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Posts Tagged ‘Department of Homeland Security’

Agree or disagree about what action the United States should take in Syria, but the U.S. missile attack on Syria last week must be a turning point in U.S. Syrian refugees policy.

It stands to reason that if the President of the United States could not turn a blind eye to an indiscriminate chemical attack that killed scores of civilians in Syria, that same President must not ignore the imperative that the United States accept and welcome Syrian civilians as refugees.

The Syrian people are clearly suffering. Families and individuals have been fleeing Syria in a desperate attempt to stay alive for years, and neighboring countries have taken on the greatest burden. In February 2016, it was estimated that Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt together took in more than 4.8 million Syrian refugees, and European countries have also taken in large numbers of Syrians and other refugees. In sharp contrast, the United States has taken in just over 18,000 Syrian refugees since 2011.

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Not much about the self-imposed insanity of the sequester makes sense, so it’s good to see something that does. “ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] officials have said they released a few hundred people in anticipation of the budget cuts set to hit on Friday,” CQ reported on Thursday. “The people released were low-priority detainees and are still being monitored by immigration authorities, they said.”

Of course, congressional Republicans opposed to immigration reform reacted with their usual hyperbole, charging that this release of “criminal aliens” was “putting the safety of the public at risk.” This is nonsense. If enforcement cuts are required under the sequester, as they are and should be, this is exactly the kind of saving that makes sense.

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Friday, June 15, was an exciting day. After years of advocacy on the part of individuals and organizations concerned about the plight of undocumented students, President Obama held a Rose Garden ceremony to announce temporary relief for young people who, though raised in the United States, have no legal immigration status because they were brought to the country illegally as children.

The policy change the president announced will allow undocumented young people who fit very specific criteria to apply for temporary relief from possible deportation under a little-known avenue called deferred action.

Deferred action is a policy of prioritization. It recognizes the need to focus Department of Homeland Security (DHS) enforcement resources on the highest-priority cases, while, at the same time, taking into account compelling circumstances of individual immigrants that warrant putting immigration enforcement on hold for a defined period of time. Recognizing that these individuals must support themselves while in the United States, there is the option to apply for work authorization.

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This blog post was originally published on Immigration Impact, a project of the American Immigration Council.

Current U.S. immigration law provides few options for foreign graduates of U.S. universities with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (“STEM” degrees) who want to stay here to contribute their skills and knowledge. Not enough American students are interested in these fields, even as employers regularly cannot find enough people with the high-tech and scientific knowledge and skills they need to fill available positions. Luckily for the United States, international students seek out these majors and excel in them. But increasingly, we lose these talented graduates to other competitor countries where immigration laws are friendlier. This is, of course, an enormous loss to the U.S. economy, as international students with STEM degrees often create successful businesses and jobs in the United States. Last week, DHS took a strong step forward by expanding the list of STEM fields for foreign graduates applying to training programs after graduation.

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Do you have feedback for SEVP about your recertification process, I-17 updates, or the evidence they’re requesting concerning your ESL program’s accreditation?  Do you want to hear the latest information about SEVIS II and how it may impact your business practices?  Are you interested in discussing your “Campus Sentinel visit” with the Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit or asking what to expect if you haven’t yet been visited?

You can speak with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials directly at the DHS Pavilion in the expo hall throughout NAFSA 2012 Annual Conference & Expo.  More than 50 DHS officials will staff the pavilion, including many from SEVP and others from Secretary Napolitano’s Office of Academic Engagement, USCIS, CBP, and the ICE Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit, among others.

NAFSA staff and the International Student and Scholar Regulatory Practice Committee (ISS-RP) conduct regular liaison with DHS on your behalf.  We communicate your concerns (gathered through IssueNet and other vehicles), make recommendations and requests, and provide information to DHS about your work and the enterprise of international education.  We report to you on our liaison activities and publish information and documents that we obtain.  And through her participation on DHS Secretary Napolitano’s Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC), NAFSA CEO Marlene Johnson will be able to bring NAFSAns’ concerns and recommendations to the attention of top DHS leadership.

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I was pleased to recently co-author an opinion piece with Asa Hutchinson, the first under secretary for border and transportation security for the Department of Homeland Security, on the subject of national security ten years after 9/11. You can read the piece below, or download a copy on the NAFSA Web site: “Examining Lessons Learned: Security and Openness in Post-9/11 America.” I look forward to your comments and hope you will join us in this important national conversation.


Examining Lessons Learned: Security and Openness in Post-9/11 America
By Asa Hutchinson and Marlene M. Johnson

Asa Hutchinson served as the first under secretary for border and transportation security in the newly created Department of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005 and represented Arkansas in the U.S. House of Representatives between 1997 and 2001. Marlene M. Johnson is executive director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

Mark Twain said, “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”

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The April 30 edition of the Washington Post carried an interesting Forum piece headlined “Getting Smarter on Intelligence” by Thomas Fingar and Mary Margaret Graham, former senior officials in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which was created in the post-9/11 restructuring of the intelligence community. The authors point out the unrecognized ways that the community’s performance is being transformed under DNI through the development of technologies and policies that foster and facilitate information sharing and collaborative work. These paragraphs caught my attention:

Technology has helped. Five years ago, Intellipedia — a classified collaborative tool similar to Wikipedia but used by analysts and collectors — was a timid and limited experiment in a single agency. No one had yet imagined A-Space, a cutting-edge collaborative electronic workspace in which analysts have access to data from all components of the intelligence community, social networking software that identifies others working on similar problems and data manipulation tools that were previously available to a select few. Time Magazine called A-Space one of the 50 best inventions of 2008. The Library of National Intelligence, a groundbreaking distributed repository of all disseminated intelligence reports that enable intelligence professionals to discover what we already know and how obtained information has been used, was not even a gleam in anyone’s eye. Today, all are proven and widely used tools that enable analysts (and, increasingly, collectors) to work together responsibly in cyberspace.

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In a speech today at the Center for American Progress, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made it clear that immigration reform must happen in order for her department to effectively meet the challenges and needs of the 21st century. As she set out the specific parameters of reforms, Napolitano highlighted the damage done to the U.S. economy under current laws that makes it difficult for the best and the brightest who attend U.S. colleges and universities to stay here and work upon graduation.

Secretary Napolitano views immigration reform as having three components:

  • Serious and effective enforcement
  • Legal channels for the entry for families and workers
  • Providing for those who are already in the United States

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It’s good to see the news media set the record straight on the details of the case of Hosam Smadi, the Jordanian national accused of attempting to blow up a Dallas office tower and originally reported to have been in the United States on a student visa. Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that, in fact, he was in the country on a tourist visa.

The Dallas Morning News made the correction only in a brief mention as part of a news round-up; to its credit, though, the paper took note of the importance of the distinction: “The difference is crucial: For foreign students, dropping out of school triggers a report to a central database and, often, a follow-up by immigration authorities. For those who arrive as tourists or workers, it’s almost certain authorities won’t take notice unless they apply for a driver’s license, get pulled over or arrested or call attention to themselves.”

Unfortunately this information didn’t come in time to prevent the usual misplaced outrage from anti-immigration pundits equating the highly regulated student visa system with a lax process that is easy to exploit. What’s clear is this: Any person using any type of visa to enter the United States to do harm to Americans should be prosecuted. As far as the student visa itself goes, it is not easy to obtain, and student visa holders are exhaustively tracked. The reality is that visa status will never be able to tell us much about a person’s intentions. Only good intelligence and investigation can do that.


*Update* On October 6, NAFSA sent the following letter on this subject. The Center for Immigration Studies has since corrected its error in an Author’s note.

Ms. Jessica Vaughan
Director of Policy Studies
Center for Immigration Studies

Dear Ms. Vaughan,

I am writing to request that you update your blog post on the Center for Immigration Studies Web site, titled “The Case of Hosam Maher Husein Smadi: Déjà Vu All Over Again,” to reflect the updated facts of this case, which are that Smadi did not use a student visa to enter the United States. The Department of Homeland Security confirmed on September 30 that in fact he was in the country on a tourist visa. Corrections have appeared in a number of subsequent news articles that have been published about the case. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Ursula Oaks
Media Relations Director
NAFSA: Association of International Educators

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