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Appropriations Committee Releases FY2018 DHS Bill, Includes $1.6 Billion For Border Wall

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Posted: 2:22 am ET

 

On July 11, the House Appropriations Committee released its proposed fiscal year 2018 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bill, which will be considered by the subcommittee on July 12. The legislation directs $44.3 billion in discretionary funding for DHS, an increase of $1.9 billion above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. The bill includes $1.6 billion for physical barrier construction along the U.S. southern border. It also includes $6.8 billion – the same as the President’s request – for disaster relief and emergency response activities through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), according to the Committee’s statement.

The bill highlights include the following:

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

The bill contains $13.8 billion in discretionary appropriations for CBP – an increase of $1.6 billion above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. These resources ensure our borders are protected by putting boots on the ground, improving infrastructure and technology, and helping to stem the flow of illegal goods both into and out of the country. Within this total, the legislation includes:

  • $1.6 billion for physical barrier construction along the Southern border – including bollards and levee improvements – meeting the full White House request;
  • $100 million to hire 500 new Border Patrol agents;
  • $131 million for new border technology;
  • $106 million for new aircraft and sensors; and
  • $109 million for new, non-intrusive inspection equipment.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – The bill provides $7 billion for ICE –$619.7 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Within this total, the legislation includes:

  • $185.6 million to hire 1,000 additional law enforcement officers and 606 support staff;
  • $2 billion – an increase of $30 million above the requested level – for domestic and international investigations programs, including efforts to combat human trafficking, child exploitation, cybercrime, visa screening, and drug smuggling;
  • $4.4 billion for detention and removal programs, including:
  • 44,000 detention beds, an increase 4,676 beds over fiscal year 2017;
  • 129 Fugitive Operations teams; and
  • Criminal Alien Program operations, including the addition of 26 new communities to the 287(g) program, which partners with local law enforcement to process, arrest, and book illegal immigrants into state or local detention facilities.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

The bill includes $7.2 billion for TSA – a decrease of $159.8 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This includes full funding ($3.2 billion) for Transportation Security Officers, privatized screening operations, and passenger and baggage screening equipment, in order to speed processing and wait times for travelers and cargo. This also includes $151.8 million to hire, train, and deploy 1,047 canine teams to further expedite processing time.

Cybersecurity and Protection of Communications

To combat increasingly dangerous and numerous cyber-attacks, the bill includes a total of $1.8 billion for the National Protection and Programs Directorate to enhance critical infrastructure and prevent hacking.

Within this amount, $1.37 billion is provided to help secure civilian (.gov) networks, detect and prevent cyber-attacks and foreign espionage, and enhance and modernize emergency communications. Funds are also included to enhance emergency communications capabilities and to continue the modernization of the Biometric Identification System.

Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS)

The legislation does not fund most CIS activities, as these are funded outside the appropriations process through the collection of fees However, the bill does contain $131 million for E-Verify, which is funded within CIS and helps companies ensure their employees may legally work in the United States.

SEC. 107 of the bill requires the following:

(a) Not later than 30 days after the date  of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Committees on the Judiciary of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate, and the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives, a report for fiscal year 2017 on visa overstay data by country as required by section 1376 of title 8, United States Code: Provided, That the report on visa overstay data shall also include—

(1) overstays from all nonimmigrant visa categories under the immigration laws, delineated by each of the classes and sub-classes of such categories; and 

(2) numbers as well as rates of overstays for each class and sub-class of such nonimmigrant categories on a per country basis.

(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall publish on the Department’s website the metrics developed to measure the effectiveness of security between the ports of entry, including the methodology and data supporting the resulting measures. 

For the complete text of the FY 2018 Subcommittee Draft Homeland Security Appropriations bill, see: http://docs.house.gov/meetings/AP/AP15/20170712/106241/BILLS-115HR-SC-AP-FY2018-HSecurity-FY2018HomelandSecurityAppropriationsBill-SubcommitteeDraft.pdf

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Trump White House Reportedly Considering Folding CA and PRM to Homeland Security

Posted: 3:43 am ET

 

Last week, we blogged about Carl Risch who was recently nominated to be the next Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Consular Affairs (State/CA).  See Ex-FSO Who Once Advocated Moving Visas to DHS May be the Next Asst Secretary For Consular Affairs. On Wednesday, CNN came out with a report about the Trump White House is reportedly considering a proposal to move both CA and PRM to the Department of Homeland Security. The report says the memo came from the WH Domestic Policy Council.  Trump’s DPC page currently says “Domestic Policy Council – Check back soon for more information.”

According to the Obama White House, Executive Order in 1993, established the Domestic Policy Council (DPC) to coordinate the domestic policy-making process in the White House, to ensure that domestic policy decisions and programs are consistent with the President’s stated goals, and to monitor implementation of the President’s domestic policy agenda.

The DPC is chaired by the President and comprised of the following Council members (see if you can spot who’s missing):

  • Vice President;
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services;
  • Attorney General; Secretary of Labor;
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs;
  • Secretary of the Interior;
  • Secretary of Education;
  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development;
  • Secretary of Agriculture;
  • Secretary of Transportation;
  • Secretary of Commerce;
  • Secretary of Energy;
  • Secretary of the Treasury;
  • Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency;
  • Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers;
  • Director of the Office of Management and Budget;
  • Assistant to the President for Economic Policy;
  • Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy;
  • Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of National Service;
  • Senior Advisor to the President for Policy Development;
  • Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy;
  • AIDS Policy Coordinator; and
  • such other officials of Executive departments and agencies as the President may, from time to time designate.

You can read the full Executive Order here.

A January 5 Transition announcement includes the following appointments to the DPC; director and council report to the Senior Advisor to the President for Policy, Stephen Miller.

Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council - Andrew Bromberg -worked at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2001 to 2009, including serving as the Chief of Staff for the Office of Public Health and Science. He later served as Policy Advisor and Counsel on Nominations for Senator Mitch McConnell. He worked as the Policy Director for the 2016 Republican Party Platform. He now works in a lead policy and administrative role on the Presidential Transition Team.

Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council and Director of Budget Policy  – Paul Winfree – Director of the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, the Center for Data Analysis and the Richard F. Aster Research Fellow, all at The Heritage Foundation. Prior to joining Heritage, Mr. Winfree was the Director of Income Security on the U.S. Senate Committee on the Budget.

Via CNN:

The White House is considering a proposal to move both the State Department bureau of Consular Affairs and its bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration to the Department of Homeland Security, a senior White House official tells CNN.

The move, which the White House official cautioned was far from becoming official policy, would likely be controversial among diplomats and experts in State Department matters.
[…]
The proposals were written in a memo submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget from the White House Domestic Policy Council as part of President Trump’s March executive order pushing for ideas for Government Reorganization.
[…]
A senior White House official cautioned that the proposal was far from becoming policy, telling CNN that the idea of moving the longstanding State Department bureaus to the Department of Homeland Security is “one among many in a document resulting from a brainstorming session focused on improving efficiencies across government. None has been reviewed in great depth, let alone formally approved.”
More ….

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Snapshot: Countries With Nationals in the U.S. on Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

Posted: 1:12 am ET

 

From CRS via Secrecy News:

When civil unrest, violence, or natural disasters erupt in spots around the world, concerns arise over the safety of foreign nationals from these troubled places who are in the United States. Provisions exist in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to offer temporary protected status (TPS) and other blanket forms of relief from removal under specified circumstances. A foreign national who is granted TPS receives a registration document and an employment authorization for the duration of TPS.

The United States currently provides TPS to over 300,000 foreign nationals from a total of 13 countries: El Salvador, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Liberians have had relief from removal for the longest period, first receiving TPS in March 1991 following the outbreak of civil war, and again in 2014 due to the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease. The Administration designated TPS for foreign nationals from Yemen in 2015 due to the ongoing armed conflict in the country. Pressure is now on the Administration to extend TPS to migrants from Central America because of criminal and security challenges in the region.

Under the INA, the executive branch grants TPS or relief from removal. The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, has the discretion to issue TPS for periods of 6 to 18 months and can extend these periods if conditions do not change in the designated country. Congress has also provided TPS legislatively.

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Related item:

CRS: Temporary Protected Status: Current Immigration Policy and Issues (Feb 2016) PDF

 

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@StateDept Spox Talks About K-Visas Again … C’mon Folks, This Is Not Fun to Watch

Posted: 2:57 am EDT

 

This is a follow-up to our post Dear @StateDept, You Need Bond. Michele Bond at the Daily Press Briefing. On December 14, State Department spokesman John Kirby got his turn to answer questions about K-visas at the podium.  Prior to the exchange below, Mr. Kirby told the press that “Again, I’m not an expert on process… we can get somebody who’s much better at this than me to walk you through how that’s done, okay?”

Folks, you need your expert there last week!  C’mon, this is not fun to watch.

dosomething

 

QUESTION: John, another visa question. The Wall Street Journal has just put out an alert saying that the United States is working on a plan to scrutinize social media in visa reviews. And in the text of their story, they say that the Department of Homeland Security is working on such a plan. I have myself never fully understood the different responsibilities between the State Department, which issues the visas and conducts the interviews, and DHS, which performs some kind of a review prior to the issuance of a visa. So, I guess, two questions: One, can you explain to me the difference between those roles? And two, given that the State Department already has the option to scrutinize social media, why DHS is just kind of cottoning onto this?

MR KIRBY: Well, I won’t speak for DHS and decisions that they might be making. I think – I have not seen that report, but it’s very much consistent with what I think I’ve been saying here, that we are also looking at the use of social media in the visa application process.

Again, with my vast experience here at the State Department, I’ll do the best I can to try to summarize this, and I’ll ask Elizabeth, who’s been a consular officer, to jump if she thinks I get this wrong. And I mean that, you should. As I understand it, we are the overseas arm here. DHS is the homeland arm of the process of an individual who wants to come the United States for whatever legal reason – marriage, want to cover a story, whatever. So somebody applies for a visa over there, and our embassy or consuls will examine that application and make certain decisions about whether it’s going to be permitted or not – approved or not. And again, that process can take any – a different, variant amount of time based on the individual. And again, it’s all done by case – case by case.

The simple act of a consular officer saying, “Okay, it’s approved; you can travel to the United States,” doesn’t actually mean that the individual is going to be able to complete that travel, because there’s – DHS does help in this process. But where they really are important is at port of entry here in the United States. So when an individual – and all of us have traveled overseas. You go up to the customs desk and then they are the – they’re the final point at which an individual is allowed to enter or not, and that’s where DHS is most critical is at the port of entry and doing yet another validation of the permission, the – which is what a visa is. It’s basically us saying you are permitted to travel, where they get that sort of final vote in validating that permission.

So it’s got to be – and as I understand it, it’s not a simple, clean handoff either. I mean, there’s constant coordination and communication between State and DHS throughout the process of one’s application. But ultimately DHS gets the final say when an individual gets to the United States.

Did I cover that well enough? Okay, thanks.

QUESTION: DHS must get involved before they simply show up on American shores?

MR KIRBY: Yeah, as I said, it’s not a clean handoff. It’s not like the State Department says okay, here’s —

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: I mean we work with DHS throughout the application process and approval.

QUESTION: And are you saying that the DHS and the State Department may have different standards and policies as it applies to, for instance, scrubbing social media?

MR KIRBY: I don’t – I don’t know what DHS’s policies are, so I can’t speak for that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: But it is a factor in our process.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MR KIRBY: And in light of what happened in San Bernardino, I can assure you that we’re going to continue to look at social media practices and platforms going forward. And we’re going to do this – we’re doing this review in concert with DHS, and I think it’s safe to assume that as we conduct the review, when we learn things – if there’s things that we can do better, we’ll do it better as a team, not individually.

QUESTION: Right. I just wonder if people are pointing fingers right now saying, “No, you were supposed to check that; that was your deal.” Whose deal is it?

MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any finger pointing that’s going on inside the interagency right now. What we want to do is cooperate with investigators, learn as much as we can about how this happened, and do whatever we can to try to prevent it from happening again. And I can tell you – again, I don’t like speaking for another agency, but I think I’m on safe ground saying that Secretary Johnson shares Secretary Kerry’s concern that we work in concert and as a team as we both cooperate with the investigation and conduct this review.

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Burn Bag: Greece remains in the Visa Waiver Program. Why?

Via Burn Bag:

“Although Greece’s economy has imploded, and media now report on Syrians traveling to the Western Hemisphere on fraudulent Greek passports, Greece remains in the Visa Waiver Program.  There must be a reason for this.”

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Related items:

 

 

Snapshot: Top Ten L-1 Employers, FY 2002 – FY 2011

— By Domani Spero

The top employers on this list — TataCognizantWipro and Infosys (with the exception of IBM India Private Limited ranked #8 on H-1Bs) are also the top users of new H-1B visa application approvals in fiscal year 2012 according to Computerworld.

via DHS/OIG

An L-1 employee sent to work temporarily in the United States by the petitioning employer must qualify in one of two subcategories:

  • L-1A – an alien performing services in a managerial or executive capacity.
  • L-1B – an alien performing services as a specialized knowledge worker.

Most L-1 petitions are adjudicated by Immigration Services Officers (ISOs) at the California and Vermont Service Centers. After USCIS approves a petition for a beneficiary who is overseas, a Department of State (DOS) consular officer interviews the individual at a U.S. consulate or embassy. Immigration Officers at ports of entry have the last say on whether an alien carrying a visa is allowed entry into the United States.

 

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Peakniks and Pandemic: Implications for the Foreign Service

Just this week, AP reports that an influential group of physicians has drafted a grimly specific list of recommendations for which patients wouldn’t be treated in a flu pandemic or other disaster. The suggested list was compiled by a task force whose members come from prestigious universities, medical groups, the military and government agencies and included the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.

According to AP: “the task force suggests that hospitals should designate a triage team with the Godlike task of deciding who will and who won’t get lifesaving care. Those out of luck are the people at high risk of death and a slim chance of long-term survival.” The recommendations are specific, and include the following:

  • People older than 85
  • Those with severe trauma, which could include critical injuries from car crashes and shootings.
  • Severely burned patients older than 60
  • Those with severe mental impairment, which could include advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Those with a severe chronic disease, such as advanced heart failure, lung disease or poorly controlled diabetes.

The AP report cited Public health law expert Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University who called the report an important initiative but also “a political minefield and a legal minefield.” And that these recommendations would probably violate federal laws against age discrimination and disability discrimination, said Gostin, who was not on the task force. If followed to a tee, such rules could exclude care for the poorest, most disadvantaged citizens who suffer disproportionately from chronic disease and disability, he said. While health care rationing will be necessary in a mass disaster, “there are some real ethical concerns here.”

That may be, but so is the policy of “remain in country” for overseas Americans and “shelter in place” for official government employees. What are the real ethical concerns of leaving our nationals to fend for themselves overseas (is there one, they went by choice)? What about leaving the people who work for our Government overseas (is there one, they signed up for worldwide availability)? Perhaps it is useful to note here that the pandemic of 1918-1919 which was the most severe in history caused at least 675,000 in the United States but up to 50 million deaths worldwide. I’ve asked the Official Historian what happened to our diplomats overseas in 1918 but have not heard anything.

The Remain in Country During Pandemic flyer reminds overseas Americans:

“Remember that U.S. embassies, consulates and military facilities lack the legal authority, capability, and resources to dispense medications, vaccines or medical care to private American citizens overseas. If you are a private American citizen (e.g. living, working, touring, studying overseas) you will need to rely on local health care providers and locally-available medications since U.S. government facilities will not be able to provide medications or treat you.”

In short – you’re on your own. The www.pandemic.gov website has this checklist for US businesses with overseas operation.

But apparently official Americans, our Foreign Service folks will also be asked to “shelter in place,” wherever that might be; which means – no evacuations from anywhere, no C-130 Hercules military transport plane will come get us. Since majority of the FS are deployed overseas, we too, will be on our own in a foreign country. Have we, at least, done a table-top exercise on this? Is there any post out there who has conducted a pandemic scenario in a table-top exercise? I really would like to know.

The flyer further states:

“Based on varying conditions abroad, Americans should prepare contingency plans and emergency supplies (non-perishable food, potable water or water-purification supplies, medication, etc.) for the possibility of remaining in country for at least two and up to twelve weeks.”

Let’s say we have a medium size post with 500 official Americans and family members. The pandemic preparation website indicates that we need at least 1 gallon of water a day per person. Right there, for a 500-person post, we would need 500 gallons a day. That’s a 7,000 gallon requirement in two weeks and a 42,000 gallon requirement in 12 weeks. We would have quite a conundrum, won’t we? – and that’s just with water.

So the question asks by BBC Magazine, “Do you need to stock up the bunker?” somehow got stuck in my head and would not let me be. Brendan O’Neill writes that “there are scientists who believe that bird flu could shift so it could pass from human to human, resulting in a global pandemic that could kill 50 million people. But that there are threats that seem more immediate. The price of food is rising dramatically and oil is at record prices. Even brief periods of crisis can have severe consequences.”

Apparently in some green discussion circles, those concerned about “peak” problems – that is, the potential for the production of things such as oil and food to peak and then to start declining – are now referred to as “Peakniks” according to the same article.

Also cited in the article was Barton Biggs, a former chief global strategist for Morgan Stanley and author of Wealth, War and Wisdom, who now runs the hedge fund Traxis Partners in New York, who suggests that all right-minded people should “assume the possibility of a breakdown of the civilized infrastructure.” He further elaborates: In a world in which people and systems are increasingly “interconnected”, the potential for infrastructure to collapse is great, he says. Political disturbances in Kenya, drought in Australia or crop disease in South America can quickly affect food prices in the UK. And globally, everything from modern mass agriculture to transport and industry is dependent on the availability of oil. “I’m just suggesting,” says Mr. Biggs, “that if you can afford it you should invest in a bolthole. A farm, perhaps, where you could live for a month and survive.” “I am talking Swiss Family Robinson,” he says, referring to the famous 1812 novel about a Swiss family that survives after being shipwrecked in the East Indies. “You should have food, water, medicine, clothes. And possibly AK47s to fire over the heads of any guys, depending on how bad things become.”

Since we are going to be ordered to “shelter in place,” Mr. Biggs’ survival kit advice of food, water, medicine, clothes, and AK47s, sounds good to me. I don’t know about a bolthole or a farm, I’m sure we have no appropriated money for that; would a vault do?