Homeland Security and Compliance with U.S.
Written testimony of TSA Administrator for a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation and Protective Security hearing titled “Innovation at TSA: Examining Threat Mitigation Through Technology Acquisitions Reform”Release Date:January 18, 2018
210 House Capitol Visitor Center
Good afternoon Chairman Katko, Ranking Member Watson-Coleman, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) technology initiatives.
First and foremost, I would like to recognize the Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) on their success in providing security to over 44 million airline passengers during the December holiday travel period. They did so professionally and adapted to accommodate daily screening challenges. Over the past six months, we have seen five of the top 15 total passenger volume days in TSA’s history. On average, TSA screens 2.2 million passengers each day. During this past holiday season, the daily rate grew as high as 2.4 million. Keeping up with this challenge would not be possible without our outstanding workforce.
Additionally, I would like to thank Chairman Katko and Ranking Member Watson-Coleman for taking the time to visit TSA headquarters last month for a discussion on transportation security. I look forward to continuing to work with you and your staff to advance TSA’s critical mission.
Today’s hearing is timely, as technology deployment will be critical to TSA’s success in 2018 and beyond. Terrorists continue to target commercial aviation, including cargo, and we must strive each and every day to stay ahead of the myriad threats. In the five months since I have been on board at TSA, we have seen scores of threats against aviation. I am committed to ensuring TSA remains as successful as it has been in the sixteen years since the agency’s founding to protect our transportation systems, especially aviation. Since I have been TSA Administrator, we have improved training, deployed enhanced screening procedures, and have aggressively pursued new technologies. We are continually increasing our ability to detect threat items throughout the aviation security system, and improving technology at the checkpoint will be the focus of my remarks today.
One of the most significant initiatives at the checkpoint is the introduction of Computed Tomography technology, or “CT,” as it is commonly referred. I know some of you have seen CT being tested overseas at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and domestically at Boston Logan International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. CT is not new technology. The idea for CT was conceived in the 1960s and first employed for medical applications in the early 1970s; however, it has evolved and is now used in other arenas, such as in aviation security. In fact, TSA has been using CT scanners to screen checked baggage since the agency’s inception in 2001. Over the past few years, industry has been aggressively working to reduce the technology equipment’s size and adjust its configuration to make it a viable option for deployment at most airport checkpoints. TSA continues to work closely and expeditiously with CT equipment manufacturers to improve detection algorithms, optimize throughput, and automate the detection of prohibited items so that CT technology can deliver the full host of capabilities needed to address checkpoint vulnerabilities into the future.
Once fully developed for the aviation environment, checkpoint CT technology will deliver a significant advancement over today’s two-dimensional X-ray technology platforms. Checkpoint CT screening technology provides a three dimensional view of the bag and enables the TSA officer to rotate the bag 360 degrees to show the contents at every angle. CT features allow officers to virtually remove unwanted clutter, and greatly enhances their ability to visually inspect the contents of carry-on bags for explosives and prohibited items. In these ways, CT offers substantially improved detection capability by more effectively detecting smaller and artfully concealed threats, thereby increasing our overall security effectiveness while enabling passengers to leave electronics in their carry-on bags. Ultimately, we hope to refine checkpoint CT technology to the point where, similar to the checked baggage process, we have automated the carry-on baggage screening process and reduced the need for officers to review all images.
In order to further our efforts and capabilities, TSA is working closely with industry partners, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate, and international counterparts. Together, we are exchanging information and best practices related to operational and laboratory testing, explosives characterization, CT platform enhancements, and image library development. TSA is working closely with the European Commission, European Civil Aviation Conference, and bilaterally with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the Netherlands to share test results with the goal of aligning detection requirements and testing methodologies. The Netherlands, Turkey, Japan, Singapore, and South Africa are currently testing CT technology at their checkpoints, which allows for robust information sharing and ultimately guides the successful deployment of this technology.
We are also leveraging academia to develop innovative software algorithms to more accurately identify prohibited items. Through our own Innovation Task Force, TSA is providing CT vendors with end-user feedback and real world operational data to further operational development, effectiveness, and efficiencies. In short, checkpoint CT development is a worldwide effort to achieve the best screening solution that is technologically possible today. Deployment of this technology, both here at home and abroad, is a critical component of raising the global aviation security baseline.
My team has developed an aggressive plan to deploy checkpoint CT technology. We are currently pursuing a flexible approach to test, procure, and deploy CT systems, while concurrently developing CT system algorithms to significantly improve automated threat detection capabilities. This approach employs the concepts of modularity and iterative design to support deployment of specific capabilities as part of a larger solution, while progressively expanding functionality until the full CT capability is realized.
Deployment of CT technology at checkpoints is one of my top priorities, and a priority for DHS leadership as well. In FY2018, we will field almost 40 units for developmental and operational testing, with the goal of pursuing broader deployment and continued algorithm development in the first half of FY2019, dependent on funding availability. Such efforts for the acquisition of this technology and others will be reflected in the Capital Investment Plan and TSA Strategy and Intent that I am currently developing to guide our investment approach moving forward.
Concurrent with our CT efforts, we are also pursuing other technologies to increase security at checkpoints. Two such technologies are enhanced Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) and Credential Authentication Technology (CAT). TSA continues to improve our current AIT capabilities. As you may know, AIT uses imaging technology to scan individuals and analyze the images for the presence of anomalies beneath clothes, and in obscured areas. There are currently 945 AIT units deployed at 340 airports system-wide. Upgrades to this technology include greater detection capabilities in response to some of the vulnerabilities identified by the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in 2015 and in 2017. Other changes include software that will allow TSOs to process passengers through the AIT more expeditiously, thereby improving passenger flow through the checkpoint. In addition to these upgrades to currently fielded AIT units, TSA is working with other vendors to ensure we are testing every passenger screening technology available to provide our TSOs with better tools to assist them in performing their duties. TSA will be demonstrating an enhanced AIT capability in the field later this quarter, gaining critical insights into potential technology improvements that will move us closer to the future checkpoint vision.
Another key technology under development for our checkpoints is CAT; which will greatly enhance the vital role that the Travel Document Checker (TDC) plays in ID verification, boarding pass validation, and screening status determination. Specifically, CAT will improve the TDC’s ability to accurately authenticate passenger identification documents, passenger ticketing status, and Secure Flight passenger vetting status, thereby addressing vulnerabilities associated with ID fraud and providing real-time vetting information at the checkpoint on passengers. There are 33 CAT systems currently deployed for technical testing in TSA Pre?® lanes at 10 airports, including both Reagan National and Dulles airports, to optimize system functionality and associated Concept of Operations (CONOPS.)
TSA is currently assessing another technology known as Automated Screening Lanes (ASLs). ASLs are already proving their worth and currently 111 ASLs are deployed at 12 airports including Newark, JFK, LaGuardia, Boston, and Atlanta. These lanes are not only designed to increase throughput, they also provide better security by offering capabilities such as automated pulls of bags needing further inspection, automated tracking of bins linking to the x-ray and picture images, and automated bin return allowing officers to focus on security, instead of moving bins from the end of the lane to the beginning. I envision that integrating CTs with ASLs will provide significant technological and screening process improvements at our checkpoints, and we plan on testing this integration in the near future. I appreciate the great partnerships with airlines and airports for their role in the procurement and deployment of ASLs.
Critical to the success of TSA’s technology strategy and our ability to stay ahead of the threat is the capability to acquire, procure, develop, test and field new technologies in a timely manner. As the Chairman has noted, this is an area that needs improvement and I want to assure you we are evaluating ways to accelerate the acquisition process. In an effort to further identify ways to improve efficiencies in the process, DHS and TSA are evaluating existing rapid acquisition processes across the U.S. government to leverage known experience and best practices as we develop a model to accelerate acquisition efforts and the ultimate deployment of effective solutions within a dynamic operational environment. With your support, we are confident that we will be able to create an acquisition paradigm that ensures accelerated deployment and preserves the integrity needed to deploy effective and cost efficient capabilities.
TSA is committed to securing the Nation’s transportation systems from terrorist activities and attacks. This year, we are focused on maturing and deploying additional CT-based systems and working closely with our domestic and international partners to raise the global baseline for aviation security. In addition, I’m developing a Capital Investment Plan, coupled with the TSA Strategy and Intent, which will chart the future course for improvements in checkpoints and checked baggage systems. I look forward to working with you on these efforts to secure our robust transportation sector. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss these important issues. I look forward to the Subcommittee’s questions.
Written testimony of ICE for a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence hearing titled “Combating Transnational Gangs Through Information Sharing”Release Date:January 18, 2018
210 House Capitol Visitor Center
Chairman King, Ranking Member Rice, and distinguished members:
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the mission of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), its efforts to identify, disrupt, and dismantle transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), to include transnational gangs, drug cartels, and smugglers, and its information sharing initiatives dedicated to combatting the aforementioned threats. ICE enforces approximately 400 federal laws governing border control, customs, trade, and immigration to promote homeland security and public safety. With more than 20,000 employees and more than 400 offices across the United States and in 50 countries, the men and women of ICE execute our mission humanely, professionally, and always in accordance with the law. ICE has three operational directorates: Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), and the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor. As a Senior Executive of ICE/HSI, I serve as the Assistant Director of ICE/HSI International Operations.
As the largest investigative component in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), ICE/HSI protects U.S. borders by conducting multi-faceted, international law enforcement operations, and by partnering with foreign and domestic counterparts to combat criminal organizations and prevent terrorist activities.
ICE/HSI International Operations has a network of over 400 personnel, including over 180 special agents deployed to 67 attaché offices in 50 countries, who conduct investigations against TCOs, terrorist, and other criminal organizations that threaten our national security. ICE/HSI leverages its international footprint and partnerships to disrupt and dismantle TCOs that seek to exploit America's legitimate trade, travel and financial systems, and enforces U.S. customs and immigration laws at and beyond our Nation's borders to prevent threats from entering the United States.
ICE/HSI manages several strategic/information sharing initiatives, which include:
- Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU)
- Biometric Identification Transnational Migration Alert Program (BITMAP)
- Visa Security Program (VSP)
- Trade Transparency Units (TTUs)
HSI, domestically and abroad, focuses on critical investigative areas, which include:
- National security
- Counter-proliferation of arms and controlled technology
- Human smuggling and trafficking
- Financial crimes
- Child exploitation
- Commercial fraud and intellectual property
- Anti-Gang Enforcement
- Identity and Benefit Fraud
- Worksite Enforcement
- Human Rights Violators and War Crimes
ICE/ERO identifies, arrests, and removes aliens who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety, as well as those who enter the United States illegally, or otherwise undermine the integrity of U.S immigration laws and border control efforts. ERO upholds America’s immigration laws at, within, and beyond its borders through efficient enforcement and removal operations. ERO also develops investigative leads and provides support in locating and arresting foreign nationals wanted for crimes committed abroad who are now at-large in the United States.
ERO removal operations require complex coordination, management, and facilitation efforts to successfully remove or return aliens from the United States to their country of origin. ERO has enforcement officers strategically deployed to 19 locations around the world and leverages resources available through foreign law enforcement partners, including INTERPOL, EUROPOL and the HSI Attaché corps.
Combatting Transnational Criminal Organizations
ICE utilizes its broad legal authorities to investigate immigration and customs violations, including those related to export control, human rights abuses, narcotics, weapons and contraband smuggling, financial crime, cybercrime, human trafficking and smuggling, child exploitation, intellectual property theft, transnational gangs, immigration document and benefit fraud, and worksite enforcement. ICE is grateful for continued Congressional support that allows ICE to maintain critical operations at home and abroad and increase our efforts to target and combat dangerous transnational gangs and other criminal organizations.
During Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, ICE investigations led to the disruption or dismantlement of TCOs with more than 32,958 criminal arrests, including arrests of more than 4,818 transnational gang members. ICE also seized 981,586 pounds of narcotics, made 1,205 seizures for violations of U.S. export laws and regulations, and seized nearly $307 million in currency and monetary instruments. Additionally, ICE identified and assisted 518 human trafficking victims and more than 904 child exploitation victims.
During the last two decades, transnational organized crime has expanded dramatically in size, scope, and impact, which poses a significant threat to national security. ICE takes very seriously this threat, and targets TCOs at every critical location in the cycle: internationally, in cooperation with foreign counterparts, where transnational criminal and terrorist organizations operate; at our Nation’s physical border and ports of entry, in coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), where the transportation cells attempt to exploit America's legitimate trade, travel, and transportation systems; and in cities throughout the United States, where criminal organizations earn substantial profits off their illicit activities.
As directed by the President’s Executive Order 13773, Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking, ICE will continue to give a high priority and devote sufficient resources to dismantling TCOs and subsidiary organizations. ICE will continue to focus on cooperative work with other federal agencies, as well as with foreign counterparts, by sharing intelligence and law enforcement information when appropriate and permitted by law.
Joint Task Forces
In 2014, the Department announced its new Unity of Effort Initiative and directed our Department-wide Southern Border and Approaches Campaign (SBAC) Plan. The SBAC is part of a comprehensive security strategy designed to unify efforts across DHS components to address threats specifically associated with terrorism, illicit market-driven flows, and illegal migration across our Southern Border and Approaches. In furtherance of the SBAC, the Department commissioned three Joint Task Forces (JTFs) in November 2014. The three Joint Task Forces, JTF-East (JTF-E), JTF-West (JTF-W), and JTF-Investigations (JTF-I), are responsible for establishing operational priorities and synchronizing capabilities in order to achieve SBAC objectives.
Two of the JTFs, JTF-E and JTF-W, are geographically focused task forces that concentrate on the southern land and maritime borders and approaches to the United States all the way to Central and South America. JTF-I is a “functional”, multi-component task force that employs National Case Management to identify and prioritize top TCOs affecting homeland security, manage investigations and operations to dismantle them, and identify weaknesses or gaps in our practices, technology, etc.
To address these gaps, JTF-I created and implemented HOMECORT (Homeland Criminal Organization Target), the DHS-wide process for identifying and prioritizing the top criminal networks affecting homeland security.
In order to manage and unify U.S. Government efforts against these HOMECORT criminal networks, JTF-I developed three complementary processes:
- National Case Management to manage, integrate and support all the investigations and operations related to the targeted criminal network;
- Comprehensive Criminal Network Analysis to provide knowledge of the criminal network; and
- Integrated Action Planning to establish the business rules for conducting National Case Management and producing Comprehensive Criminal Network Analysis.
Through the sharing and fusing of each other’s information, these JTF-I processes allow DHS components to:
- Identify and prioritize the top criminal networks impacting homeland security;
- Tie together and manage all the investigations, operations, arrests, and seizures (covering multiple countries, jurisdictions, areas of responsibility and programs) related to all the activities (smuggling, money laundering, corruption, etc.) of a criminal network (see complementary processes below);
- Move towards a complex common goal through a formal integrated action planning process.
Since its inception, JTF-I’s interagency delegates managed and supported the targeting of 21 HOMECORT criminal networks, comprised of more than a thousand criminal investigations. To date, 13 of those networks were dismantled to the point they no longer threaten homeland security. The networks include money launderers, human smugglers, sex traffickers, drug smugglers, bulk cash smugglers, and weapons smugglers. The remaining HOMECORT designated criminal networks continue to be the targets of active criminal investigations.
Another example of a successful joint task force model is the Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) initiative. BEST teams are ICE-led, multiagency task forces that target illicit movement of people and contraband through border areas. Other DHS entities, particularly CBP and the United States Coast Guard, participate. There are 38 BEST teams on the U.S.-Canada border and U.S.-Mexico border. Canadian and Mexican (multiagency) law enforcement partners work directly with DHS and other U.S. counterparts on investigative and interdiction missions. Canadian officials are often cross-designated as U.S. law enforcement (U.S. Code: Title 19) to promote full sharing of law enforcement information. These units are housed on the U.S. side of the border. In FY 2017, the BEST teams initiated 4,034 investigations and effected 4,967 criminal arrests.
National Gang Unit
The National Gang Unit (NGU) is a critical part of ICE’s mission to bring the fight to transnational criminal gangs. The NGU identifies and develops intelligence on gang membership, associations, activities, and international movements. It also deters and disrupts gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons, and other assets derived from illicit activities.
In 2005, ICE initiated Operation Community Shield, an international law enforcement initiative that combines ICE’s expansive statutory and civil enforcement authorities to combat the growth and proliferation of transnational criminal street gangs, prison gangs and outlaw motorcycle gangs throughout the United States. With assistance from state, local, tribal, and foreign law enforcement partners, the initiative helps ICE locate, investigate, prosecute, and where applicable, immediately remove gang members from our neighborhoods and ultimately from the United States.
Operation Community Shield has resulted in the criminal and administrative arrests of nearly 60,000 gang leaders, members, and associates since its inception. Among those arrests, Community Shield operations have resulted in the criminal and administrative arrests of over 7,800 leaders, members, and associates of Mara Salvatrucha-13 (MS-13), the international criminal street gang.
In 2012, ICE worked with the Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to designate MS-13 as a TCO, the first criminal street gang so designated. As a result of the designation, any property or property interests in the United States, or in the possession or control of U.S. persons in which MS-13 has an interest, are blocked. In addition, U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in transactions with MS-13 and are subject to civil monetary penalties up to $250,000 and imprisonment up to 20 years.
In 2016, ICE utilized the 2012 OFAC designation to develop and implement a new strategy targeting MS-13. ICE recognizes that TCOs need funding to maintain and expand their criminal organization and has been successfully identifying, exploiting, and disrupting MS-13’s global financial networks. Part of ICE’s new strategy is to address the threats posed by MS-13 in the United States and at their command and control structure in El Salvador simultaneously. Since January 2016, ICE has been deploying special agents to El Salvador to work with our host country law enforcement partners to build their financial investigative capacity to combat MS-13 and identify MS-13’s financial networks within El Salvador. In addition, the deployment allows the free flow of actionable intelligence between ICE and our host country law enforcement partners.
In 2017, ICE worked with our DHS partners to form a departmental MS-13 Working Group, to include ICE, CBP, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The DHS MS-13 Working Group was formed to share intelligence, bridge intelligence gaps, eliminate redundancies, enhance collaboration, and provide visibility to all DHS entities involved in the fight against MS-13. The ultimate goal of the DHS MS-13 Working Group is to develop and implement a DHS enterprise enforcement strategy to disrupt and dismantle MS-13’s global criminal networks.
As of December 28, 2017, ICE maintains 107 open investigations targeting MS-13 members and their criminal organizations globally, including Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, the District of Columbia, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Ohio, California, Washington, and the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador through Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO), Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR), and criminal conspiracy prosecutions. Without information sharing and partnering with our federal, state, local, and foreign law enforcement partners, ICE would not be nearly as successful at battling MS-13 and other gangs.
Law Enforcement Information Sharing Efforts
In addition to leveraging domestic assets, ICE uses its strategically deployed personnel around the globe to use established relationships with host country law enforcement officials and mechanisms such as Customs Mutual Assistance Agreements (CMAAs) to share information and further its investigations. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) are also invaluable instruments in obtaining and receiving international legal assistance, including evidence, for criminal investigations and prosecutions.
ICE International Operations also partners with TCIUs and international task forces in 12 countries around the world. TCIUs are comprised of foreign law enforcement officials, customs officers, immigration officers, and prosecutors who receive ICE training and undergo a strict vetting process to ensure that shared information and operational activities are not compromised. Partnering with these TCIUs enables ICE to promote direct action via information sharing and investigative leads while respecting the sovereignty of the host country and cultivating international partnerships.
Aligned with the President’s Strategy in Combatting Transnational Organized Crime, TCIUs identify targets, collect evidence, share intelligence, and facilitate the prosecution of TCOs both in-country and in the United States. These efforts, which often occur thousands of miles from the U.S. borders, essentially act as an outer layer of security for the United States.
Another ICE program, BITMAP, helps provide infrastructure and capability for host governments to collect biometric data on individuals they encounter. This information is shared with U.S. law enforcement and the Intelligence Community; DHS in turn provides information back to these countries about these individuals. Through this process, ICE is able to track movement towards the United States, take joint action with partner nations along the route, and deter human smuggling through South and Central America. Comparisons of biometric data through BITMAP serve to identify criminal persons, wanted subjects (including international fugitives), and known or suspected terrorists. BITMAP is currently deployed to 14 countries, with near-term plans to expand to two additional countries.
ICE also leverages its information sharing capabilities through the use of the Visa Security Program (VSP) and Trade Transparency Units (TTU). VSP deploys trained ICE special agents abroad to high-risk visa activity posts to identify and investigate potential terrorist and criminal threats before they reach the United States. VSP contributes to both counter-flow and counter-network capabilities, as well as providing support for intelligence, interdiction and engagement. VSP special agents work alongside Department of State Consular Officers to provide real-time feedback on visa applicants prior to visa adjudication. VSP agents receive referrals based on automated screening of U.S. visa applicants conducted by ICE, in cooperation with CBP.
The core mission of the TTU is to aggressively target criminal organizations and individuals involved in trade-based money laundering (TBML) but also those perpetrating contraband smuggling and customs fraud. In order to achieve this mission, HSI reached out to key foreign trading partners and successfully established (16) TTUs abroad. TTU currently has partnerships with Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, France, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, United Kingdom, and Uruguay. These countries are highly dependent upon value added taxes (VAT) on commodities, which served as a motivating factor in the establishment of TTUs. These foreign partners recognize the value of information sharing, which permits the comparison of international trade and cross border movement of merchandise.
The United States and its foreign TTU partners currently provide trade data which that allows HSI investigators and analysts to detect anomalies which may be indicative of criminal activity such as TBML, contraband smuggling, and trade/customs fraud. This information sharing allows for the cross referencing of trade data with other pertinent information such as Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) reports. The ultimate goal of most criminal organizations is financial gain either to promote ongoing illicit activity or as the finality of this activity, hence trade-based money laundering is often the primary means by which they launder proceeds for their criminal enterprises.
ICE’s Law Enforcement Information Sharing Initiative (LEISI) serves as an active advocate in support of law enforcement information sharing both internal and external to DHS. This includes information sharing between Federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, and foreign partners. LEISI coordinates throughout the law enforcement community to improve the understanding of information needs, provide leadership in resolving policy issues that may inhibit law enforcement information sharing, and develop approaches to overcome traditional barriers to information sharing.
The LEISI program provides program management support and oversight to include administration of the Law Enforcement Information Sharing Strategy. For FY 2018, additional focus is on international information for initiatives such as: Preventing and Combatting Serious Crimes (PCSC), the Five Country Ministerial (FCM), the Five Country Conference (FCC), and ERO’s Criminal History Information Sharing (CHIS) program.
CHIS is a DHS-led initiative between the United States and its international partners whose purpose is to provide participating nations with criminal history information in advance of an alien’s removal. In turn, foreign countries share their information with the United States. The information shared helps protect law enforcement personnel, regional security, and public safety officers all over the globe. The initiative supports efforts in immigration management, law enforcement and national security. Countries currently participating in the CHIS initiative are: Mexico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, the Bahamas, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, with planned expansion to additional countries in FY 2018.
CHIS enables ICE to identify wanted felons, including gang members, who fled to the United States to avoid prosecution in their home countries. Without this initiative, dangerous criminals might be able to circumvent prosecution. In FY 2017, CHIS sent 84,067 outbound notices of removal and ICE’s foreign partners returned 21,434 positive responses, including 2,810 foreign criminal history records, 93 foreign criminal warrants and information related to 199 transnational gang members.
During FY 2017, ICE achieved significant successes in Latin America and the Caribbean through the development of programs that bolstered the law enforcement, customs, and immigration enforcement capabilities of international partners. These successes included the joint interagency execution of Operation CITADEL, which focused efforts on building partner nation capacity in identifying, disrupting and dismantling TCOs, including those designated as drug trafficking organizations and terrorist support networks. Interagency information sharing and collaboration from agencies within DHS, the Department of State, the Department of Justice (including the Federal Bureau of Investigation), and the Department of Defense, as well as participating partner nations, has been an essential piece of Operation CITADEL’s efforts to build capacity and to address identified threats. Operation CITADEL provided resources to enhance foreign partners’ investigative capabilities to counter transnational threats and organized crime that, in turn, provided ICE the ability to expand domestic and international investigations well beyond the U.S. borders and to more effectively target the illicit pathways exploited by TCOs.
In FY 2017, the Operation CITADEL effected the training of 809 partner national personnel, 231 criminal arrests, 54 indictments, nine (9) convictions, 2,005 BITMAP enrollments, seizure of $252,235 in currency, 18,224 pounds of narcotics, seizure of 27 firearms, and encountered 3,669 aliens of possible national security concern.
Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today and for your continued support of DHS and ICE and their missions. ICE is committed to continuing its successful practice of sharing information with domestic and foreign partners and leveraging its resources around the world to stem cross-border criminal organizations. I appreciate your interest in these important issues and the efforts I have discussed today.
I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Written testimony of USCG for a House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation hearing titled “The State of the U.S. Flag Maritime Industry”Release Date:January 17, 2018
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
Good morning Chairman Hunter, Ranking Member Garamendi, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. It is my pleasure to be here today to discuss the state of the U.S. maritime industry and the Coast Guard’s role serving that industry.
The U.S. Coast Guard is the world’s premier, multi-mission, maritime service responsible for the safety, security, and stewardship of the maritime domain. At all times a military service and branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, a federal law enforcement agency, a regulatory body, a first responder, and a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community, the Coast Guard operates on all seven continents and throughout the homeland, serving a Nation whose economic prosperity and national security are inextricably linked to broad maritime interests.
America’s economic prosperity is reliant on the safe, secure, and efficient flow of cargo through the Marine Transportation System (MTS), which now includes 361 ports and more than 25,000 miles of river and coastal waterways. The Nation’s waterways support $4.5 trillion of economic activity each year, including over 250,000 American jobs.1 Transportation of cargo on water by the maritime industry is the most economical, environmentally friendly, and efficient mode of transport. The maritime industry and MTS connect America’s consumers, producers, manufacturers, and farmers to domestic and global markets. Similarly, our national security depends on a healthy maritime industry and reliable MTS. The majority of the military equipment used by the Nation’s warfighters is loaded in U.S ports and delivered to theatre on Coast Guard-inspected merchant vessels that are manned by civilian merchant mariners.
As the lead federal regulator for the maritime industry, the Coast Guard must be attentive to the industry’s changing needs and dynamic challenges. Amidst emerging trends within the MTS and the maritime industry, the Coast Guard’s underlying concept of operations and our approach to continuous improvement remains unchanged. We continue to conduct our work using a consistent and enduring concept of operations that has successfully guided us for decades: the Coast Guard develops standards for safe, secure, and environmentally sound operations in the MTS; the Coast Guard assesses and enforces compliance with those standards; and when failures occur, the Coast Guard aggressively investigates them and drives the lessons learned back into our compliance and standards activities. These three phases of operations rely on our ability to leverage our marine safety workforce, engage governmental, non-governmental, and industry partners, and properly manage information and risk.
The Coast Guard’s marine safety program and regulatory process advance economic prosperity and national security by leveraging our unique capabilities to ensure that the maritime industry and MTS operate safely, predictably, and securely. We are mindful of the need to facilitate maritime commerce, not impede it. Our marine safety program does this by establishing a level playing field for industry through a framework of common-sense regulations that are enforced in a predictable and consistent manner. The Coast Guard’s regulatory standards and compliance functions also promote investment and innovation throughout the maritime sector by providing the means for investors and operators to evaluate and manage risk. This regulatory framework enables U.S. shipping to compete internationally and U.S. ports to compete equally against each other, while protecting American interests from the risk of substandard shipping.
In recent years, the maritime industry has undergone a series of cyclical changes. Within the last ten years, dramatic increases in U.S. energy production led to new construction of U.S.-flag tank barges and tank ships, and sharp increases in shipments of petroleum and petro-chemicals throughout our Nation’s ports and waterways. The expansion of oil exploration and production further offshore led to an increase in the size, complexity, and number of offshore support vessels. Though a recent prolonged downturn in the price of oil has eroded much of the oil and gas exploration and related support activity on the outer continental shelf, the volume of oil, petrochemicals, and liquefied natural gas shipments are still reaching new highs. At the same time, legislative and regulatory changes have led to increased oversight of fishing and towing vessels. The Coast Guard is now examining or inspecting as many as 6,000 additional commercial fishing vessels and 5,000 additional commercial towing vessels. Combined, these trends have shown that the maritime industry and Coast Guard are subject to rapid changes in demand and increasing volume, as technology accelerates commodity production and more vessels are brought under increased Coast Guard oversight.
Today, the maritime industry is an innovative and dynamic global industry that continually seeks new ways to efficiently meet stakeholder demands. To meet these growing demands and improve efficiency, the maritime industry is increasingly turning to new and emerging technologies, such as cyber systems, higher levels of automation, and new fuel sources. These technologies enable the maritime industry and MTS to operate with impressive reliability and capacity that drive efficiencies and economic benefits. The regulatory regime should not impede these developments. Our standards and compliance program must evolve to facilitate these changes safely and securely. As the pace and complexity of maritime commerce and operations have increased, third parties have enabled the regulatory regime to evolve and keep up with increasing demand.
Third party programs, such as the Alternate Compliance Program (ACP), have become a necessity upon which both the maritime industry and the Coast Guard rely. Like other flag states around the globe, the United States relies far more heavily on third parties today than ever before. However, as recently highlighted in the Coast Guard’s investigation after tragic sinking of the El Faro, the Coast Guard must provide the final element of the safety framework with sustainable policy, oversight, and accountability. Now, more than ever, the system requires reform. The Coast Guard plans to establish a risk-based and enduring policy framework that is easily executable and enables more robust oversight of delegated functions. Further, recognizing that the ACP is only one program among many that rely on delegation of technical functions and services to third parties, it is imperative that changes we make to ACP be applied to all programs that rely on a similar structure.
A healthy maritime industry is vital to the nation’s economic prosperity and national security. It is also dynamic and continually evolving to meet stakeholder demand. The Coast Guard’s regulatory development and compliance programs evolve to keep pace with industry change and ensure the continued safety, security, and environmental compliance in the MTS. We are focused on ensuring every Coast Guard action sustains the smooth operation of the MTS, without imposing unnecessary costs on U.S. entities competing in a global industry.
Thank you for your continued support and the opportunity to testify before you today. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.
1 “Ports’ Value to the U.S. Economy: Exports, Jobs & Economic Growth.” American Association of Port Authorities, http://www.aapa-ports.org/advocating/content.aspx?ItemNumber=21150, Accessed April 17, 2017.
DHS, DOJ Report: Three Out of Four Individuals Convicted Of International Terrorism and Terrorism-Related Offenses Were Foreign-BornRelease Date:January 16, 2018
Departments of Homeland Security and Justice Release Data for the First Time on Terrorism-Related Activity
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
WASHINGTON – On January 16, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a report revealing that three out of every four, or 402, individuals convicted of international terrorism-related charges in U.S. federal courts between September 11, 2001, and December 31, 2016 were foreign-born. Over the same period, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed approximately 1,716 aliens with national security concerns. Further, in 2017 alone DHS had 2,554 encounters with individuals on the terrorist watch list (also known as the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database) traveling to the United States.
This report was prescribed by Executive Order 13780, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, which declared that “it is the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks, including those committed by foreign nationals,” and directed a series of actions to enhance the security of the American people.
The actions directed by Executive Order 13780 have—among other things—raised the baseline for the vetting and screening of foreign nationals, improved our ability to prevent the entry of malicious actors, and enhanced the security of the American people.
“My top priority as Secretary of Homeland Security is to ensure the safety and security of the American people,” said Secretary Nielsen. “This report is a clear reminder of why we cannot continue to rely on immigration policy based on pre-9/11 thinking that leaves us woefully vulnerable to foreign-born terrorists, and why we must examine our visa laws and continue to intensify screening and vetting of individuals traveling to the United States to prevent terrorists, criminals, and other dangerous individuals from reaching our country. Without legislative change DHS will continue to see thousands of terrorists a year attempt to enter the United States, and while we must be right every time, the terrorists only need to be lucky once. Therefore, DHS has personnel deployed around the world and along our borders working with our global and domestic law enforcement partners to stop terrorists before they enter the homeland.”
“This report reveals an indisputable sobering reality—our immigration system has undermined our national security and public safety,” said Attorney General Sessions. “And the information in this report is only the tip of the iceberg: we currently have terrorism-related investigations against thousands of people in the United States, including hundreds of people who came here as refugees. Our law enforcement professionals do amazing work, but it is simply not reasonable to keep asking them to risk their lives to enforce the law while we admit thousands every year without sufficient knowledge about their backgrounds. The pillars of President Trump’s immigration policy—securing our porous borders, moving to a merit-based immigration system that ends the use of diversity visas and chain migration, and enforcing our nation’s laws—will make their jobs easier and make the United States a safer place.”
The report reveals that at least 549 individuals were convicted of international terrorism-related charges in U.S. federal courts between September 11, 2001, and December 31, 2016. An analysis conducted by DHS determined that approximately 73 percent (402 of these 549 individuals) were foreign-born. Breaking down the 549 individuals by citizenship status at the time of their respective convictions reveals that:
- 254 were not U.S. citizens;
- 148 were foreign-born, naturalized and received U.S. citizenship; and,
- 147 were U.S. citizens by birth.
According to information available to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), since September 11, 2001, there were approximately 1,716 removals of aliens with national security concerns.
As mentioned above, in FY 2017, DHS encountered 2,554 individuals on the terrorist watchlist (also known as the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database) traveling to the United States. Of those individuals, 335 were attempting to enter by land, 2,170 were attempting to enter by air, and 49 were attempting to enter by sea. Where consistent with the law, such individuals are denied entry into the United States, while in some cases law enforcement authorities are notified and can take appropriate action.
From October 1, 2011, to September 30, 2017, a total of 355,345 non-U.S. citizen offenders, were administratively arrested after previously being convicted of an aggravated felony, as defined in 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43), or two or more crimes each punishable by more than one year (felony offenses). During that same period, a total of 372,098 non-U.S. citizen offenders were removed from the United States after conviction of an aggravated felony or two or more felonies.
Data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate shows that between 2007 and 2017, USCIS referred 45,858 foreign nationals who applied for immigration benefits to ICE for criminal or civil enforcement action, based on information indicating that such foreign nationals had committed egregious public safety-related offenses within the United States.
Between FY 2010 and FY 2016, CBP identified and prevented the boarding of 73,261 foreign travelers on flights destined for the United States, who may have presented an immigration or security risk.
In October, the Trump Administration sent to Congress a list of legislative priorities that would enhance our national security—such as eliminating the diversity visa lottery and extended family chain migration, funding the wall, closing loopholes in our asylum system, combatting visa overstays, and closing other loopholes in existing law that potentially benefit aliens who pose threats to our national security.
Background on the Executive Order
Section 11 of Executive Order requires the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to collect and make publicly available the following information:
- Information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been charged with terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; convicted of terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; or removed from the United States based on terrorism-related activity, affiliation with or provision of material support to a terrorism-related organization, or any other national-security-related reasons;
- Information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been radicalized after entry into the United States and who have engaged in terrorism-related acts, or who have provided material support to terrorism-related organizations in countries that pose a threat to the United States;
- Information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including so-called “honor killings,” in the United States by foreign nationals; and,
- Any other information relevant to public safety and security as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security or the Attorney General, including information on the immigration status of foreign nationals charged with major offenses.
The link to the report is available HERE.
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Written testimony of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen for a Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing titled “Oversight of the United States Department of Homeland Security”Release Date:January 16, 2018
216 Hart Senate Office Building
Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. The men and women of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are working tirelessly to make our communities safer and our Nation more secure, and I am honored to speak on their behalf.
While both our Department and this Committee oversee a broad portfolio, today my prepared remarks will focus on the current threat environment, our efforts to elevate the baseline of our security posture across the board, and how our Department’s immigration priorities are helping to secure our Nation by recognizing that the American people are the primary stakeholders in our Nation’s immigration system.
Protecting Our Open Society in a New Age of Terrorism
Today, we face a serious and persistent terror threat that, according to my assessment, will not diminish anytime soon. While we have made it harder for terrorists to execute large-scale attacks, changes in technology have made it easier for adversaries to plot attacks in general, to inspire and radicalize new followers, and to recruit beyond borders. The problem is compounded by the use of simple, “do-it-yourself” terror tactics.
Acts of terror and mass violence have become all-too-frequent around the world, and our enemies continue to target us throughout the West: Paris, San Bernardino, Brussels, Orlando, Istanbul, Nice, Berlin, London, Barcelona, New York City, and beyond. As the United States and our allies drive ISIS from its safe haven in Syria and Iraq, we are seeing operatives disperse, and we are concerned those foot soldiers will start focusing more heavily on external operations against the United States, our interests, and our allies as they have lost territory.
The October 31, 2017 attack in New York City is a prime example of how terrorism is evolving. The suspect was apparently radicalized in part by online terrorist propaganda, his attack plotting went undetected, he choose a public area as his target, and selected a vehicle as his weapon.
At the same time, terrorists overseas are experimenting with more sophisticated tools—including drones, chemical weapons, and artfully concealed improvised explosive devices—to further spread violence and fear. In short, what was once a preference for large-scale attacks is now an “all-of-the-above” approach to terrorism.
Today, I want to highlight the threat to so-called soft targets. Large gatherings and public venues and events are appealing targets for terrorists and violent criminals because of their accessibility and the potential to inflict significant physical, psychological, and economic damage. That is why DHS is working to help our state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector partners —and the public—better protect such sites and events. We actively share intelligence bulletins and analysis with homeland security stakeholders nationwide to make sure they understand the danger, use best practices to counter nascent attack methods, train frontline defenders to combat such threats, and are always on alert to the potential for violent incidents.
Our National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) is helping to lead the charge on soft target security, and in the coming weeks we expect to roll out additional information about how we are stepping up our efforts even further. Our goal is to:
- Demonstrably reduce the risk of successful attacks on soft targets;
- Ensure the Department has the capability to support visible efforts to enhance soft target security in order to safeguard the American people;
- Develop a “center of gravity” for Department-wide resources available to support the critical infrastructure community in securing soft targets; and
- Promote a dynamic process to identify and address soft target security gaps based on threats and incidents.
DHS manages programs that provide training and informational resources focused on active shooter preparedness, which play a key role in preparing facilities and their employees to proactively think about the role they play in the safety and security of their businesses and communities. This includes efforts like the Hometown Security Initiative, which develops critical partnerships between the private sector and the public sector to provide expert counsel and recommendations about protective measures they can implement to protect facilities and venues in their communities.
In addition, the DHS Federal Law Enforcement Training Center’s Private Public Partnership Academy brings together commercial shopping center executives, their private security professionals, and their local law enforcement representatives to receive standardized training in active shooter threat mitigation strategies and tactical medical training, and to practice these skills in large public event gathering exercises. Furthermore, the Science and Technology Directorate’s SAFETY Act Program provides critical incentives for the development and deployment of anti-terrorism technologies by providing liability protections for “qualified anti-terrorism technologies.” This applies to a number of stadiums nationwide, too, which can leverage the Program to better protect major events and gatherings.
Advance Terrorism Prevention Efforts
In addition to counterterrorism, the Department is rededicating itself to terrorism prevention. Americans do not want us to simply stop violent plots, they want us to keep them from materializing in the first place. As part of this effort, we have launched an end-to-end review of all DHS terrorism-prevention programs, projects, and activities. In the coming months we will work to ensure our approach to terrorism prevention is risk-based and intelligence-driven, focused on effectiveness, and provides appropriate support to those on the frontlines whom we rely on to spot signs of terrorist activity.
DHS efforts to combat terrorist recruitment and radicalization fall into several primary categories, including: (1) prioritizing education and community awareness; (2) focusing on counter-recruitment; (3) emphasizing the importance of early warning through better reporting of suspicious activity; and (4) promoting early intervention.
I know this Committee has spent a good deal of time working with the technology companies on the terror threat. We have had robust and ongoing engagement with the technology sector to increase its efforts to address terrorists’ use of the internet, including combating terrorist messaging online. This falls into our “counter-recruitment” line of effort. While the internet itself is not the source of the problem, it is abused to promote radicalization, recruitment to violence, and to raise funds for terrorist organizations.
Earlier this year, Deputy Secretary Duke traveled to San Francisco to meet with the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), a consortium of tech companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Google, which are working to counter terrorists exploiting their platforms. She also conferred with them at a G7 Interior Ministers Meeting in Italy in October, and I am pleased to report we have seen progress and responsiveness as a result of these engagements.
Even though there is still more to be done, the companies are directly addressing our concerns by taking important steps to make their platforms less hospitable to terrorists. I am going to continue these high-level engagements to keep up the momentum, and I plan to travel out West to confer with these companies again in the coming weeks.
When it comes to counterterrorism priorities, commercial aviation remains a major concern. We have seen a spider web of threats against the aviation sector, which continues to be a top target for global jihadist groups. We are working with our partners across the global aviation community to collaborate, innovate, and implement new security practices in the face of evolving threats.
This summer, we announced new “seen” and “unseen” security measures, representing the most significant aviation security enhancements in many years. Indeed, our ongoing Global Aviation Security Plan is making U.S.-bound flights more secure and will raise the baseline of aviation security worldwide. We have required the implementation of security measures at all Last Point of Departure airports to the United States, including enhancements to protect aircraft against concealed explosives, to counter insider threats, and to better identify suspicious passengers. In September 2017, we also initiated new measures, utilizing the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Security Directives and Emergency Amendments (SD/EAs), to address threats to cargo aircraft inbound to the United States. These measures require certain carriers to provide additional data to allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to better assess the risk of shipments prior to loading. We continue to review ways to address threats and raise the baseline of cargo security screening overseas, including further SD/EAs to expand cargo security enhancements to additional countries.
International organizations also play a vital role in strengthening transportation security around the globe. For example, the United States is a Member State of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), an arm of the United Nations that sets safety and security standards for international air travel. TSA is urging ICAO to adopt more rigorous security standards and is encouraging ICAO members to join us in embracing innovation.
TSA’s aggressive pursuit of innovation includes exploring the use of Computed Tomography systems at airport checkpoints. These systems feature improved 3D-imaging and enhanced detection capabilities and will play an important role in our Global Aviation Security Plan. TSA has also started testing credential authentication technologies at a number of airports to help verify passengers’ identities and their ticketing and vetting status. Other technologies with promise are mobile handheld solutions that quickly and easily identify explosives. Consistent with the longstanding practice of the Department, as we pilot, test, or implement these new technologies and programs, we will continue to review the privacy impacts of their deployment, report on our findings, and work closely with airports and industry.
In many of these areas, we will continue to need Congressional assistance, especially as we work to keep up with our enemies’ changing tactics. In some cases, DHS and other departments and agencies lack certain legal authorities to engage and mitigate the emerging dangers we are seeing. For example, we lack the authorities needed to counter threats from unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). We know that terrorists are using drones to conduct aerial attacks in conflict zones, and already we have seen aspiring terrorists attempt to use them in attacks outside the conflict zone. This is a very serious concern for the Department.
Last year, the Administration delivered a government-wide legislative proposal to Congress that would provide additional counter-UAS authorities to DHS and other federal departments and agencies to legally engage and mitigate UAS threats in the National Airspace System. After extensive discussions, we are working to provide an updated proposal to Capitol Hill. In the meantime, I am eager to share our concerns in a classified setting, which we recently did with the House Homeland Security Committee. I expect to have the legislative proposal to you in the next few weeks, and I urge the Committee to help champion efforts to resolve this challenge.
Vetting and Screening
At the President’s direction, the Department is undertaking historic efforts to secure our country. The goal is to prevent national security threat actors, especially terrorists and criminals, from traveling to the United States, while better facilitating lawful trade and travel. The Administration has made it a priority to intensify screening and vetting and to provide the American people the security they deserve. All foreign nationals—no matter how they try to get into our country—now face tougher vetting and tighter screening. The changes have made it harder for terrorists, criminals, and other nefarious actors to reach America.
This is important. The majority of individuals convicted on terrorism charges in the United States since 9/11 were foreign-born. While not all were radicalized before coming to the United States, we must do everything we can to detect individuals with terror ties or those who have been radicalized to violence before they reach our country. At the same time, our policies will be shaped by risk so that we focus on identifying nefarious actors while effectively facilitating the lawful entry of peaceful, freedom-loving people from around the world.
To that end, DHS is improving almost every stage of the vetting process for immigrants, refugees, and other U.S.-bound individuals, from applications to arrivals. For instance, we are enhancing applicant interviews by making them more intensive and helping interviewers better identify hidden terror ties, signs of radicalization, and fraud. We are requiring more data from applicants on their backgrounds, employment history, associates, travel, and more to verify their claims and detect unusual activity. We are also better leveraging biometrics to validate traveler identities and spot persons of interest.
Investigations are also being intensified. DHS is bringing investigations into the digital age by collecting more social media data from applicants and screening it against classified and unclassified information, as appropriate. Our frontline personnel are fusing more intelligence into the immigration and travel process to uncover previously unknown terrorism, criminal, and other suspicious connections. We are expanding round-the-clock security checks, ensuring that, where appropriate, individuals are continuously vetted against intelligence and criminal databases, rather than only at the time of their application.
Additionally, travel and arrival procedures have been tightened. As noted earlier, we are launching sweeping aviation security enhancements so that all U.S.-bound passenger flights are better protected against insider threats, concealed explosives, and dangerous travelers. DHS has bolstered dedicated counterterrorism teams at U.S. ports of entry, allowing us to more effectively catch terror suspects that may have slipped through the cracks. We have already seen very real successes from this array of enhancements. I cannot get into the details in this setting, but I can share that these measures have allowed us to detect and disrupt terror suspects we likely would not have identified otherwise.
In the medium term, DHS is looking at making further improvements. We are examining broad ways to streamline how we organize our vetting activities across the interagency. This includes consolidating screening and vetting functions, further integrating intelligence data where appropriate, and better leveraging law enforcement information.
The Department has also implemented historic efforts to step up international cooperation. For the first time ever, DHS established a clear baseline for what countries must do to help the United States confidently screen travelers and immigrants from their territory. Every country in the world is now required to meet high security standards and to help us understand who is coming into our country. As required under President Trump’s Executive Order Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States (EO 13780), all foreign governments have been notified of the new standards, which include the sharing of terrorist identities, criminal history information, and other data needed to ensure public safety and national security, as well as the requirement that countries issue secure biometric passports, report lost and stolen travel documents to INTERPOL, and take other essential actions to prevent identity fraud.
DHS assessed whether countries meet the new standards, in coordination with the Department of State and the Department of Justice. For countries that failed to do so, DHS recommended to the President that nationals of those countries be subject to tailored entry restrictions or other lawful limitations and security enhancements, which he effectuated through a Presidential proclamation in October. Most foreign governments already meet the minimum standards we outlined or are on the path to doing so. But we are working closely with the governments that did not meeting the standards, and we have warned countries that are willfully noncompliant that the United States puts the security of its people first and will continue to enforce these reasonable, baseline requirements and restrictions.
Let me be clear: this has nothing to do with race or religion, and our goal is certainly not to block people from visiting the United States. America is proud of its history as a beacon of hope to those who want to visit our country or become a part of our enduring democratic republic. Rather, the goal is to protect Americans and ensure foreign governments are working with us—and not inhibiting us—from stopping terrorists, criminals, and other national security threat actors from traveling into our communities undetected.
Visa Waiver Program
We are also looking at ways to further strengthen the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). First and foremost, the VWP is a security partnership program. It mandates high and consistent standards from partner countries in the areas of national security, law enforcement, and immigration enforcement to detect and prevent terrorists, criminals, and other potentially dangerous individuals from traveling to the United States—while still facilitating legitimate travel and tourism.
Currently, 38 countries participate in the VWP, which allows their citizens to travel to the United States for business or tourism for stays of up to 90 days after applying and being approved through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). In return, these countries must comply with program requirements to enter into information-sharing protocols that enable the relay of information concerning known and suspected terrorists and criminals; consistent and timely lost and stolen passport information reporting; and robust border and travel document screening. As a result of these program requirements, countries have adopted new laws, policies, and practices that strengthen our mutual security.
The Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, combined with Secretarial action, have strengthened the VWP’s security provisions over the past two years. VWP countries are now required to issue high-security electronic passports (e-passports); implement information sharing arrangements to exchange terrorist identity information; establish mechanisms to validate e-passports at each key port of entry; report all lost and stolen passports to INTERPOL or directly to the United States no later than 24 hours after the country becomes aware of the loss or theft; and screen international travelers against the INTERPOL Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database and notices. As with other operational activities of DHS, a full discussion of the privacy impact of these initiatives and how we mitigate the risk to personal privacy is available on our website.
Since enactment of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act, DHS has realized an increase in the sharing of terrorist identity information. Several countries have increased the frequency of their reporting of lost and stolen passports—VWP countries account for over 70 percent of the almost 73 million lost and stolen travel documents reported to INTERPOL. All VWP countries are now issuing and using for travel to the United States fraud-resistant e-passports that meet or exceed the ICAO standards. Over 70,000 ESTA applications have been denied, cancelled or revoked under enforcement of the VWP Improvement Act’s eligibility restrictions for VWP travel.
But there is always room for improvement. In May 2017, former Secretary Kelly directed the Department to review and provide options to further enhance VWP. Since then, DHS has worked—both internally and with our interagency partners—to evaluate a number of recommendations. Last month I announced new changes, as a result of this review, which will make our country more secure and make it harder for terrorists to cross international borders and, ultimately, to get closer to our shores.
Broadly, the new measures will require our foreign partners to use the counterterrorism data we provide them to screen travelers transiting their territory; expand and standardize our ability to share and receive information that enhances our ability to identify, monitor, and counter known and suspected terrorists and other individuals who may pose a threat to the United States; address the problem of visitors overstaying when traveling under the VWP; and synchronize efforts to raise security standards under TSA’s Global Aviation Security Plan, in particular by ensuring foreign partners are taking action to defend against insider threats to aircraft.
The bottom line is that, in order to attain and maintain VWP designation and visa-free travel to our territory, a country and its nationals cannot represent a threat to the United States and must be working in partnership with us to prevent terrorist travel. In all instances, as the Secretary of Homeland Security, I retain and will use the statutory authority to suspend or terminate a country’s participation in the VWP if there is a credible threat originating from that country that poses an imminent danger to the United States or its citizens.
We are also strengthening our border security and our enforcement of immigration laws. This Administration’s immigration principles will ensure safe and lawful admissions, defend the safety and security of our country, and protect American workers and taxpayers. Border security involves preventing illegal entry of goods and people along more than 7,000 miles of land along our southern and northern borders, approximately 95,000 miles of shoreline, and at 328 ports of entry. Overall, apprehensions at the southern border have decreased, which leads us to believe that fewer people are attempting illegal entry. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, there were 408,870 apprehensions at the Southern Border; in FY 2017, there were 303,916. That’s a decrease of nearly 26 percent and it represents the lowest level in 45 years.
However, make no mistake: that is nearly one thousand illegal immigrants coming across our border every day. This is an unacceptable risk to public safety and national security. Additionally, since last spring, we have seen a dangerous increase in border crossings by families and unaccompanied alien children. We must gain operational control of our borders. DHS needs Congressional support to deter illegal immigration and fully execute the President’s Executive Orders on immigration.
In compliance with Executive Order 13767: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, DHS has conducted a comprehensive study of the security of the southern border that addresses all of the elements that provide an integrated solution for the Nation. Our first priority is to expand on our existing southern border wall system and close legal loopholes that encourage and enable illegal immigration and create a corresponding backlog in the courts. We currently have an immigration court backlog of more than 650,000 cases pending before the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. We also have a massive asylum backlog with more than 270,000 pending cases before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Recognizing the unsustainability of the asylum case backlog, USCIS has implemented efficiency measures designed to reduce adjudication times. Similarly, the Department of Justice has taken action to reduce unwarranted case continuances in immigration courts, which helps reduce the backlog while affording aliens full and fair hearings. To further reduce the “pull factors” and restore integrity to our immigration benefits adjudication process, we must tighten case processing standards, including the “credible-fear” standard, impose and enforce penalties for fraud, and ensure applicants are fully vetted before they are allowed access to the United States.
We must expedite the removal of illegal border-crossers and ensure that unaccompanied alien children and their family members are safely and expeditiously returned to their home countries, if they are not eligible for asylum or other relief from removal, while at the same time appropriately processing those with valid protection claims. To reduce the immigration court backlog and make the removal process more efficient, we seek to hire an additional 1,000 ICE attorneys over the next few years, and support the Department of Justice’s hiring of an additional 370 Immigration Judges. We also seek to discourage illegal re-entry by enhancing penalties and expanding categories of inadmissibility.
In addition, visa-overstays account for roughly 40 percent of all illegal immigration in the United States. In FY 2016, more than 628,000 aliens overstayed their visas. By increasing overstay penalties and expanding ICE’s enforcement tools, we can help ensure that foreign workers, students, and visitors respect the terms of their temporary visas. We need Congress to authorize the Department to raise and collect fees from immigration benefit applications to fund additional enhancements to our immigration system called for by the President’s Executive Orders.
The President has outlined much of the above in his immigration legislation principles, and with Congress, we have reached a general consensus on four corners of an immigration deal: border security, to include the authority to remove people we apprehend quickly, according to the rule of law and court orders; ending the diversity visa; ending extended family chain migration; and finding a permanent solution for the current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients. While there are other items to be addressed, these four pillars are the minimum we need to secure our country.
We are looking for a permanent solution to our immigration and border security problems. We cannot be here again debating the same issue in two, five, or ten years. I look forward to working with any and all members of Congress to find a solution to our immigration and border security needs.
In the U.S. the illicit drug consumption has resulted in a national health crisis, as stated by President Trump regarding the opioid crisis. But the true threat is much broader and includes the increasing illicit drug supply trafficked into the United States by transnational criminal organizations. This is a National Security threat as stated in the National Security Strategy: “The United States must devote greater resources to dismantle transnational criminal organizations and their subsidiary networks…..Every day they deliver drugs to American communities, fuel gang violence, and engage in cybercrime. The illicit opioid epidemic, fed by drug cartels as well as Chinese fentanyl traffickers, kills tens of thousands of Americans each year.”
DHS is committed to improving our drug detection capability and refocusing our border security efforts to stop more of these deadly and pernicious substances from entering our country. DHS is working closely with its federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, to interdict shipments of fentanyl and other opioids in transit to the United States, and is targeting the these organizations domestically and internationally, to disrupt the flow of these dangerous drugs through illicit pathways into the United States.
Enforcing Immigration Laws
We are also prioritizing the enforcement of our immigration laws in the interior of our country. There are nearly one million aliens with final orders of removal across the country—meaning these removable aliens were afforded due process of law, had their day in court, and were ultimately ordered removed by a judge—yet they remain in our nation and ICE only has 6,000 Deportation Officers to arrest and remove them. The Administration looks to strengthen law enforcement by hiring 10,000 more ICE officers and agents, and supports the request from the Department of Justice to hire 300 more federal prosecutors.
To further protect our communities, we must end so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions. Hundreds of state and local jurisdictions across the country that do not honor requests from ICE to hold criminal aliens who are already in state and local custody. Instead, they allow them back into their communities, where they are allowed to commit more crimes. This also poses a greater risk of harm to ICE officers, who must locate and arrest these criminals in public places, and increases the likelihood that the criminal aliens can resist arrest or flee. Rather than enhancing public safety, sanctuary jurisdictions undermine it. The only “sanctuary” these jurisdictions create is a safe haven for criminals. States and localities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities should be ineligible for funding from certain grants and cooperative agreements. Authorizing and incentivizing states and localities to enforce immigration laws would further help ICE with its mission and make all communities safer.
In FY 2017, 1,761 criminal illegal aliens were released from ICE custody because of a 2001 Supreme Court decision that generally requires ICE to release certain removable aliens with final orders of removal—including violent criminals—within 180 days, if they have not been removed and there is no significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future. Legally insupportable judicial interpretations of the law regarding the detention and removability of criminal aliens have eroded ICE’s authority to keep aliens in custody pending removal. I urge Congress to legislatively correct these errors and expand the authority for mandatory detention for criminal aliens. This will help end years of court-ordered “catch-and-release” and improve community safety.
Buy American, Hire American
With the issuance of Executive Order 13788, Buy American and Hire American, the President directed me, along with the Secretaries of State and Labor and the Attorney General, to propose new rules and issue new guidance, and revise existing rules and guidance as soon as practicable, “to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud and abuse.” I take that directive to heart. The Department is fully committed to eradicating fraud and abuse in our immigration system in order to serve the interests of Americans. Such a system must help create higher wages and employment rates for U.S. workers, and protect their economic interests by seeking to ensure that employment-based visas are awarded to the most-skilled beneficiaries. DHS is working on a combination of rulemaking, policy memoranda, and operational changes to implement this important initiative.
Pursuant to this Executive Order, USCIS announced it will take a more targeted approach to combatting fraud and abuse in the employment-based visa programs, including the H-1B program. To help end H-1B petitioner fraud and abuse, USCIS has established a Targeted Site Visit and Verification Program (TSVVP). Targeted site visits allow USCIS to focus its resources where fraud and abuse of certain programs are more likely to occur. TSVVP initially focused on H-1B petitions filed by companies that are H-1B dependent (as defined by statute), employers petitioning for H-1B workers who will be placed off-site at another company’s location, or cases where USCIS cannot validate the H-1B petitioner’s business information through commercially-available data.
USCIS has also taken great strides to improve transparency with the public about employment-based immigration programs. The agency has published new data on its website to give the public more information regarding the use of nonimmigrant workers in the H-1B, H-2B, and L nonimmigrant programs. Information about the use and legal authority for employment authorization documents has also been published.
In connection with protecting U.S. workers, the Department is looking at ways to expand and enhance the E-Verify system. Currently, more than 700,000 employers use the free, web-based system to verify the work eligibility of their workforce. By preventing employers from hiring illegal alien labor and displacing U.S. workers, we can improve job opportunities and raise wages for U.S. workers by making it more difficult for illegal aliens to obtain lawful employment. We need Congress to pass legislation to strengthen the E-verify program and, at a minimum, make it mandatory for all employers. The Department stands ready to implement such a directive.
Going forward, DHS will release additional data about immigration programs that affect employment, and additional policies and regulations will be revised in accordance with Executive Order 13788.
As my predecessors often noted, DHS enforces the laws but has no power to make them; only Congress can do that. The President has repeatedly made clear that our immigration system must serve the national interest, and I ask this Committee to consider legislative reforms to implement the Administration’s immigration principles. We need Congress to act to make our streets safer, to give our officials the tools they need to protect American workers, and provide relief to those who are lawfully eligible for protection under our immigration laws. DHS remains committed to working with Congress to achieve these important objectives.
Legal Immigration Reforms
The United States has one of the most generous immigration systems in the world. Every day, an average of nearly 2,000 people become U.S. citizens. Our Nation has a long history of welcoming immigrants who came to this country in search of freedom and opportunity. Providing lawful permanent resident status based primarily on merit—not solely on family connections—would promote assimilation, financial independence, and upward mobility for immigrants. By establishing a points-based system for merit-based migration, the predominant system in most developed countries, we can attract the highest-caliber immigrants, and begin to roll back decades of policies that have suppressed wages, contributed to income disparities, fueled unemployment, and strained state and federal resources.
Therefore, our immigration system must be radically reformed to meet the economic needs of our country. Most low-skilled immigration into the United States occurs legally through our immigrant-visa system, which, unlike many other countries’ systems, prioritizes family-based chain-migration. Each year, the United States grants lawful permanent resident status (green cards) to more than one million people; two-thirds of that total is based on a person having a sponsoring relative in the United States, regardless of the new immigrant’s skills, education, English language proficiency, or ability to successfully assimilate. This system of chain-migration has accounted for more than 60 percent of immigration into the United States over the past 35 years. We must end chain-migration, and limit family-based green cards to spouses and the minor children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
We must also eliminate the “diversity visa” lottery. Every year, through this lottery, 50,000 green cards are awarded at random to foreign nationals. Many of these lottery beneficiaries have absolutely no ties to the United States, no special skills, and limited education. The random lottery program has not been adopted by other countries and does not adequately serve our national interest.
Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, and distinguished members of the Committee, I thank you again for the opportunity to testify today. The challenges I have laid out are great, but the Department stands ready to execute its mission to secure the homeland. In partnership with Congress, we will continue to adapt to meet the current threat environment and prepare for the future. I look forward to your questions.Topics:
Release Date:January 14, 2018
Due to a federal court order, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has resumed accepting requests to renew a grant of deferred action under DACA. Until further notice, and unless otherwise provided in this guidance, the DACA policy will be operated on the terms in place before it was rescinded on Sept. 5, 2017.
Individuals who were previously granted deferred action under DACA may request renewal by filing Form I-821D (PDF), Form I-765 (PDF), and Form I-765 Worksheet (PDF), with the appropriate fee or approved fee exemption request, at the USCIS designated filing location, and in accordance with the instructions to the Form I-821D (PDF) and Form I-765 (PDF). USCIS is not accepting requests from individuals who have never before been granted deferred action under DACA. USCIS will not accept or approve advance parole requests from DACA recipients.
If you previously received DACA and your DACA expired on or after Sept. 5, 2016, you may still file your DACA request as a renewal request. Please list the date your prior DACA ended in the appropriate box on Part 1 of the Form I-821D.
If you previously received DACA and your DACA expired before Sept. 5, 2016, or your DACA was previously terminated at any time, you cannot request DACA as a renewal (because renewal requests typically must be submitted within one year of the expiration date of your last period of deferred action approved under DACA), but may nonetheless file a new initial DACA request in accordance with the Form I-821D and Form I-765 instructions. To assist USCIS with reviewing your DACA request for acceptance, if you are filing a new initial DACA request because your DACA expired before Sept. 5, 2016, or because it was terminated at any time, please list the date your prior DACA expired or was terminated on Part 1 of the Form I-821D, if available.
Deferred action is a discretionary determination to defer a removal action of an individual as an act of prosecutorial discretion. Further, deferred action under DACA does not confer legal status upon an individual and may be terminated at any time, with or without a Notice of Intent to Terminate, at DHS’s discretion. DACA requests will be adjudicated under the guidelines set forth in the June 15, 2012 DACA memo (PDF).
Additional information will be forthcoming.
Release Date:January 11, 2018
Today is DHS’s Blue Campaign’s “Wear Blue Day”
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen released the following statement on Human Trafficking Awareness Day:
“Make no mistake, human trafficking is modern-day slavery. Through use of force, fraud, or coercion, people around the world are robbed of their freedom and forced into labor or commercial sex acts. Human traffickers do not discriminate based on nationality, age, gender, or socioeconomic status. Across the world—in rural towns and urban areas alike—innocent men and women are targeted and exploited.
“Human trafficking is the antithesis of everything the free world represents, and the Department of Homeland Security is not standing idly by. In airports, along borders, and in communities across the country, our officers and agents are trained to identify those being victimized by criminals, including transnational criminal organizations.
“Through President Trump’s immigration priorities, we will secure our borders, enforce laws within our country, and create an immigration system that protects the American people. By empowering law enforcement officers to do their jobs and providing them with the resources they need, we can more effectively combat human trafficking.
“Today, we reaffirm our commitment to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking. I encourage all Americans to learn how to recognize the signs of trafficking, and join the fight to end these heinous crimes.”
DHS’s Blue Campaign is the unified voice on the Department’s efforts to combat human trafficking. Working in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations, Blue Campaign strives to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.
Through Blue Campaign, DHS raises public awareness about human trafficking, leveraging partnerships to educate the public to recognize human trafficking and report suspected instances. Blue Campaign also offers training to law enforcement and others to increase detection and investigation of human trafficking, and to protect victims and bring suspected traffickers to justice. To view all available Blue Campaign resources, please visit our resources page. January 11th marks “Wear Blue Day” to raise awareness of Blue Campaign efforts.
Secretary Nielsen joins the team wearing blue at the Office of Partnership and Engagement on Human Trafficking Awareness Day to raise awareness to end human trafficking. (DHS Official Photo/Meagan Blake)
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Release Date:January 10, 2018
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
WASHINGTON – Today, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen released the following statement on the introduction of the Goodlatte-McCaul legislation:
“I appreciate the leadership of Chairmen Goodlatte and McCaul, Representatives Labrador and McSally and key staff in crafting this bill. The legislation introduced today reflects many of the policy principles and priorities identified by DHS’s frontline personnel which the Administration has advocated for this past year. I look forward to working with Members as they consider this and other legislation that will help us secure our borders, provide necessary enforcement authorities, and end diversity visas and extended family chain migration. Collectively, these elements are significant factors when it comes to protecting Americans and the Homeland.”
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Release Date:January 9, 2018
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
WASHINGTON – Today, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Press Secretary Tyler Q. Houlton released the following statement on U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) December Southwest Border Migration numbers:
“The final border apprehension numbers of 2017, specifically at the southern border, undeniably prove the effectiveness of President Trump’s commitment to securing our borders. This administration has overseen a 40 percent decrease in 2017 compared with the last year of Obama’s presidency. U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions in Fiscal Year 2017 were at the lowest level in 45 years. The significant increase over the last month in the number of family units and unaccompanied children coming across the border illegally highlights the dire need for Congress to immediately adopt responsible pro-American immigration reforms. Current loopholes in our immigration laws have created an incentive for illegal immigrants who knowingly exploit these same loopholes to take advantage of our generosity. The Secretary will require fixes to these loopholes as part of any immigration package negotiated today at the White House.”
CBP December Southwest Border Migration numbers are available here.
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Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen Announcement on Temporary Protected Status for El SalvadorRelease Date:January 8, 2018
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Nielsen Carefully Considered Conditions on the Ground
WASHINGTON— Today, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced her determination that termination of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for El Salvador was required pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act. To allow for an orderly transition, she has determined to delay the termination for 18 months. The designation will terminate on Sept. 9, 2019.
The decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador was made after a review of the disaster-related conditions upon which the country’s original designation was based and an assessment of whether those originating conditions continue to exist as required by statute. Based on careful consideration of available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, the Secretary determined that the original conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist. Thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated.
The Department of Homeland Security has conducted extensive outreach to Salvadoran communities throughout the country. This includes, but is not limited to, community forums on TPS, panel discussions with Salvadoran community organizers, stakeholder teleconferences, regular meetings with TPS beneficiaries, news releases to the Salvadoran community, meetings with Salvadoran government officials, meetings at local churches, and listening sessions. The Secretary met recently with the El Salvadorian Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the United States, and spoke with President Sánchez Cerén.
Following the 2001 earthquake, El Salvador received a significant amount of international aid to assist in its recovery efforts, including millions of dollars dedicated to emergency and long-term assistance. Many reconstruction projects have now been completed. Schools and hospitals damaged by the earthquakes have been reconstructed and repaired, homes have been rebuilt, and money has been provided for water and sanitation and to repair earthquake damaged roads and other infrastructure. The substantial disruption of living conditions caused by the earthquake no longer exist.
Additionally, in recent years, the U.S. government has been repatriating individuals back to El Salvador - more than 39,000 in the last two years - demonstrating that the temporary inability of El Salvador to adequately return their nationals after the earthquake has been addressed.
To allow for an orderly transition, the effective date of the termination of TPS for El Salvador will be delayed 18 months to provide time for individuals with TPS to arrange for their departure or to seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible. Salvadorans in the United States who benefited from TPS may still receive other protections under our immigration system for which they are eligible.
The 18 months will also provide time for El Salvador to prepare for the return and reintegration of its citizens. During this timeframe, DHS will work with the Department of State and the Government of El Salvador to help educate relevant stakeholders and facilitate an orderly transition. In addition to materials posted online, DHS components will participate in outreach activities such as teleconferences, town halls and roundtables to ensure that affected populations have a full and accurate understanding of their rights and obligations.
Only Congress can legislate a permanent solution addressing the lack of an enduring lawful immigration status of those currently protected by TPS who have lived and worked in the United States for many years. The 18-month delayed termination will allow Congress time to craft a potential legislative solution.
Salvadorans with TPS will be required to re-register for TPS and apply for Employment Authorization Documents in order to legally work in the United States until the termination of El Salvador’s TPS designation becomes effective Sept. 9, 2019. Further details about this termination for TPS, including the re-registration period, will appear in a Federal Register notice. Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries should not submit re-registration applications until the re-registration period is announced through the Federal Register notice.
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