehension in a community setting. It is much safer for all involved—the community, law enforcement, and even the criminal alien—if ICE officers take custody in the controlled environment of another law enforcement agency.

# # #

Topics:  Immigration Enforcement Keywords:  immigration enforcement, immigration

Readout of Secretary Kelly's Meeting with President of Costa Rica Luis Guillermo Solis

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 22:01
Release Date: March 16, 2017

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

WASHINGTON— On Thursday, March 16, Secretary Kelly met with President of Costa Rica Luis Guillermo Solis to discuss bilateral and regional security and economic issues of mutual interest.  Key DHS officials, to include Acting CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan, and USCG Commandant Paul Zukunft were also present.  The delegation from Costa Rica also included the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.

During the meeting, President Solis explained Costa Rica’s current security and immigration challenges and also shared recent successes, particularly efforts to increase narcotics interdiction in the region.  Secretary Kelly highlighted opportunities to expand investigative, border security, and information collaboration.

Both leaders recognized the threat to the region from narcotics trafficking, and how Costa Rica partners with DHS to track and intercept narcotics shipments as they transit Costa Rican territory.  CBP, ICE, and USCG all pledged to support Costa Rican goals to expand border security (air, land, and maritime), build capacity to counter different forms of transnational crime, especially money laundering, and provide training and equipment to key Costa Rican security agencies, including the Border Police, Coast Guard, and Investigative Police.

During the meeting, Secretary Kelly emphasized his intent to support regional efforts to reduce levels of crime and improve economic conditions, especially in the “Northern Triangle” of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, as a way to dissuade would-be migrants from attempting to enter the U.S. illegally.

 

# # #

 

Topics:  Border Security, Information Sharing Keywords:  Secretary Kelly, Border Security, drug interdiction, cbp, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, uscg

Administration's Fiscal Years 2017 Budget Amendment and 2018 Budget Requests Advance DHS Operations

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 10:39
Release Date: March 16, 2017

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

WASHINGTON—The president’s Budget Amendment for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 and Budget Blueprint for FY 2018 were delivered to Congress today.  The FY 2017 Budget Amendment includes $3 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement Executive Orders that strengthen border security, enhance enforcement of immigration laws, and ensure public safety in communities across the United States.  The FY 2018 Budget Blueprint highlights the Administration’s priorities and requests $44.1 billion in discretionary budget authority for DHS, a $2.8 billion or 6.8 percent increase from the FY 2017 annualized Continuing Resolution level.  A comprehensive budget request for FY 2018 will be delivered to Congress in May.

DHS is charged with ensuring the security of the U.S. borders, supporting the integrity of its immigration system, protecting air travelers and national leaders, reducing the threat of cyber attacks, and standing prepared for emergency response and disaster recovery.  The president has renewed the national focus on the Department’s law enforcement missions through recent Executive Orders on border security and immigration enforcement.  Together, the FY 2017 Budget Amendment and the FY 2018 Budget Blueprint provide the resources necessary to carry out the Department’s broad mission set and advance the priorities set forth by the president.

“The president’s budget requests demonstrate a renewed focus on supporting the hard work of the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security,” said Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly.  “We are committed to carrying out the Department’s mission in a way that maximizes the use of taxpayer dollars while focusing on the security and law enforcement efforts that keep the American people safe.”     

The FY 2017 Budget Amendment would provide $3 billion for DHS implementation of recent Executive Orders.  The request would fund efforts to plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border, and make other critical investments in tactical border infrastructure and technology.  The request also proposes funding to increase immigration detention capacity, which is necessary to ensure the removal of illegal aliens from the United States.  Finally, the request funds additional capacity at DHS to prepare for hiring additional immigration law enforcement officers and agents.

In today’s fiscal environment, the Secretary remains committed to a continued review of DHS programs with a concentration on efficiency and effectiveness while maximizing each dollar invested in the Department.  Funding highlights include:  

  • Funds hiring of 500 new Border Patrol Agents and 1,000 new ICE law enforcement personnel, plus associated support staff.
  • Provides a further investment of $2.6 billion for high priority tactical infrastructure and border security technology, including funding to continue planning, designing, and constructing a border wall.
  • Provides $1.5 billion above the 2017 Annualized CR level to expand detention, transportation, and removal of illegal immigrants.
  • Invests $15 million to begin implementation of mandatory nationwide use of the E-Verify Program.
  • Includes $1.5 billion for DHS activities that protect federal networks and critical infrastructure from an attack.
  • Sustains current funding levels for the U.S. Coast Guard, which allows for the continuation of day-to-day operations and investments in the Acquisition, Construction, & Improvements account. 
  • Restructures user fees for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to ensure that the cost of government services is not subsidized by taxpayers who do not directly benefit from those programs.
  • Reduces Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administered grants, saving $667 million; additionally the budget proposes establishing a 25% non-federal cost match for FEMA preparedness grants that do not currently require a non-federal match.

For more information, see the Budget Blueprint and Amendment.

###

Topics:  Border Security, Immigration Enforcement Keywords:  Border Security, immigration, budget, funding, critical infrastructure

Written testimony of USCIS Acting Director for a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency hearing titled “Immigration Benefits Vetting: Examining Critical Weaknesses in USCIS Systems”

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 00:00
Release Date: March 16, 2017

210 House Capitol Visitor Center

Chairman Perry, Ranking Member Correa, and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to discuss information technology systems at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). I am Lori Scialabba, the Acting Director of USCIS.

Bringing our nation’s legacy paper-based immigration system into the digital age remains a substantial work in progress. And it’s not simply an IT challenge. The United States has the largest immigration system in the world. In Fiscal Year 2016 alone, USCIS received over eight million petitions and applications filed for people wanting to live here, work here, study here, invest here, bring foreign relatives or adopted children here, or become citizens. As a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), USCIS has a dual mission – to keep Americans safe and ensure the integrity of our immigration system as we fulfill our promise as a nation of immigrants.

Given today’s threats, there is no higher priority for us than continuing to expand and integrate our fraud detection and national security operations into all areas of our work. Building a technically reliable electronic case management system is not enough. It must safeguard against fraud and abuse, and ensure that immigration benefits are not provided to individuals who wish to do us harm.

USCIS currently processes approximately 25 percent of casework through computer files rather than thick folders of paper. That’s a significant accomplishment given our paper-bound history. We are committed to expanding our digital capabilities, and taking IT techniques from the private sector and adapting them to the immigration context wherever possible.

Per your invitation letter, you have called this hearing to focus on findings by DHS’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), including findings about our Transformation program. I would like to note that two months ago, in January, the Transformation program became part of the USCIS Office of Information Technology (OIT), which means that our Chief Information Officer now has the responsibility to oversee its day-to-day operations to ensure it delivers value for our investment. And by that I mean the investment of fees paid by those seeking immigration benefits, as USCIS is almost entirely funded by fees.

Over the last few months, the OIT team has conducted various internal assessments of the Transformation program’s status, and have carefully reviewed the independent assessments that were conducted by the OIG and GAO. Based on the information gathered and knowledge of IT industry best practices, we have assembled a plan designed to improve the program’s performance and ensure that it delivers on its intended outcomes. This approach will be discussed later in my testimony.

Since initiating this effort USCIS has worked hard to bring contemporary IT practices into our environment, not just at USCIS, but around DHS and the rest of the federal government. The Transformation program is an excellent opportunity to take the current, most promising practices of industry and apply them to a large government need.

Transformation began in 2005-2006 as a USCIS program whose intention was to thoroughly modernize IT systems. The program was created to move the agency from a paper-based process to an electronic process, improve the efficiency of adjudication, provide better service to those seeking benefits, and adopt a person-centric view of our data. Such a modern and efficient system would ultimately help improve our national security. The original scope and purpose of the Transformation program was broad and vast. Unfortunately these broad intentions have made it difficult for the program to focus on specific business objectives, and to make good prioritization decisions about where to focus resources.

The program began with a large contract to a single system integrator to manage virtually all aspects of the Transformation effort. In addition to building an extensive IT system, called the Electronic Immigration System, or ELIS, this contractor was tasked with leading business process re-engineering, stakeholder communications, training, requirements elicitation, and of course all of the development coding and testing. When the system integrator finally delivered the first release of the product, in May 2012, it was a radically scoped-down version of our intent and accomplished only a small subset of the work of a relatively narrow part of the agency’s day-to-day mission. It actually slowed the agency’s work.

Given USCIS’s negative experience with this first release of ELIS, we decided to make a number of changes to our strategy. First, we decided to replace the single large system integrator with several smaller contractors, and have the government serve as the integrator. We devised a new contracting approach that encouraged good performance by the contractors through continual competition for additional work from us. Second, and very importantly, we changed to an agile development approach that allowed us to see frequent, finished work from the contractors, so we could make sure the project was always moving forward. With an agile approach, rather than waiting a long time for the product to be completely built and delivered before discovering if it works or satisfies the agency’s needs, the system is constructed in pieces, with each part tested to make sure it works well with the other pieces. Third, we realized that the original design of the system was one of the reasons development was slow and problematic. It was based on integrating about 30 different proprietary products—and it turned out that they didn’t work together very well. So we decided to switch to a more standard approach, based on open source frameworks based on non-proprietary software. Finally, we decided to move to the public cloud; in other words, procuring storage space on secure servers to store some of our data as many federal agencies now do. These changes have enabled us to operate more efficiently, build more quickly, and detect and fix bugs along the way.

It took several years to fully implement these changes, but with the new design, contracts, process, and the cloud environment, the program began to deliver new functionality on a regular cadence. In fact, it currently releases small pieces of new functionality approximately four times a week—a far cry from the old way of doing things, where releases came more on the order of annually—or in the case of Transformation, about six years for the first release.

In November 2015, the program first launched its electronic version of the Application for Replacement Green Card (Form I-90) in the redesigned version of the system. This was a major milestone, as the Green Card replacement accounts for about 10% of the agency’s workload. It was followed, in 2016, by electronic processing of Applications for Temporary Protected Status (Form I-821) and requests for Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Form I-821D), as well as making the program the only source for collection of the required immigrant fee for Green Card processing. Altogether, these lines of business account for approximately 25 percent of the agency’s workload. It is important to know that “electronic processing” does not mean that a computer makes the adjudication. It means that scanned versions of immigration applications and requests and supporting documents are ingested into our systems so an officer can view and process them on a computer. Our officers make the final decisions with the help of this electronic processing system.

In 2016, we moved to take the next step and bring one of the agency’s most important, but also most complicated, products into ELIS: the Application for Naturalization (Form N-400). We anticipated there could be issues, as there often are with any major IT launch. Our agency leadership was prepared to suspend the rollout if necessary, and that is exactly what USCIS did when problems surfaced after the launch. In August 2016, we returned to ingesting newly filed N-400s into our legacy system, known as CLAIMS 4, to minimize any disruption in processing of naturalization applications while we corrected identified systems issues.

As the Inspector General is aware, we continue to process the approximately 240,000 N-400 naturalization cases that were started in ELIS. They are not sitting idle while we await systems modifications. In order to ensure the integrity of the ELIS process, we are conducting 100 percent quality assurance checks of TECS background checks in two ways– once through ELIS and again outside of ELIS – and then comparing the results to ensure consistency. In addition, we continue to monitor all of the background check functionality, including FBI name checks, and resolve any anomalies as they occur. USCIS has also recently established a Background Check Working Group to continually evaluate security check procedures and to recommend optimal background check approaches to be adopted agency-wide.

USCIS has been adamant that new work will not shift back into ELIS until improvements are made to how ELIS handles naturalization processing. These include streamlining the printing and scanning processes, establishing a ‘contingency plan’ for continuing to conduct interviews even if there is an ELIS outage, and formalizing some measure of the above-described redundancy in our background checks. It should be noted that the Inspector General validated our internal recommendations in the January 19, 2017 management alert (“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Use of the Electronic Immigration System for Naturalization Benefits Processing”).

Taking a wider view of building the infrastructure for a modern immigration system, USCIS agrees with the July 2016 GAO assessment that “Regarding software development, the Transformation program has produced some software increments, but is not consistently following its own guidance and leading processes.” GAO found that Transformation program practices were beginning to diverge from those used by leading companies. In my view, Transformation is one of the most advanced government programs in using contemporary IT delivery practices. But this is not an area where you can go halfway and get good results.

GAO recognized that Transformation’s frequent use of automated testing, and continuous build and integration, were good practices that provided an ability to deliver quickly and consistently. The Transformation program, GAO also pointed out, “has established an environment that allows for effective systems integration and testing and has planned for and performed some system testing. However, the program needs to improve its approach to system testing to ensure that USCIS ELIS meets its intended goals and is consistent with agency guidance and leading practices.” GAO found discrepancies between some of the practices being used by the Transformation program and the guidance issued by OIT. Now that Transformation has been incorporated into OIT as of January of this year, we will ensure appropriate oversight of the program. As part of OIT, Transformation will be assisted by having full access to OIT’s developers, applications, and systems already in existence within the agency.

Although the GAO and OIG findings have been helpful to us in diagnosing issues in the program, I would like to update the subcommittee on two points. First, the Inspector General correctly pointed out a number of problems in the ELIS I-90 (replacement Green Card) release. However, the OIG study was conducted shortly after the launch of the electronic I-90, a time when it is typical for IT systems to have kinks that need to be worked out. Notably we implemented an asynchronous handoff process to handle potentially sporadic connectivity between ELIS and the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) to ensure timeouts between the systems would not inadvertently result in duplicate cards being produced. Second, in regard to concerns about some Green Cards being mailed to wrong addresses, we are now implementing a fix to enable applicants to answer a series of questions to verify their identity in order to update their address online. This fix will help so that changes of address are made by the applicant as early in the process as possible in order to avoid instances of Green Cards being mailed to an applicant’s prior address.

Also, the OIG report provided data on three cost estimates which could be read to infer that the cost of the program has been increasing over time, beginning with $536 million in the original Acquisition Plan, $2.1 billion in the original lifecycle cost estimate, and finally $3.1 billion in the revised lifecycle cost estimate. It is important to clarify that the first cost estimate of $536 million was based on the original development and support contracts awarded for system development under the previous waterfall approach, and included a base contract period of performance of four months followed by five option periods covering a total of five years and one month. It was not an approved, finalized cost estimate that covered the traditional investment and operations and maintenance periods found in a lifecycle cost estimate. In contrast, the $2.1 billion cost estimate was based on a lifecycle cost estimate that included system development and maintenance costs covering a 16 year period from 2006 through 2022. Finally, the $3.1 billion cost estimate was based on an updated life cycle cost estimate that also included system development and maintenance costs, but was expanded to cover a 27 year period from 2006 through 2033.

Finally, I would like to report on some of the actions USCIS is taking that are consistent with the OIG and GAO findings to improve the performance of the program:

  • USCIS recently incorporated the Transformation program into the Office of Information Technology and has made organizational changes so that we can bring the many technical skills and processes of OIT to bear on the program.
  • USCIS is clarifying the scope of the program, especially where it overlaps with other agency initiatives. The Program is focusing on the lines of business that will truly transform the agency.
  • We are working to fix the five issues specifically identified by USCIS that prevented us from continuing to move forward with accepting new naturalization cases into ELIS. We are making good progress and expect those issues to be resolved in the near future.
  • We are working with DHS to clarify the specific outcomes that we want to achieve with each process we bring into an electronic environment. And we are devising metrics and monitoring tools that will allow us to measure our success in accomplishing these outcomes.
  • We are also establishing uniform standards for what constitutes a well-tested piece of code, and adopting more development processes similar to those used by major companies.

We are fortunate to have an extremely dedicated, extremely talented team at work on the program. We hope that the changes we are making will address the important points raised by the Inspector General and GAO, so that the program can truly transform the way our agency processes immigration benefits and services.

Again, thank you for this opportunity to discuss what USCIS is doing to support the mission of Homeland Security. I am happy to address your questions.

Topics:  Immigration and Citizenship Services Keywords:  Electronic Immigration System, ELIS, USCIS Transformation program

Written testimony of USCIS for a Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing titled “Vows for Visas: Investigating K-1 Fiancé Fraud ”

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 00:00
Release Date: March 15, 2017

226 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, and distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify at today’s hearing. This testimony will focus on the role of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the interagency process for adjudicating nonimmigrant fiancé(e) petitions. USCIS will also discuss its efforts to combat marriage fraud more generally, including a general overview of the fraud referral process.

From the visa petition stage to post-entry applications for immigration benefits, USCIS works closely with the U.S. Department of State (DOS), other U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) components, and other partners to ensure that those seeking to lawfully enter and remain in the United States are screened and vetted thoroughly at multiple points and by multiple agencies in accordance with laws and regulations.

Security and integrity are central to USCIS’ mission. In the course of applying to enter the United States, being admitted, and gaining lawful permanent resident status, the fiancé(e) of a U.S citizen will undergo four to five sets of comprehensive background and security checks. Each case is reviewed by multiple agencies. USCIS and our partners continually work together to enhance our tools and procedures for identifying those who threaten our homeland or attempt to gain benefits through fraud. For example, recognizing its potential value, USCIS is exploring an expansion of the use of social media as an additional vetting tool in the background and security check process.

Officer Training

All immigration services officers at USCIS must pass the Immigration Services Officer Basic Training Program (BASIC). The BASIC course consists of 25 training days totaling 200 hours. The program includes, among other subjects, immigration history and law (6 hours), benefit fraud and material misrepresentation (4 hours), specific immigration classifications (12 hours), interviewing (4 hours), burden of proof and standards of proof (2 hours), and national security (4 hours). Officers receive specific training in the definition of fraud as it relates to the Immigration and Nationality Act. Common types and indicators of fraud, including marriage-based and family-based fraud, are discussed throughout the curriculum. The training includes methods for identifying a wide range of fraudulent documents (7 hours) as well as articulating the fraud and referring the case to a USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) immigration officer. BASIC training is just the beginning as additional training is provided regularly to ISOs at their duty office to enhance and sharpen skills. For example credibility training was provided to all domestic field offices and plans are underway for additional specialized training relating to specific grounds of inadmissibility.

Marriage Fraud and the Fraud Referral Process Overview

Marriage fraud is a risk USCIS evaluates with any alien who seeks to acquire permanent resident status by marriage to a U.S. Citizen (USC) or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). Fraud may be perpetrated in some instances by colluding with a USC or LPR. However, in some instances, the USC/LPR petitioner may be unaware that he/she is participating in a marriage fraud scheme.

Under section 204(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act a fraudulent marriage is one that is entered into “for the purpose of evading the immigration laws.” Against this backdrop, USCIS thoroughly reviews a number of factors when seeking to determine whether a petitioner and beneficiary have entered into a bona fide marriage or whether the marriage was entered into for the purpose of evading the immigration laws.

In particular, as part of each case review, USCIS will evaluate the probative value of documentary evidence and employ background checks and system checks to confirm identity and status information. For prospective immigrants adjusting status in the United Stated based on marriage, USCIS will interview the petitioner and beneficiary to determine whether the marriage is bona fide. Interviews may be conducted jointly or with the petitioner and beneficiary separately. USCIS will generally conduct a joint interview first, then move to a separation interview if needed to further clarify information. The review and interview do not focus on attempting to predict the future of the marriage, but whether the marriage was entered into in “good faith” and not in an attempt to evade immigration laws.

Cases with fraud indicators are referred prior to final adjudication to FDNS officers for administrative investigations. These investigations may include a site visit to verify whether the parties are sharing a residence and/or residing in the location identified on the immigration form. In FY 2016, FDNS officers conducted approximately 11,800 of these site visits. Of these site visits, nearly 8,800 were related to potential marriage fraud. Upon completion of their investigation, FDNS officers report their findings for use in adjudication. Under previous policies, if a case met certain criteria, USCIS would refer the case to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for criminal investigation or possible removal proceedings.

The President’s Executive Order of January 25, 2017, entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” and the Secretary’s implementing guidance entitled “Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest” updated those policies. Moreover, the Executive Order and the Secretary’s guidance both defined as enforcement priorities those who “have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter before a governmental agency.”

USCIS continues to work with ICE to align its policies to reflect this change.

A fraud denial in a marriage case may bar an alien from being approved for any future immigration petition, including petitions filed by a parent or a future spouse or an employer.

K-1 Visa Petition Overview

DHS and DOS both play roles in determining whether a foreign national fiancé(e) is eligible for a K-1 nonimmigrant visa and admitted to the United States. Family-based immigration generally requires a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident to first file a petition with USCIS on behalf of a foreign national wishing to come to the United States. The foreign national may only apply to DOS for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa once USCIS has approved the petition. Such is the case with fiancé(e), or K-1, nonimmigrant visas. Only a U.S. citizen is eligible to petition for his or her fiancé(e).

A U.S. citizen who wishes to bring his or her fiancé(e) to the United States begins the process by filing Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), with USCIS. USCIS immigration services officers review the Form I-129F and documents submitted in support of the petition. The evidence must show that both parties are free to marry; that they intend to enter into a bona fide marriage within 90 days of the fiancé(e)’s admission as a K-1 nonimmigrant; and that they have met in person within 2 years before filing the petition, subject in certain cases to a waiver that they have not met in person. USCIS conducts a background and security check for national security concerns, public safety risks, and other information on both the petitioner and the foreign national beneficiary.

In addition to reviewing whether basic statutory and regulatory eligibility requirements are met, officers also review security and background check results for potential applicability of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act and the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA). These provisions restrict eligibility based on the petitioner’s criminal history, and IMBRA also provides for disclosure of previous filings and the petitioner’s criminal history at the time of the beneficiary’s visa interview with DOS.

An approved Form I-129F means only that USCIS recognizes the claimed relationship between the petitioner and beneficiary—an approved petition in and of itself does not grant an immigration benefit. The approval does not permit the fiancé(e) to travel to the United States, nor does it grant any immigration status or guarantee that DOS will issue a K-1 nonimmigrant visa. Similarly, having a nonimmigrant visa does not guarantee that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will admit the visa holder to the United States.

On approval of the Form I-129F, the fiancé(e) has four months within which to apply to DOS for a K-1 nonimmigrant visa. USCIS sends the approved petition to the DOS National Visa Center, which forwards it to the embassy or consulate where the fiancé(e) will apply for the visa. Generally, this is the embassy or consulate in the area where the fiancé(e) lives.

As part of its adjudication process, DOS ensures that the fiancé(e) is eligible for a nonimmigrant visa under the requested classification, and is admissible to the United States. DOS conducts background checks on the visa applicant, including fingerprints and checks of DOS systems and other interagency databases. A visa application interview is also conducted by a consular adjudicator.

If the visa is issued, the K-1 nonimmigrant visa holder must travel to the United States and seek admission at a port of entry within the validity period indicated on the visa. Inspection by CBP at a port of entry includes the capture of biometrics and all relevant systems queries for national security, criminal, and immigration information, verification of identity and travel documents, and an interview.

If admitted, the K-1 nonimmigrant visa holder has 90 days to marry the same U.S. citizen who filed the Form I-129F with USCIS. Admission on a K-1 nonimmigrant visa is based on that expectation. K-1 visa holders who fail to marry the petitioners within 90 days are not eligible to adjust status based on their K-1 status.

A K-1 fiancé(e) is eligible to apply for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident (i.e., receive a Green Card) once lawfully married. Marriage to any other person cannot provide a basis for adjustment of status. During the adjustment of status process, USCIS again conducts background and security checks on both parties, including fingerprint checks on the foreign spouse, and may interview both spouses.

If the applicant and petitioner have been married less than two years at the time of adjustment of status, the applicant is granted conditional permanent resident status, and the Green Card that USCIS issues will be valid for 2 years. During the 90 days prior to the Green Card’s expiration date, the conditional permanent resident and the petitioning spouse must jointly file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, or the alien spouse must file Form I-751 with a request that the joint filing requirement be waived. The conditions must be removed or the conditional permanent resident will automatically lose lawful permanent resident status and be subject to removal from the United States. Here again, during the adjudication process, USCIS conducts another set of background and security checks and a fingerprint check on the foreign spouse, and may interview both spouses. If the conditional permanent resident fails to submit Form I-751, or if the petition to remove conditions is denied, the conditional permanent resident status will be terminated and the individual will be placed into removal proceedings.

The K-1 nonimmigrant process involves many points at which the government may detect fraud and other grounds of ineligibility. Before an individual is admitted on a K-1 nonimmigrant visa, he or she will undergo at least three sets of comprehensive background and security checks by USCIS, DOS, and CBP.

Fraud Detection Responsibilities

DHS and DOS each have fraud detection responsibilities as part of our respective roles in the visa and immigration process. USCIS’ fraud detection activities include vetting both the petitioner and the foreign national beneficiary against law enforcement and national security lookouts and records.

USCIS reviews each petition to determine if the petitioner and beneficiary meet the statutory and regulatory requirements for approval. At the first step in the process, the beneficiary is usually outside of the United States. USCIS conducts background and security checks on the petitioner and beneficiary and uses the information to validate statements provided by the U.S. citizen petitioner, while also determining whether the admission of the beneficiary would present national security concerns or public safety risks. Also, if there is an indication that a petitioner may have a conviction for a specified offense against a minor, as defined in the Adam Walsh Act, USCIS will conduct an FBI fingerprint check of the petitioner.

If USCIS adjudicators find discrepancies when they review petitions and supporting documents, along with the results of background and security checks, they issue a Request for Evidence (RFE), Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) or a Denial Notice. A NOID is issued when USCIS finds that there may be grounds to deny the petition, but affords the petitioner the opportunity to rebut derogatory information that may be unknown to him or her.

An RFE or NOID gives the petitioner a chance to provide additional evidence to attempt to resolve any discrepancies. If the discrepancies are not resolved, the adjudicator may deny the petition and/or refer the case to FDNS. An FDNS officer may conduct additional systems checks, initiate an administrative investigation, and/or coordinate with law enforcement and intelligence partners. After the FDNS officer reviews the case, the case is returned to the adjudications unit for action. In previous years, USCIS has typically denied approximately 12 percent of Form I-129F petitions for all reasons, including fraud.

FDNS’ mission is to enhance the integrity of the immigration system by identifying threats to national security and public safety, detecting and combating immigration benefit fraud, and removing systemic and other vulnerabilities. FDNS officers are located in USCIS service centers, the National Benefits Center, district offices, field offices, and asylum offices. FDNS officers are also located overseas and in other government agencies. In FY 2016, FDNS received over 45,000 referrals related to immigration benefit fraud.

In order to deny a petition on the basis of fraud, the fraud must be affirmatively substantiated. In cases where fraud has not been sufficiently substantiated, officers may still deny the case when the petitioner fails to establish eligibility by the preponderance of the evidence. If DOS discovers evidence of fraud or ineligibility at the time of a visa interview, DOS can return the petition to USCIS for further review and investigation of the petition. An approved I-129F petition is valid for four months. DOS will generally return petitions after four months have elapsed and the petition has expired unless DOS or USCIS revalidates the petition.

FDNS will refer cases to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for criminal investigation. USCIS officers may also assist in presenting cases to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution, both of foreign national beneficiaries and U.S. citizens and lawful permanent resident petitioners. USCIS, in coordination with our law enforcement partners, routinely assists investigations involving marriage fraud. In one recent case, for example, a Santa Fe Springs, CA, man pleaded guilty to a federal charge for posing as an attorney as part of an immigration fraud scheme involving Chinese nationals paying tens of thousands of dollars to marry U.S. citizens. The man and his daughter, who also pleaded guilty, are currently awaiting sentencing.

USCIS is committed to ensuring that immigration benefits only go to individuals who are eligible for them, and that those who break the law or threaten our homeland are held accountable. Every day, and across the country, USCIS works closely with DOS and the other DHS immigration components, as well as our many federal, state, and local partners to carry out our mission with integrity and professionalism.

USCIS appreciates the support and interest of this Committee in its efforts on these and other matters critical to the integrity of our immigration system and the work of our agency and DHS. We are happy to respond to your questions.

Topics:  Fraud and Counterfeit, Immigration and Citizenship Services, Immigration Enforcement, Preventing Terrorism Keywords:  marriage fraud, foreign national fiance, K-1 visa

Written testimony of FEMA for a Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs hearing titled “Reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program, Part I”

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 00:00
Release Date: March 14, 2017

538 Dirksen Office Building

Good morning Chairman Crapo, Ranking Member Brown, and Members of the Committee. My name is Roy Wright and I am the Deputy Associate Administrator for Insurance and Mitigation – responsible for directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) risk management, mitigation, and flood insurance programs. Thank you for the opportunity to testify about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), including FEMA’s efforts to transform the program in recent years and to request considerations for Congress’ reauthorization of the NFIP before it expires in September 2017.

NFIP Background

Flooding is the most frequent and expensive disaster in the United States; 90 percent of natural disasters in the United States involve a flood. Homeowners insurance does not typically include coverage in the event of flooding, and historically flood insurance was not widely available. If it was, it was very expensive. Congress established the NFIP in 1968, which FEMA’s Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA) administers.

There are four key elements of the NFIP:

Identifying and Mapping Flood Risk: Working closely with communities, FEMA identifies flood hazards through scientific and engineering methods. FEMA then maps those hazards on a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). The FIRM is used to help communicate flood risk to communities and the public, and is used for floodplain management and flood insurance requirements.

Floodplain Management: Floodplain management includes actions that communities can take to reduce flood damage to both new and existing buildings and infrastructure. The NFIP plays a role in encouraging communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations including zoning codes, subdivision ordinances, building codes, or special purpose floodplain management ordinances. By law, FEMA can only provide flood insurance to those communities that adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations that meet or exceed minimum NFIP requirements.

NFIP floodplain management requirements are a cost-effective way to reduce the flood risk to new buildings and infrastructure. Internal FEMA studies have found structures built to NFIP standards experience 73 percent less damage than structures not built to these standards; as a result, the standards reduce flood losses by $1.9 billion per year.

Flood Insurance: The NFIP makes flood insurance available for homeowners, renters, and business owners in for 5.1 million policyholders in 22,235 NFIP-participating communities in all 50 states and 6 territories. Seventy-three private insurance companies participate in the NFIP’s Write Your Own (WYO) Program, selling and servicing NFIP policies under their own names. FEMA also writes and services some policies outside the WYO Program through NFIP Direct, a vendor that FEMA contracts with and oversees. The NFIP underwrites, and bears the risk, on all NFIP policies, whether sold by private companies or NFIP Direct.

The NFIP functions like other insurance programs, in which policyholder premiums help cover insured losses. Flood insurance helps homeowners recover following a flood. For example, following the flooding in Louisiana in August 2016, insured survivors filed 29,557 claims and, to date, the NFIP has paid more than $2.3 billion in claims. Conversely, FEMA’s Individual Assistance grant program has paid more than $758 million to more than 82,000 individuals and households. The average NFIP payment in Louisiana (for the August 2016 flooding) is approximately $86,500 per policyholder while the average individual assistance payment is approximately $9,150. FEMA’s Individual Assistance program is not designed to compensate for all losses that a survivor may have experienced. The NFIP is a far more comprehensive program to help homeowners get back on their feet. Homeowners should not rely on potential grant programs to support them following a flood, as they only provide emergency assistance and are not designed to repair or rebuild damaged property.

Incentivizing Risk Reduction through Grants and Premium Discounts: FEMA manages the Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) grant program, authorized by the National Flood Insurance Act. This program, designed to reduce or eliminate claims, provides funding to state, local, tribal, and territorial communities for projects that reduce or eliminate long-term risk of flood damage to structures insured under the NFIP. Typical projects may include acquisition of repetitive loss properties, elevation of buildings, and neighborhood-scale flood defense investment. One hundred percent of the funding for this program is paid through premiums on NFIP policies.

The National Institute of Building Sciences’ Multi-hazard Mitigation Council estimates that for every dollar FEMA invested in mitigation between 1993 and 2003 (which includes, but is not limited to, FMA programs), society as a whole saved four dollars due to reduced future losses. Mitigation programs save the American public an estimated $3.4 billion dollars annually through a strategic approach to natural hazard risk management, including the value of more stringent building codes.

FEMA also created the NFIP Community Rating System (CRS) in 1990 as a voluntary program for recognizing and encouraging community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum NFIP standards. Any community in full compliance with the minimum NFIP requirements may apply to join the CRS. More than 1,400 communities around the nation participate in the CRS, accounting for 3.8 million policyholders. Under the CRS, FEMA discounts NFIP policyholders’ flood insurance premium rates to reward community actions that meet the three goals of the CRS, which are: (1) reduce flood damage to insurable property; (2) strengthen and support the insurance aspects of the NFIP; and (3) encourage a comprehensive approach to floodplain management. Lower flood insurance rates are just one of the benefits of joining the CRS; CRS floodplain management activities also provide enhanced public safety and reduced damage to property.

The Financial Impacts of Catastrophic Disasters on the NFIP

While Congress appropriates funds for flood mapping, FEMA covers the vast majority of NFIP costs – including operations, floodplain management, risk mapping, and grants – through premiums, fees, and surcharges from the 5.1 million policyholders participating in the program.

Due to the nature of flooding, impacts can vary significantly each year. After 15 years of lower than expected damages, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma hit the nation in 2005. These three catastrophic events resulted in an annual NFIP claims total eight times the size of any prior year in the program’s history.

As a mandatory federal program, the NFIP met its commitment to policyholders and paid all claims as outlined in their insurance policies. However, to meet these requirements Congress directed the NFIP to pay for the catastrophic losses through funds borrowed from the U.S. Department of Treasury (Treasury). By the end of the claims process for these events, the NFIP had borrowed $17.5 billion.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and resulted in more than 144,000 NFIP claims. The program paid out an initial $8.4 billion to policyholders. As a result, the NFIP borrowed an additional $6.25 billion from the Treasury to ensure proper payment of all claims. The volume of claims in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy was much larger than NFIP typically encounters, and policyholders had concerns that FEMA and WYO companies were not handling their claims fairly. FEMA subsequently set up a Sandy Claims Review process to contact all policyholders who had claims and offer them an additional examination of their claim. The NFIP has since paid out an additional $350 million to policyholders, and based on this experience, FEMA took steps to reform key aspects of the program to be more customer-centric.

While there was no single “catastrophic” disaster in 2016, the multiple flooding events in Louisiana, Texas, and several states during Hurricane Matthew resulted in the third largest claims payout year in the NFIP’s history. Though the NFIP is still processing claims, projected payouts from 2016 flood events total more than $4 billion. In January 2017, the NFIP borrowed an additional $1.6 billion from the Treasury to cover claims, pay interest on the debt, and ensure capacity to pay future claims. Liabilities to the Treasury now total $24.6 billion and, moving forward, require annual interest-only payments of nearly $400 million dollars.

It is important to note that the latest private sector catastrophe modeling demonstrates that none of these events is outside the expected range of NFIP losses. A single storm that results in a loss to the NFIP of the size that occurred in Hurricane Katrina ($16.3 billion) has a 1 to 2 percent chance of occurring in any given year, while a single storm that results in a loss as large as the one that occurred in Hurricane Sandy has a 4 to 5 percent chance of occurring in any given year. NFIP losses experienced during an event such as the August 2016 storm that caused inland flooding in Louisiana has a 4 percent chance of occurring each year. Moving forward, FEMA anticipates having another loss year like those cited above within the next decade.

NFIP Transformation and Lessons Learned

Following Hurricane Sandy, FEMA has taken steps to transform the NFIP customer experience and improve oversight and engagement with WYO companies.

FEMA designed and implemented a new appeals process to improve customer service and transparency to policyholders. The Agency established an Appeals Branch in the Policyholder Services Division, which remains independent from the Product Delivery Division that oversees the claims process.

FEMA also improved its oversight when WYO companies respond to litigation to ensure that policyholders are treated fairly. FEMA established the Office of Chief Counsel WYO Oversight Team. This team works with FEMA’s Industry Management Branch to enhance FEMA’s oversight of the WYO program and WYO litigation to include oversight of expenses and implementation of a national legal strategy for flood insurance claim litigation with an emphasis on early alternate dispute resolution. Further, FEMA removed the NFIP’s Financial Assistance/Subsidy Arrangement with WYO companies from regulation. It is no longer necessary to include a copy of the Arrangement in Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations. This process was time-consuming and created a delay to make any administrative updates or changes in regulation. Now, the process is streamlined to improve the ability of FEMA and its industry partners to negotiate operational adjustments and corrections more quickly and efficiently.

The NFIP has also implemented changes to take a more proactive role in disaster readiness and response. During recovery from the Louisiana floods and Hurricane Matthew, FEMA successfully executed components of the new Flood Response Playbook to support insured survivors, including:

  • Issuing advance payments to policyholders of up to $10,000 while the NFIP processes their full claims;
  • Coordinating with state insurance commissioners and WYO companies to ensure the NFIP meets policyholder needs;
  • Deploying FIMA staff to directly support field operations;
  • Providing analytical support to assist FEMA operational leadership in making resource decisions; and
  • Proactively communicating with WYO insurers and with policyholders through disaster-specific bulletins, webpages, and fact sheets.

In 2016, the NFIP made more than $4 billion claim payments to 83,000 insured survivors. This major year of flood losses highlighted the success of recently-implemented NFIP reforms, as well as the importance of continuing to improve customers’ experience with the program. By the end of 2016, FEMA closed 92 percent of the claims from the mid-summer severe storms in Louisiana. In the first 30 days of the incident, FEMA authorized and issued almost $300 million in advance payments to the NFIP policyholders in Louisiana who sustained damages by the flood, providing expedited relief to disaster survivors.

FEMA continues to work on other initiatives to support policyholders, including:

  • Simplifying the claims process through improved proof of loss and other forms;
  • Modernizing the underwriting process; and
  • Redesigning the risk rating system to help customers better understand their flood risk.
Successes from Recent Legislative Reforms

Recognizing the need for NFIP reforms in 2012, Congress acted by passing the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW12). This statute served as a key first step to strengthen the NFIP’s fiscal soundness by addressing discounted premiums and giving FEMA new tools to manage risk exposure. In March 2014, Congress passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 (HFIAA), repealing certain provisions of BW12 and modifying components of the NFIP including flood insurance, flood hazard mapping, grants, and floodplain management.

FEMA has completed implementation of several of key provisions of these laws, including:

  • Establishing the Technical Mapping Advisory Council: BW12 directed the creation of the Technical Mapping Advisory Council (TMAC). The Council reviews FEMA’s mapping program and develops recommendations for improving it. During its assessment, the TMAC found that the mapping program, when applied as designed, results in technically credible flood hazard data in areas where FIRMs are developed or updated, and also provided recommendations to enhance the program in the future. FEMA has established a consistent, integrated, and transparent process to assess and respond to all TMAC recommendations. FEMA has fully implemented 4 of the Council’s 22 recommendations outlined in the 2015 report through current operations or ongoing initiatives, and has initiated implementation on an additional 17 recommendations. This year, we began implementation of a TMAC recommendation to develop a national five-year operations plan to help us bridge operations from our current status to where we are headed in the future.
  • Designating an Office of the Flood Insurance Advocate (OFIA): HFIAA directed FEMA to establish the OFIA in 2015, and the office has experienced significant growth and increased capability since its inception. The OFIA provides assistance to policyholders who are unable to get the support they need after using other existing resources. The OFIA helps coordinate referrals, verify insurance rate information, educate on flood risks and rates, and communicate program changes. Through a new customer relationship management tool, OFIA is able to capture data and provide insights into issues faced by policyholders in order to inform program improvements.
  • Unifying the FMA Grants Programs: Prior to the passage of BW12, there were three flood grant programs: FMA, Repetitive Flood Claims, and Severe Repetitive Loss. BW12 eliminated the Repetitive Flood Claims and Severe Repetitive Loss programs and added funding for the mitigation of repetitive loss and severe repetitive loss properties under the FMA program. Since unification of the programs, demand for FMA grants has exceeded available funds so FEMA awards grants to those projects that provide the most risk reduction benefit.
  • Establishing a Reserve Fund: BW12 directed FEMA to set up a reserve fund for meeting the expected future obligations of the NFIP, including payment of claims, claim adjustment expenses, and the repayment of amounts outstanding under any note or other obligation issued by the Administrator. In 2016, the Reserve Fund paid out $1.3 billion in claims to insured survivors. The NFIP has also paid for reinsurance through the Reserve Fund, consistent with its designated purpose for meeting expected future obligations.
  • Managing Risk through Reinsurance: BW12 gave FEMA the authority to obtain reinsurance from the private reinsurance and capital markets. Reinsurance is an important financial risk management tool used by private insurance companies and public entities to protect themselves from large financial losses by diversifying risk across multiple markets. FEMA executed a one-year agreement, effective January 1, 2017, with a consortium of 25 reinsurers. Under the agreement, reinsurers agreed to indemnify FEMA for flood claims paid during 2017 on an occurrence basis. The layer is structured to cover 26 percent of losses between $4 billion and $8 billion. This agreement transferred a combined total of $1.042 billion of the NFIP’s flood risk to the private reinsurance market. This reinsurance placement stands as a first of its kind for a federal program.
FEMA’s Core Principles for Reauthorization

Through internal analysis and lessons learned, FEMA offers the following principles that would improve NFIP effectiveness as Congress considers reauthorization.

First, the NFIP reauthorization should be enacted before the September 30, 2017 expiration of the program, and should extend the program for multiple years. The stability of the real estate and mortgage markets depend on an on-time, multi-year reauthorization. All federally-backed mortgage lenders are required to verify that properties in special flood hazard areas (SFHA) have flood insurance policies prior to approving a mortgage. During periods in the past when the NFIP’s authorization lapsed, or was only extended for a short period, uncertainty about flood insurance availability impacted property owners’ ability to buy and sell homes in high risk flooding areas.

Second, the reauthorization should recognize the need to increase flood insurance coverage across the nation. At a national scale, estimates lead us to believe as little as one third of residential properties in the SFHA have NFIP policies. Yet flooding can happen anywhere. Floods are not wholly contained within SFHAs. Over the past ten years, approximately 20 percent of all NFIP claims come from low to moderate-risk policyholders.

Flood insurance facilitates the ability of a property owner or renter to recover after a flood, whether the insurance is provided by the NFIP or private insurers. FEMA recognizes that there is a growing interest by private insurers to offer flood insurance protection. FEMA supports this because an insured survivor – regardless of where they purchase their coverage – will recover more quickly and more fully. Two related areas require attention. First, it will take time for the private market to adapt to a market currently primarily served by a public program. Second, if the private market were to glean only the lower-risk policies, the NFIP would be left with all of the highest-risk policies. This could lower NFIP premium revenue while increasing potential claims payouts. Such actions would leave the program and taxpayers with even more financial risk.

As we look forward to the next several years, a number of opportunities should be explored that could provide for the growth of the private market for flood insurance. Improving the nation’s overall flood resiliency will depend on finding an appropriate balance between reducing risk to the taxpayer through a greater private sector role while sustaining a robust and affordable federal program. Among the ideas to explore would be identifying a future point in time by which flood policies for all new construction would be provided by the private market. When coupled with ongoing floodplain management and building code enforcement, these new residential structures would be built to insurable levels of risk for the private market.

In some states, the private flood market already provides excess and surplus coverage as well as “flood riders” on some homeowner’s policies. While the private markets are expanding, FEMA is exploring improving the suite of options available for NFIP policies, such as including increased policy limits deck and basement coverage, and various deductible levels. The NFIP would collect additional premiums commensurate with any extra coverage policyholders select. Moreover, by providing coverage options that customers need, the additions could attract new NFIP customers improving the program’s financial stability expanding the number of Americans with flood insurance. FEMA also recognizes the unique challenges that farmers may experience when navigating the NFIP’s current requirements with regards to agricultural structures. These agricultural needs can be addressed through this re-authorization.

Additionally, the statutory definitions of “repetitive loss” must be brought into alignment so that there is consistency across program elements. Properties that experience multiple losses have an increasingly adverse impact on the financial stability of the program. Congress has previously acknowledged this circumstance, and should explore caps on cumulative losses that well exceed policy limits and the value of the structure. As the program moves forward, NFIP premiums should reflect a property’s true risk. We need to move from today’s program, which delivers only a final premium which may be lower than a current estimate of the full risk rate, to a program which clearly communicates the full risk rate and any discounts (such as pre-firm subsidy, newly mapped subsidy, or grandfathered rates). Given concerns related to affordability, it may take some time, but the program needs to be on a course to eventually arrive at full risk rates for all policyholders. This includes addressing grandfathered and subsidized rates.

Ultimately, the premium paid for flood insurance must reflect the risk – whether this is done by increasing premiums, reducing risk through mitigation grants, or a combination thereof – the fiscal solvency of the program depends on it. This is central to a sound financial framework for the NFIP. The NFIP currently carries a debt of $24.6 billion dollars which is serviced through increasingly large interest payments. It is important to note that nearly all of the flood programs mandated by law – programs to reduce risk, the administrative costs of WYO companies, and the payment of interest on the debt – are funded solely through the payment of premiums.

Conclusion

To reiterate, flooding continues to be the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States, with the greatest damage potential of all natural disasters worldwide. Over the past 50 years, the NFIP has helped communities, households, and businesses reduce flood risk, supported flood risk analysis and mapping projects, expanded sound floodplain management practices across the country, and reduced the financial burden to survivors when floods occur. We recognize that the nation faces broad public policy questions around flood insurance affordability, continued development in flood-prone areas, the soundness of the NFIP’s financial framework, and greater private sector participation in flood insurance markets.

Through all of this, FEMA’s priority is to increase flood insurance coverage so that disaster survivors can recover more quickly and fully after flood events. Through a timely, multi-year reauthorization, Congress would enable FEMA to continue supporting those who take steps to protect their homes and businesses.

Thank you again for affording me the opportunity to speak with you today about this program. I am happy to respond to any questions you may have.

Keywords:  NFIP, National Flood Insurance Program

Joint Statement by Public Safety Minister Goodale and U.S. Secretary Of Homeland Security John Kelly

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 20:03
Release Date: March 10, 2017

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

OTTAWA - Today, the Honorable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, met with the Honorable John Kelly, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, during his first trip to Canada as Secretary and they made the following statement.

“Some 400,000 people and $2.4 billion in trade cross our shared border every day. There’s no question that a strong relationship is essential to ensuring the facilitation of legitimate trade and travel, while securing our countries from shared threats. Today we continued conversations on our shared interests, common challenges and next steps for joint initiatives.

This work starts with building on our long history of successful passenger preclearance operations, which currently serve nearly 12 million passengers a year on flights to the United States from Canada’s eight largest airports. Following-up on the commitments in March 2016, we discussed next steps to expand preclearance to new locations in air, rail, land, and marine modes. Canada will also continue to consider potential operations in the United States. While there is still work to be done in terms of legislation with the passage of Bill C-23 in Canada, we tasked our officials to report back on these issues, as well as negotiate a path forward to pursue cargo preclearance or pre-inspection, including identifying potential pilot sites.

We recognize the importance of consistent, predictable and respectful interactions at the border for travelers in both directions, and we will continue to look for new ways to improve the flow of legitimate trade and travel. The secure and efficient movement of goods and people across the border helps create jobs and foster economic growth, and is vital to the livelihoods of millions of Americans and Canadians.

We reaffirmed our commitment to information sharing on threats to both our countries and open communication. This will continue to be done in accordance with each country's privacy laws and policies, as well as joint privacy principles. We look forward to realizing the full benefits of the Entry/Exit initiative once Canadian legislative requirements are met through the passage of Bill C-21. This program has allowed us to confirm the departure of certain travelers without causing any delays at the border.

In light of greater attention to migrant flows into Canada, we reaffirmed our commitment to share information on the situation, uphold our strong asylum systems in keeping with our international obligations, and to enforcing our countries’ laws humanely and with professionalism. We will continue to work together to understand migrant flows, and monitor the situation on our shared land border, both at and between ports of entry.

These are just some of the priorities we touched on today and the first of many conversations. Other challenges we will continue to work on together are cyber security, critical infrastructure, trade enforcement, and countering radicalization to violence, as well as joint border initiatives such as trusted traveler programs.”

Secretary Kelly also held discussions with Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, Ahmed D. Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs on other important areas of Canada-U.S. mutual interest, including aviation security, law enforcement collaboration, infrastructure, and immigration, refugee and visa policy.

“We look forward to our continued collaboration on issues that contribute to the security, economic growth and the protection of rights and freedoms in both our great nations.”

-30-

Follow Public Safety Canada (@Safety_Canada) and the Department of Homeland Security (@DHSgov) on Twitter.

For more information, please visit the website www.publicsafety.gc.ca or www.dhs.gov.

Information:

Scott Bardsley

Office of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

613-998-5681

Media Relations

Public Safety Canada

(613) 991-0657

Press Office

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

(202) 282-8010

###

Topics:  Border Security Keywords:  Canada, Canada-United States partnership, Public Safety Canada, dhs, Secretary Kelly, department of homeland security

Statement by Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly on Alleged Hate-Inspired Attacks

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 16:43
Release Date: March 9, 2017

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

Over the past few weeks, our country has seen an unacceptable and disturbing rise in the number of apparent hate-inspired attacks and harassment against individuals and communities. I strongly condemn any violent acts to perpetuate fear and intimidation not only against individuals, but entire communities. I pledge the full support of the Department of Homeland Security to assist local, state, and federal investigations into these incidents.

In response to these attacks, I have directed the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to work with impacted communities. We will heighten our outreach and support to groups affected by these incidents to enhance public safety.  The Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties will hold Incident Communication Coordination Team calls with impacted communities.  The DHS Office of International Engagement will also continue to work with foreign governments whose nationals have been affected by these violent acts.

The United States has a history of welcoming and accepting individuals regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or national origin.  Freedom of religion is a cherished American value, guaranteed by the United States Constitution. DHS is committed to protecting all people’s right to that essential freedom.
 

# # #

Keywords:  crcl

Written testimony of FEMA for a House Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Housing, and Insurance hearing titled “Flood Insurance Reform: FEMA's Perspectiv

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 00:00
Release Date: March 9, 2017

2128 Rayburn House Office Building

Good morning Chairman Duffy, Ranking Member Cleaver, and Members of the Subcommittee. My name is Roy Wright and I am the Deputy Associate Administrator for Insurance and Mitigation – responsible for directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) risk management, mitigation, and flood insurance programs. Thank you for the opportunity to testify about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), including FEMA’s efforts to transform the program in recent years and to request considerations for Congress’ reauthorization of the NFIP before it expires in September 2017.

NFIP Background

Flooding is the most frequent and expensive disaster in the United States; 90 percent of natural disasters in the United States involve a flood. Homeowners insurance does not typically include coverage in the event of flooding, and historically flood insurance was not widely available. If it was, it was very expensive. Congress established the NFIP in 1968, which FEMA’s Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA) administers.

There are four key elements of the NFIP:

Identifying and Mapping Flood Risk: Working closely with communities, FEMA identifies flood hazards through scientific and engineering methods. FEMA then maps those hazards on a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). The FIRM is used to help communicate flood risk to communities and the public, and is used for floodplain management and flood insurance requirements.

Floodplain Management: Floodplain management includes actions that communities can take to reduce flood damage to both new and existing buildings and infrastructure. The NFIP plays a role in encouraging communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations including zoning codes, subdivision ordinances, building codes, or special purpose floodplain management ordinances. By law, FEMA can only provide flood insurance to those communities that adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations that meet or exceed minimum NFIP requirements.

NFIP floodplain management requirements are a cost-effective way to reduce the flood risk to new buildings and infrastructure. Internal FEMA studies have found structures built to NFIP standards experience 73 percent less damage than structures not built to these standards; as a result, the standards reduce flood losses by $1.9 billion per year.

Flood Insurance: The NFIP makes flood insurance available for homeowners, renters, and business owners in for 5.1 million policyholders in 22,235 NFIP-participating communities in all 50 states and 6 territories. Seventy-three private insurance companies participate in the NFIP’s Write Your Own (WYO) Program, selling and servicing NFIP policies under their own names. FEMA also writes and services some policies outside the WYO Program through NFIP Direct, a vendor that FEMA contracts with and oversees. The NFIP underwrites, and bears the risk, on all NFIP policies, whether sold by private companies or NFIP Direct.

The NFIP functions like other insurance programs, in which policyholder premiums help cover insured losses. Flood insurance helps homeowners recover following a flood. For example, following the flooding in Louisiana in August 2016, insured survivors filed 29,557 claims and, to date, the NFIP has paid more than $2.3 billion in claims. Conversely, FEMA’s Individual Assistance grant program has paid more than $758 million to more than 82,000 individuals and households. The average NFIP payment in Louisiana (for the August 2016 flooding) is approximately $86,500 per policyholder while the average individual assistance payment is approximately $9,150. FEMA’s Individual Assistance program is not designed to compensate for all losses that a survivor may have experienced. The NFIP is a far more comprehensive program to help homeowners get back on their feet. Homeowners should not rely on potential grant programs to support them following a flood, as they only provide emergency assistance and are not designed to repair or rebuild damaged property.

Incentivizing Risk Reduction through Grants and Premium Discounts: FEMA manages the Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) grant program, authorized by the National Flood Insurance Act. This program, designed to reduce or eliminate claims, provides funding to state, local, tribal, and territorial communities for projects that reduce or eliminate long-term risk of flood damage to structures insured under the NFIP. Typical projects may include acquisition of repetitive loss properties, elevation of buildings, and neighborhood-scale flood defense investment. One hundred percent of the funding for this program is paid through premiums on NFIP policies.

The National Institute of Building Sciences’ Multi-hazard Mitigation Council estimates that for every dollar FEMA invested in mitigation between 1993 and 2003 (which includes, but is not limited to, FMA programs), society as a whole saved four dollars due to reduced future losses. Mitigation programs save the American public an estimated $3.4 billion dollars annually through a strategic approach to natural hazard risk management, including the value of more stringent building codes.

FEMA also created the NFIP Community Rating System (CRS) in 1990 as a voluntary program for recognizing and encouraging community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum NFIP standards. Any community in full compliance with the minimum NFIP requirements may apply to join the CRS. More than 1,400 communities around the nation participate in the CRS, accounting for 3.8 million policyholders. Under the CRS, FEMA discounts NFIP policyholders’ flood insurance premium rates to reward community actions that meet the three goals of the CRS, which are: (1) reduce flood damage to insurable property; (2) strengthen and support the insurance aspects of the NFIP; and (3) encourage a comprehensive approach to floodplain management. Lower flood insurance rates are just one of the benefits of joining the CRS; CRS floodplain management activities also provide enhanced public safety and reduced damage to property.

The Financial Impacts of Catastrophic Disasters on the NFIP

While Congress appropriates funds for flood mapping, FEMA covers the vast majority of NFIP costs – including operations, floodplain management, risk mapping, and grants – through premiums, fees, and surcharges from the 5.1 million policyholders participating in the program.

Due to the nature of flooding, impacts can vary significantly each year. After 15 years of lower than expected damages, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma hit the nation in 2005. These three catastrophic events resulted in an annual NFIP claims total eight times the size of any prior year in the program’s history.

As a mandatory federal program, the NFIP met its commitment to policyholders and paid all claims as outlined in their insurance policies. However, to meet these requirements Congress directed the NFIP to pay for the catastrophic losses through funds borrowed from the U.S. Department of Treasury (Treasury). By the end of the claims process for these events, the NFIP had borrowed $17.5 billion.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and resulted in more than 144,000 NFIP claims. The program paid out an initial $8.4 billion to policyholders. As a result, the NFIP borrowed an additional $6.25 billion from the Treasury to ensure proper payment of all claims. The volume of claims in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy was much larger than NFIP typically encounters, and policyholders had concerns that FEMA and WYO companies were not handling their claims fairly. FEMA subsequently set up a Sandy Claims Review process to contact all policyholders who had claims and offer them an additional examination of their claim. The NFIP has since paid out an additional $350 million to policyholders, and based on this experience, FEMA took steps to reform key aspects of the program to be more customer-centric.

While there was no single “catastrophic” disaster in 2016, the multiple flooding events in Louisiana, Texas, and several states during Hurricane Matthew resulted in the third largest claims payout year in the NFIP’s history. Though the NFIP is still processing claims, projected payouts from 2016 flood events total more than $4 billion. In January 2017, the NFIP borrowed an additional $1.6 billion from the Treasury to cover claims, pay interest on the debt, and ensure capacity to pay future claims. Liabilities to the Treasury now total $24.6 billion and, moving forward, require annual interest-only payments of nearly $400 million dollars.

It is important to note that the latest private sector catastrophe modeling demonstrates that none of these events is outside the expected range of NFIP losses. A single storm that results in a loss to the NFIP of the size that occurred in Hurricane Katrina ($16.3 billion) has a 1 to 2 percent chance of occurring in any given year, while a single storm that results in a loss as large as the one that occurred in Hurricane Sandy has a 4 to 5 percent chance of occurring in any given year. NFIP losses experienced during an event such as the August 2016 storm that caused inland flooding in Louisiana has a 4 percent chance of occurring each year. Moving forward, FEMA anticipates having another loss year like those cited above within the next decade.

NFIP Transformation and Lessons Learned

Following Hurricane Sandy, FEMA has taken steps to transform the NFIP customer experience and improve oversight and engagement with WYO companies.

FEMA designed and implemented a new appeals process to improve customer service and transparency to policyholders. The Agency established an Appeals Branch in the Policyholder Services Division, which remains independent from the Product Delivery Division that oversees the claims process.

FEMA also improved its oversight when WYO companies respond to litigation to ensure that policyholders are treated fairly. FEMA established the Office of Chief Counsel WYO Oversight Team. This team works with FEMA’s Industry Management Branch to enhance FEMA’s oversight of the WYO program and WYO litigation to include oversight of expenses and implementation of a national legal strategy for flood insurance claim litigation with an emphasis on early alternate dispute resolution. Further, FEMA removed the NFIP’s Financial Assistance/Subsidy Arrangement with WYO companies from regulation. It is no longer necessary to include a copy of the Arrangement in Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations. This process was time-consuming and created a delay to make any administrative updates or changes in regulation. Now, the process is streamlined to improve the ability of FEMA and its industry partners to negotiate operational adjustments and corrections more quickly and efficiently.

The NFIP has also implemented changes to take a more proactive role in disaster readiness and response. During recovery from the Louisiana floods and Hurricane Matthew, FEMA successfully executed components of the new Flood Response Playbook to support insured survivors, including:

  • Issuing advance payments to policyholders of up to $10,000 while the NFIP processes their full claims;
  • Coordinating with state insurance commissioners and WYO companies to ensure the NFIP meets policyholder needs;
  • Deploying FIMA staff to directly support field operations;
  • Providing analytical support to assist FEMA operational leadership in making resource decisions; and
  • Proactively communicating with WYO insurers and with policyholders through disaster-specific bulletins, webpages, and fact sheets.

In 2016, the NFIP made more than $4 billion claim payments to 83,000 insured survivors. This major year of flood losses highlighted the success of recently-implemented NFIP reforms, as well as the importance of continuing to improve customers’ experience with the program. By the end of 2016, FEMA closed 92 percent of the claims from the mid-summer severe storms in Louisiana. In the first 30 days of the incident, FEMA authorized and issued almost $300 million in advance payments to the NFIP policyholders in Louisiana who sustained damages by the flood, providing expedited relief to disaster survivors.

FEMA continues to work on other initiatives to support policyholders, including:

  • Simplifying the claims process through improved proof of loss and other forms;
  • Modernizing the underwriting process; and
  • Redesigning the risk rating system to help customers better understand their flood risk.
Successes from Recent Legislative Reforms

Recognizing the need for NFIP reforms in 2012, Congress acted by passing the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW12). This statute served as a key first step to strengthen the NFIP’s fiscal soundness by addressing discounted premiums and giving FEMA new tools to manage risk exposure. In March 2014, Congress passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 (HFIAA), repealing certain provisions of BW12 and modifying components of the NFIP including flood insurance, flood hazard mapping, grants, and floodplain management.

FEMA has completed implementation of several of key provisions of these laws, including:

  • Establishing the Technical Mapping Advisory Council: BW12 directed the creation of the Technical Mapping Advisory Council (TMAC). The Council reviews FEMA’s mapping program and develops recommendations for improving it. During its assessment, the TMAC found that the mapping program, when applied as designed, results in technically credible flood hazard data in areas where FIRMs are developed or updated, and also provided recommendations to enhance the program in the future. FEMA has established a consistent, integrated, and transparent process to assess and respond to all TMAC recommendations. FEMA has fully implemented 4 of the Council’s 22 recommendations outlined in the 2015 report through current operations or ongoing initiatives, and has initiated implementation on an additional 17 recommendations. This year, we began implementation of a TMAC recommendation to develop a national five-year operations plan to help us bridge operations from our current status to where we are headed in the future.
  • Designating an Office of the Flood Insurance Advocate (OFIA): HFIAA directed FEMA to establish the OFIA in 2015, and the office has experienced significant growth and increased capability since its inception. The OFIA provides assistance to policyholders who are unable to get the support they need after using other existing resources. The OFIA helps coordinate referrals, verify insurance rate information, educate on flood risks and rates, and communicate program changes. Through a new customer relationship management tool, OFIA is able to capture data and provide insights into issues faced by policyholders in order to inform program improvements.
  • Unifying the FMA Grants Programs: Prior to the passage of BW12, there were three flood grant programs: FMA, Repetitive Flood Claims, and Severe Repetitive Loss. BW12 eliminated the Repetitive Flood Claims and Severe Repetitive Loss programs and added funding for the mitigation of repetitive loss and severe repetitive loss properties under the FMA program. Since unification of the programs, demand for FMA grants has exceeded available funds so FEMA awards grants to those projects that provide the most risk reduction benefit.
  • Establishing a Reserve Fund: BW12 directed FEMA to set up a reserve fund for meeting the expected future obligations of the NFIP, including payment of claims, claim adjustment expenses, and the repayment of amounts outstanding under any note or other obligation issued by the Administrator. In 2016, the Reserve Fund paid out $1.3 billion in claims to insured survivors. The NFIP has also paid for reinsurance through the Reserve Fund, consistent with its designated purpose for meeting expected future obligations.
  • Managing Risk through Reinsurance: BW12 gave FEMA the authority to obtain reinsurance from the private reinsurance and capital markets. Reinsurance is an important financial risk management tool used by private insurance companies and public entities to protect themselves from large financial losses by diversifying risk across multiple markets. FEMA executed a one-year agreement, effective January 1, 2017, with a consortium of 25 reinsurers. Under the agreement, reinsurers agreed to indemnify FEMA for flood claims paid during 2017 on an occurrence basis. The layer is structured to cover 26 percent of losses between $4 billion and $8 billion. This agreement transferred a combined total of $1.042 billion of the NFIP’s flood risk to the private reinsurance market. This reinsurance placement stands as a first of its kind for a federal program.
FEMA’s Core Principles for Reauthorization

Through internal analysis and lessons learned, FEMA offers the following principles that would improve NFIP effectiveness as Congress considers reauthorization.

First, the NFIP reauthorization should be enacted before the September 30, 2017 expiration of the program, and should extend the program for multiple years. The stability of the real estate and mortgage markets depend on an on-time, multi-year reauthorization. All federally-backed mortgage lenders are required to verify that properties in special flood hazard areas (SFHA) have flood insurance policies prior to approving a mortgage. During periods in the past when the NFIP’s authorization lapsed, or was only extended for a short period, uncertainty about flood insurance availability impacted property owners’ ability to buy and sell homes in high risk flooding areas.

Second, the reauthorization should recognize the need to increase flood insurance coverage across the nation. At a national scale, estimates lead us to believe as little as one third of residential properties in the SFHA have NFIP policies. Yet flooding can happen anywhere. Floods are not wholly contained within SFHAs. Over the past ten years, approximately 20 percent of all NFIP claims come from low to moderate-risk policyholders.

Flood insurance facilitates the ability of a property owner or renter to recover after a flood, whether the insurance is provided by the NFIP or private insurers. FEMA recognizes that there is a growing interest by private insurers to offer flood insurance protection. FEMA supports this because an insured survivor – regardless of where they purchase their coverage – will recover more quickly and more fully. Two related areas require attention. First, it will take time for the private market to adapt to a market currently primarily served by a public program. Second, if the private market were to glean only the lower-risk policies, the NFIP would be left with all of the highest-risk policies. This could lower NFIP premium revenue while increasing potential claims payouts. Such actions would leave the program and taxpayers with even more financial risk.

As we look forward to the next several years, a number of opportunities should be explored that could provide for the growth of the private market for flood insurance. Improving the nation’s overall flood resiliency will depend on finding an appropriate balance between reducing risk to the taxpayer through a greater private sector role while sustaining a robust and affordable federal program. Among the ideas to explore would be identifying a future point in time by which flood policies for all new construction would be provided by the private market. When coupled with ongoing floodplain management and building code enforcement, these new residential structures would be built to insurable levels of risk for the private market.

In some states, the private flood market already provides excess and surplus coverage as well as “flood riders” on some homeowner’s policies. While the private markets are expanding, FEMA is exploring improving the suite of options available for NFIP policies, such as including increased policy limits deck and basement coverage, and various deductible levels. The NFIP would collect additional premiums commensurate with any extra coverage policyholders select. Moreover, by providing coverage options that customers need, the additions could attract new NFIP customers improving the program’s financial stability expanding the number of Americans with flood insurance. FEMA also recognizes the unique challenges that farmers may experience when navigating the NFIP’s current requirements with regards to agricultural structures. These agricultural needs can be addressed through this re-authorization.

Additionally, the statutory definitions of “repetitive loss” must be brought into alignment so that there is consistency across program elements. Properties that experience multiple losses have an increasingly adverse impact on the financial stability of the program. Congress has previously acknowledged this circumstance, and should explore caps on cumulative losses that well exceed policy limits and the value of the structure. As the program moves forward, NFIP premiums should reflect a property’s true risk. We need to move from today’s program, which delivers only a final premium which may be lower than a current estimate of the full risk rate, to a program which clearly communicates the full risk rate and any discounts (such as pre-firm subsidy, newly mapped subsidy, or grandfathered rates). Given concerns related to affordability, it may take some time, but the program needs to be on a course to eventually arrive at full risk rates for all policyholders. This includes addressing grandfathered and subsidized rates.

Ultimately, the premium paid for flood insurance must reflect the risk – whether this is done by increasing premiums, reducing risk through mitigation grants, or a combination thereof – the fiscal solvency of the program depends on it. This is central to a sound financial framework for the NFIP. The NFIP currently carries a debt of $24.6 billion dollars which is serviced through increasingly large interest payments. It is important to note that nearly all of the flood programs mandated by law – programs to reduce risk, the administrative costs of WYO companies, and the payment of interest on the debt – are funded solely through the payment of premiums.

Conclusion

To reiterate, flooding continues to be the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States, with the greatest damage potential of all natural disasters worldwide. Over the past 50 years, the NFIP has helped communities, households, and businesses reduce flood risk, supported flood risk analysis and mapping projects, expanded sound floodplain management practices across the country, and reduced the financial burden to survivors when floods occur. We recognize that the nation faces broad public policy questions around flood insurance affordability, continued development in flood-prone areas, the soundness of the NFIP’s financial framework, and greater private sector participation in flood insurance markets.

Through all of this, FEMA’s priority is to increase flood insurance coverage so that disaster survivors can recover more quickly and fully after flood events. Through a timely, multi-year reauthorization, Congress would enable FEMA to continue supporting those who take steps to protect their homes and businesses.

Thank you again for affording me the opportunity to speak with you today about this program. I am happy to respond to any questions you may have.

Keywords:  NFIP, National Flood Insurance Program

Statement by Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly on Southwest Border Security

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 18:44
Release Date: March 8, 2017

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

Today, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is releasing illegal border crossing data through the month of February and the numbers show an unprecedented decline in traffic. From January to February, the flow of illegal border crossings as measured by apprehensions and the prevention of inadmissible persons at our southern border dropped by 40 percent.

The drop in apprehensions shows a marked change in trends. Since the Administration’s implementation of Executive Orders to enforce immigration laws, apprehensions and inadmissible activity is trending toward the lowest monthly total in at least the last five years. This change in the trend line is especially significant because CBP historically sees a 10-20 percent increase in apprehensions of illegal immigrants from January to February.  Instead, this year we saw a drop from 31,578 to 18,762 persons - a 40 percent decline.

This is encouraging news as in the period from Oct 1, 2016 to the Presidential inauguration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 157,000 apprehensions of illegal immigrants – a 35 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, with family units increasing by more than 100 percent. However, since President Trump took office on January 20, we have seen a dramatic drop in numbers.

The decrease is also encouraging news because it means many fewer people are putting themselves and their families at risk of exploitation, assault and injury by human traffickers and the physical dangers of the treacherous journey north.

Additionally, we are seeing an increase in the fees charged by human smugglers along the U.S. southwest border. Since Nov. 2016, “coyotes” have hiked their fees in some areas by roughly 130 percent - from $3,500 to $8,000 in certain mountainous regions. Changes in U.S. policy, including the detention of apprehended aliens, drive up the smuggling fees.

As directed in my memoranda implementing the President’s executive orders, we remain committed to carrying out fair, impartial and humane enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws. We will remain vigilant to respond to any changes in these trends, as numbers of illegal crossings typically increase between March and May. However, the early results show that enforcement matters, deterrence matters, and that comprehensive immigration enforcement can make an impact.

###

Topics:  Border Security Keywords:  Border Security, dhs, manage borders, Customs and Border Protection

Statement on Secretary Kelly’s Upcoming Trip to Canada

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 07:44
Release Date: March 8, 2017

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

WASHINGTON – On Friday, March 10, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly will travel to Ottawa, Canada, where he will participate in bilateral meetings with multiple Canadian ministers to discuss U.S.-Canada collaboration across the broad spectrum of the DHS portfolio. Secretary Kelly will be accompanied by Chargé D’Affaires at U.S. Embassy Ottawa Elizabeth Aubin and DHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Engagement Matthew King, as well as Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan.

Secretary Kelly will meet with Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale, Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, and Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould. They will discuss shared priorities relating to perimeter security and traveler screening, cross border trade and travel, law enforcement cooperation, infrastructure, and immigration, refugee, and visa policy

# # #

Topics:  Border Security, Transportation Security Keywords:  dhs, Transportation Sector, Border Security, critical infrastructure

Statement by Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly on President's Executive Order Signed Today

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 11:48
Release Date: March 6, 2017

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

“Fourteen years ago on March 1, 2003, DHS was established. We did so as a nation because we needed to rethink our approach to homeland security. Many will recall the conclusions we reached then; that we needed to overcome a “lack of imagination” with regard to the threats we faced, and, second, that we needed to overcome our collective inability to take the dots of intelligence and arrange them into a more comprehensive picture of the threats posed to America and our way of life.

“Though much has changed since then, both in the world and at DHS, it is clear that Americans are not invulnerable to terrorist threats, and that our enemies will exploit our freedoms and generosity to harm us.

“The Executive Order signed today by President Trump will make America safer, and address long-overdue concerns about the security of our immigration system. We must undertake a rigorous review of our visa and refugee vetting programs to increase our confidence in the entry decisions we make for visitors and immigrants to the United States. We cannot risk the prospect of malevolent actors using our immigration system to take American lives.

“The Executive Order signed today is prospective in nature—applying only to foreign nationals outside of the United States who do not have a valid visa. It is important to note that nothing in this executive order affects current lawful permanent residents or persons with current authorization to enter our country. If you have a current valid visa to travel, we welcome you. But unregulated, unvetted travel is not a universal privilege, especially when national security is at stake.

“The Department of Homeland Security has worked closely with the Department of Justice, the Department of State, and the White House to create an executive order that addresses our information concerns while protecting the homeland and our citizens.

“The men and women of the Department of Homeland Security—like their brothers and sisters throughout law enforcement—are decent Americans of character and conscience. They are no less so than the governors of our states and territories, of our senators and members of the congress, of our city mayors and advocacy groups. They are sworn to enforce the laws as passed by the U.S. Congress and would be in violation of the law—and their sworn oaths—if they did not do so. We will continue to work closely with our operating components and across government to implement and enforce it humanely, respectfully, and with professionalism.

“I want to thank the President for his leadership on this issue and his steadfast support of DHS’ important law enforcement, security, and counterterrorism missions.”

# # #

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

Pages