03/22/13: The New York Times reports more than two years after Homeland Security officials told Congress that they would produce new, more accurate standards to assess security at the nation’s borders, senior officials from the department acknowledged this week that they had not completed the new measurements and were not likely to in coming months, as the debate proceeds about overhauling the immigration system. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers were taken aback at a hearing on Wednesday in the House of Representatives when Mark Borkowski, a senior Homeland Security official, said he had no progress to report on a broad measure of border conditions the department had been working on since 2010. The lawmakers warned that failure by the Obama administration to devise a reliable method of border evaluation could imperil passage of immigration legislation. Amid contentious discussions in Congress over immigration, one point of wide agreement is that an evaluation of border security will be a central piece of any comprehensive bill. A bipartisan group in the Senate is working to write legislation that includes a “trigger,” which would make the path to citizenship for more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the country contingent on measurable advances in security at the borders. Lawmakers have been pressing Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to devise a measure they can use to judge if the Obama administration’s claims of significant progress in border enforcement are justified. Republican senators in the bipartisan group have said a border standard is pivotal to their efforts.
03/10/13: The Miami Herald reports federal officials have rescued seventy-one Haitian migrants found stranded on the shores of a cluster of islands just west of Puerto Rico. US Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard first rescued two migrants found on one island and then the remainder of the group from the island of Desecheo off the western coastal town of Rincón. Customs spokesman Jeffrey Quinones said Saturday that a large number of the Haitians were dehydrated and had bruises and scratches. They were taken to hospitals for treatment. The rescue comes a week after sixty-seven migrants from Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic were found in the same cluster of islands. One Haitian woman was found dead.
02/13/13: Reuters reports Egyptian forces have flooded smuggling tunnels under the border with the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip in an effort to shut them down. The network of tunnels is a vital lifeline for Gaza, bringing in an estimated 30 percent of all goods that reach the enclave and circumventing a blockade imposed by Israel for more than seven years. “The Egyptians have opened the water to drown the tunnels,” said Abu Ghassan, who supervises the work of thirty men at one tunnel some 220 yards from the border fence. An Egyptian security official said the campaign started five days ago. Dozens of tunnels have been destroyed since last August following the killing of sixteen Egyptian soldiers in a militant attack near the Gaza fence.
02/11/13: Wired reports the US Government’s plan to install new advanced ground sensors at the Mexican border has been delayed due to bandwidth and frequency problems the. The delay isn’t the first, and it comes as thousands of aging sensors along the border trigger false alarms that have proved deadly to Border Patrol agents. The Department of Homeland Security and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) originally planned to blanket the border with a new generation of “unattended ground sensors” (UGS’s). According to CBP, the plan hasn’t been canceled outright, but it has been delayed for much, if not most, of 2013. The problem: the sensors can’t communicate with the rest of the tech along the border.
02/04/13: The Hill reports Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Sunday said that immigration reform was “certainly going to pass” the upper chamber. “It has to get done. We have to work hard to get it done,” Reid said. “It’s really easy to write principles. To write legislation is much harder. And once we write the legislation, then you have to get it passed. But I think things are looking really good.” Last week a bipartisan group of senators introduced a framework for reform, which includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and calls for tighter border security. But the plan faces obstacles from GOP lawmakers who are opposed to measures granting illegal immigrants citizenship and want border-security issues addressed first.
01/28/13: NPR reports a bipartisan group of leading senators has reached agreement on the principles of sweeping legislation to retool the nation’s immigration laws. The deal covers border security, guest workers and employer verification, as well as a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in this country. Although thorny details remain to be negotiated and success is far from certain, the development heralds the start of what could be the most significant effort in years toward overhauling the nation's inefficient patchwork of immigration laws. The eight senators expected to endorse the new principles Monday are Democrats Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Robert Menendez (N.J.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.); and Republicans John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) Several of these lawmakers have worked for years on the issue. McCain collaborated with the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) on comprehensive immigration legislation pushed by then-President George W. Bush in 2007, only to see it collapse in the Senate when it couldn’t get enough GOP support. Comprehensive immigration reform has not been seriously attempted since.
01/02/13: The New York Times reports for the first time in five years, Israel on Sunday allowed 20 truckloads of building materials into Gaza for use by the private sector, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials. One of the first tangible concessions under a cease-fire deal reached after eight days of intesnive fighting in November, it signaled a shift in Israel’s approach to the Palestinian enclave. Israeli officials said that construction materials would now be allowed in on a daily basis via the Kerem Shalom crossing on Israel’s border with Gaza. The shipment on Sunday came in addition to 34 trucks of gravel that crossed into Gaza over the weekend from Egypt, which also had Israel’s approval. The materials from Egypt were earmarked for housing complexes and other construction projects.
11/25/12: NPR reports the Department of Homeland Security is examining its policy on deadly force along the US-Mexico border. In less than two years, US Border Patrol agents have killed eighteen Mexican citizens there, including eight people who were throwing rocks. Last month, Border Patrol agents responded to a report of two drug smugglers jumping the fence between the twin cities of Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico. As the agents approached, a group of people on the Mexican side began throwing rocks. The Border Patrol says the agents told the people to stop. When they didn’t, one agent opened fire and killed a teenager on Mexican soil who wasn’t one of the smugglers. Since 2010, six of the eight rock-throwers killed by Border Patrol agents were on the Mexican side of the border.
10/24/12: The Washington Times reports more than 8,500 US Customs and Border Protection officers and Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE) personnel face termination in January under the automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect next year in a bid to attack the spiraling fiscal deficit. The job losses, in the wake of massive efforts by the Border Patrol to significantly beef up security along the US-Mexico border, would be the result of a “sequestration” in the federal budget, automatic spending cuts of 9.4 percent in 2013 for discretionary defense appropriations and 8.2 percent in 2013 for discretionary nondefense spending. Representative Norman D. Dicks (D-Wash.) noted in a letter earlier this month that the scheduled cuts at the Department of Homeland Security would roll back “significant progress” in securing the nation’s borders.
10/15/12: The Hill reports the US Chamber of Commerce and other business groups want Congress to overhaul a rule that all cargo shipped to the United States from foreign ports be scanned for security. The groups argue the requirement, a key element of the 2007 law implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, will raise costs for businesses by slowing international trade and could harm the US economy. They also argue security measures already in place make the scanning unnecessary. Supporters of the mandate say it is the best safeguard against the nightmare scenario of a ship sailing into the Globe Marine Terminal in Jersey City or another busy port with a dirty bomb or other devastating weapon. It passed Congress overwhelmingly five years ago, 85-8 in the Senate and 371-40 in the House.
10/10/12: CNN reports the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General (IG) announced Tuesday that a number of incidents took place in 2010 in which Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials placed notices in checked luggage indicating that it had been inspected without actually performing an inspection. The incidents led to the firing of thirty-six screeners at Honolulu International Airport. The IG’s report said a whistle-blower triggered investigations when he came forward with video showing some TSA officers skirting procedures. Thousands of bags went on commercial jets unscreened, risking the safety of the traveling public. The IG concluded that while the screeners in Honolulu were ultimately responsible for the failures, the situation “might not have occurred” if TSA leaders had more thoroughly evaluated protocols before changing them and provided better oversight, adequate staff, and screening equipment.