Posts tagged with "Department of Homeland Security"

Trump administration pulls welcome mat unless immigrants can pay their own way

August 14, 2019

President George Washington, known to this day as “the father of our country,” famously said, “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respected Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges ….”

However, now, that welcome mat is being pulled out from under the feet of both legal and illegal immigrants by the Trump administration, which on August 12 rolled out a sweeping rule that targets every newcomer who needs welfare benefits such as food stamps and government-subsidized housing.

According to a report by CBS News, the new regulation from the Department of Homeland Security would block the entry of any immigrants who would rely on a “public charge” or “public benefit” to provide the necessities of life.

Detailed in a more than 800-page document, the new regulation would dramatically expand the government’s definition of the centuries-old term “public charge,” effectively making it more difficult for certain low-income immigrants to secure permanent residency or temporary visas. The final and enforceable version of the rule is scheduled to be officially published on the Federal Register on August 14 and slated to go into effect in October.

The rule affects most aspects of life for immigrants — from medical care and English language proficiency, to food stamps and other welfare programs, according to the network news outlet.

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the DHS agency that administers benefits for immigrants, touted the change as a way to promote “self-sufficiency” and “success” among immigrant communities.

“Through the public charge rule, President Trump’s administration is re-enforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility ensuring immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America,” Cuccinelli told reporters at the White House on Monday. 

Immigration authorities currently ask green card applicants to prove they won’t be a burden on the country, but the new regulation, if enacted, would require caseworkers to consider the use of government housing, food and medical assistance such as the widely used Section 8 housing vouchers and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The rule would subject immigrant households that fall below certain income thresholds to the “public charge” test—which would also consider how well applicants speak, read and write English. Under the proposed rule, any diagnosed medical condition that requires extensive medical treatment would also “weigh heavily” in evaluations by caseworkers.

Asylum seekers and refugees would be exempt from this “public charge” test.

When the 60-day public comment window on the proposed rule closed last December, more than 260,000 comments had been sent to the Trump administration— nearly all of them, critical of the new regulation. However, those comments have not been considered in the creation of the rule.

Although the proposal does not include Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) assistance in its “public charge” considerations, researchers at the Health Policy Center believe immigrant parents, particularly in Latino and Asian American communities, will drop these benefits due to concerns surrounding their immigration status and ability to remain in the U.S. legally with their children.

Their only hope? As soon as the final rule was unveiled, several groups vowed to file lawsuits to try to block it, CBS News reported.

Research contact: @CBSNews

Nearly all asylum applicants from the last migrant caravan were allowed U.S. entry

October 29, 2018

More than 90% of the Central Americans who applied for asylum after arriving at the U.S. border in last spring’s caravan passed the first step of the application process and were allowed into the country, according to figures from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, BuzzFeed reported on October 26.

Of the 401 people whom USCIS considered to be part of the caravan, 374 (or 93%) passed what’s known as a credible fear of torture or persecution interview, during which immigration officials determine whether an asylum applicant has a well-founded suspicion that he or she will be tortured or persecuted back home because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

If they pass the interview with an asylum officer, their case goes before an immigration judge.

The high success rate of asylum seekers in the spring caravan—which arrived at the border in May following a month(s)-long trek across Mexico, may explain why the Trump administration now is considering ways to prevent new arrivals from applying for asylum at the border — something that is allowed under US immigration law. The overall success rate for asylum seekers’ credible fear interview has been 76% in 2018, BuzzFeed said.

Under a proposal that is still being debated inside the Trump administration, the president would issue a proclamation barring residents of certain countries from entering the United States as security risks. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice would then cite that proclamation to bar the asylum applicants.

According to the news outlet, “The move would be a sweeping change by the Trump administration to longstanding immigration practice and would undoubtedly draw a legal challenge. But advocates of the proposal believe a Supreme Court decision that allowed the Trump travel ban to go into effect earlier this year paved the way for such a step.”

Indeed, the president has repeatedly denounced the new caravan—which at one time numbered more than 7,000 people and is now about half that size—saying that it includes criminals, although nearly two-thirds of those fleeing persecution appear to be women and children. The majority of those in the new caravan are from Honduras and Guatemala.

“All of these threats and deterrents aren’t working because there is an actual credible refugee crisis,” Allegra Love, an immigration attorney who helped screen potential asylum-seekers during the last caravan, told BuzzFeed in an interview. “Short of closing the border to migrants and refugees there’s not a lot you can do,”

Love is concerned the Trump administration will close ports of entry to people with lawful asylum claims. “There are children on this caravan, I think we have to always remember we’re going to be closing doors to a child, not that adults don’t deserve the same compassion,” Love said. “We’re creating an international crisis.”

Research contact: adolfo.flores@buzzfeed.com

Shell game: Administration redirects funds to Mexico to conduct U.S. deportations

September 14, 2018

Build the wall! Build the wall!  That was the rallying cry from Trump’s base throughout his presidential campaign. After which the candidate would lead the chant, “Who’s gonna pay for it? Mexico.”

The times have changed—and the tables have turned. Now, as part of the administration’s campaign to stop illegal immigration, the United States plans instead to pay Mexico.

In a recent notice sent to Congress, the administration said it intended to take $20 million in foreign assistance funds and use it to help Mexico pay plane and bus fare to deport as many as 17,000 people who are in that country illegally, The New York Times reported on September 12.

According to the news outlet, the funding will help the POTUS to increase deportations of Central Americans, many of whom pass through Mexico to get to the American border.

In addition, in an effort to hype the plan to his nationwide base, the president has said that “any unauthorized immigrant in Mexico who is a known or suspected terrorist” will also be deported under the program, according to the notification, although such people are few in number.

Katie Waldman, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, told the Times that the program was intended to help relieve immigration flows at the United States border with Mexico.

“We are working closely with our Mexican counterparts to confront rising border apprehension numbers—specifically, a 38% increase in families this month alone—directly and to ensure that those with legitimate claims have access to appropriate protections,” Waldman said.

A spokesperson for the Mexican Embassy did not immediately respond to the news outlet’s request for comment.

Following the disclosure on September 13 that FEMA funds needed for hurricane recovery had been redirected to ICE for expansion of its detention center program, the plan to redirect foreign assistance funds becomes another example of the ways in which the administration is diverting money to serve its own priorities.

The administration has yet to spend nearly $3 billion in foreign aid, according to the Times—money allocated last year by Congress with broad bipartisan support. Hundreds of millions of dollars meant to help stabilize Syria and support Palestinian schools and hospitals already has been redirected.

The money will be transferred from the State Department to the Department of Homeland Security, and then sent to Mexico.

“Congress intended for this money to lift up communities dealing with crime, corruption and so many other challenges, not to expand this administration’s deportation crusade,” Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Times. “I want answers about why the State Department thinks it can ignore Congress and dump more cash into deportation efforts. Until then, I’ll do whatever I can to stop this.”

Under the program, Mexico would be responsible for detaining and providing judicial review of immigrants before deporting them. The sometimes cumbersome and lengthy legal process in the United States to deport asylum seekers has long frustrated President  Trump, who has often said the laws must be changed to speed deportations. Getting Mexico to do deportations instead would bypass that process.

 “We shouldn’t be paying another country to do our dirty work; we should actually be fixing our immigration system and helping these countries get back on solid footing,” said Ali Noorani, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “It smacks of desperation.”

Meanwhile, population levels at federally contracted shelters for migrant children have quietly shot up more than fivefold since last summer, according to data obtained by The New York Times, reaching a total of 12,800 this month. There were 2,400 such children in custody in May 2017.

Research contact: @GardinerHarris

UN Human Rights Office condemns U.S. separation of immigrant children and parents

June 7, 2018

The current policy in the United States of separating “extremely young children” from their asylum-seeker or migrant parents along the country’s southern border “always constitutes a child rights violation,” the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), said on June 5.

Since last October, “several hundred” youngsters —including a 12-month-old infant— have been separated from their families while their parents serve out prison sentences for entering the U.S. illegally, or wait in detention while their asylum claims are processed, OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland..

She said OHCHR had received information on cases dating from last October; although the policy had begun in January 2017 when the newly inaugurated president, Donald Trump, issued two executive orders related to migration.

The current separation of children “was a direct consequence of that decision,” Shamdasani said, adding that the policy is applied to asylum-seekers and other migrants “in vulnerable situations.” She noted that a class action has been brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of hundreds of parents—mainly from Central and Latin American countries—who have been separated from their children.

Shamdasani noted that there is “nothing normal about detaining children”, and that it “… is never in the best interests of the child and always constitutes a child rights violation”.

And on the legal issue of entering a country “without the right papers”, the UN human rights office spokesperson insisted that it should not be a criminal offence and “does not warrant jailing children”.

Once separated from their parents, Shamdasani said that children are often transferred into the care of the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, and that efforts are made to find them a temporary guardian. When their parents are released, youngsters are reunited with them and deported back to their country of origin. For the majority this means to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where “rampant insecurity and violence” has forced them to flee, she explained.

In a call for an end to the practice, Shamdasani noted that the United States “generally held in high regard” the rights of children.

And although it is the only UN Member State not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it had signed the international accord and ratified others, which meant that it had legal obligations to children in its car, the OHCHR spokesperson explained.

For its own part, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says 700 children have been separated from their parents since the fiscal year began last October. In making the case for the program early last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “If you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” NBC News reported. Sessions added, “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”

Administration officials explained that the goal of the program is 100% prosecution of all who enter the U.S. illegally. When adults are prosecuted and jailed, their children will be separated from them, just as would happen for a U.S. citizen convicted and jailed.

President Trump, himself, has said that the Democrats are to blame, because they will not fund his wall at the southern border.

Based on findings of an Ipsos poll conducted in February, fewer than one in five Democrats (18%) support building a wall or fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, while two-thirds of Republicans (68%) support the measure. A majority of Republicans (63%) also support a movement to end the ability of legal immigrants to bring extended family members to the United States compared to 30% of Democrats and 49% of Independents.

Notably, two-thirds of all Americans (65%) support giving legal status to undocumented or illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children, although partisan differences are still evident. Half of Republicans (51%) support this plan, along with two-thirds of Independents, and 81% of Democrats.

Research contact: @ipsosus

70% of power pros fear hacks could cause a ‘catastrophic failure’

April 20, 2018

Last month, a joint technical alert issued by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security put Americans on notice that Russia has hacked into critical U.S. energy infrastructure—and is capable of bring the grid down, at a time of its own choosing.

Just how concerned are energy security professionals? To find out, Dimensional Research conducted a poll on behalf of Tripwire among 151 IT and operational technology security professionals at energy and oil and gas companies.

The responses to the poll are scary enough to keep both energy professionals and the American public up at night: Close to all participants said they feared operational shutdowns and threats to their employees’ safety at 97% and 96%, respectively.

What’s more, fully 70% percent of these security professionals feared more dire consequences like an explosion and other “catastrophic failures.”

But they are on the case: 59% of those polled said their companies already have begun to increase security investments because of Incident Command System (ICS)-targeted attacks like Trisis/Triton, Industroyer/CrashOverride and Stuxnet. However, many feel they still don’t have the proper level of investment to meet ICS security goals.

Disturbingly enough, more than half (56%) of respondents to Tripwire’s survey felt it would take a significant attack to get their companies to invest in security properly

This may be the reason why just 35% of participants are taking a multilayered approach to ICS security – widely recognized as a best practice. Thirty-four percent said they were focusing primarily on network security; and 14%, on ICS device security.

Tim Erlin, vice president of Product Management and Strategy at Tripwire, is troubled by these findings. “It’s concerning,” he say, “that more than half would wait for an attack to happen before investing properly given what’s at stake with critical infrastructure. The energy industry should invest in establishing more robust cybersecurity strategies with a proper foundation of critical security controls and layers of defense.”

Research contact: rlapena@tripwire.com