Wednesday, April 9, 2008
A few words by Michael Chertoff Part I
These next 5 posts are from Michael Chertoff's testimony to Congress. We apologize for the length, but thought it would be worthwhile to make it available for those who want this information. Hopefully in the future we will be able to bring this information to you in a much succinct manner.
CQ Congressional Testimony
April 2, 2008 Wednesday
HOMELAND SECURITY OVERSIGHT
SECTION: CAPITOL HILL HEARING TESTIMONY
Statement on The Honorable Michael Chertoff Secretary United States Department of Homeland Security
Committee on Senate Judiciary
April 2, 2008
Chairman Leahy, Ranking Member Specter, and Members of the Committee:
Thank you for inviting me to appear before the Committee to discuss the Department's progress in securing our homeland and protecting the American people. At the outset, I'd like to thank the Committee for its past support of the Department and your continued guidance as we take aggressive steps to achieve our mission.
As you know, on March 1st we reached an important milestone with the five-year anniversary of the Department's creation. In those five years, we have acted with great urgency and clarity of purpose to meet our five priority goals, which are protecting our nation from dangerous people, protecting our nation from dangerous goods, protecting critical infrastructure, strengthening emergency preparedness and response, and continuing to integrate the Department's management and operations.
Today I would like to focus my attention on one of those goals, namely protecting our nation from dangerous people. In particular, I would like to discuss the Department's efforts with respect to the critical issue of immigration. As you know, we are a nation of immigrants and our country draws tremendous strength from the fact that people all over the world choose the United States to live and work and raise their families. But we are also a nation of laws, and illegal immigration threatens our national security, challenges our sovereignty, and undermines the rule of law.
We remain committed to doing everything within our power and within the law to promote legal immigration and to end illegal immigration. For this reason, on August 10, 2007, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and I announced a set of 26 reforms the Administration would immediately pursue to address our nation's immigration challenges within existing law. We have been aggressively pursuing this agenda since then, as my testimony will illustrate.
Today I would like to summarize the Department's efforts across five key areas:
I. Strengthening border security through greater deployment of infrastructure, manpower, and technology;
II. Enhancing interior enforcement at worksites, providing new tools to employers, and identifying and arresting fugitives, criminals, and illegal alien gang members;
III. Making temporary worker programs more effective;
IV. Improving the current immigration system; and
V. Assimilating new immigrants into our civic culture and society.
In each category, you will see clear progress over the past year, reflecting our determination to make a down-payment on credibility with the American people and to meet their rising demands to secure the border and tighten immigration enforcement.
But I want to emphasize at the outset that despite our substantial gains over the past year, enforcement alone will not permanently solve this problem. As long as the opportunity for higher wages and a better life draws people across the border illegally or encourages them to remain in our country illegally, we will continue to face a challenge securing the border and enforcing immigration laws in the interior. For this reason, I remain hopeful that Congress will once again work together to take up this issue and provide a solution that will fix this long- standing problem.
I. STRENGTHENING BORDER SECURITY
I would like to begin today by discussing our efforts to secure the border through installation of tactical infrastructure, including pedestrian and vehicle fencing; hiring and training new Border Patrol agents; and deploying a range of technology to the border, including cameras, sensors, unmanned aerial systems, and ground-based radar.
Pedestrian and Vehicle Fencing
We made a commitment to build 670 miles of pedestrian and vehicle fencing on the southern border by the end of this calendar year to prevent the entry of illegal immigrants, drugs, and vehicles. We are on pace to meet that commitment. As of March 17, we have built 309 miles of fence, including 169 miles of pedestrian fence and 140 miles of vehicle fence.
In building this fence, we have sought the cooperation of land owners, state and local leaders, and members of border communities. We are willing to listen to any concerns communities have with respect to fence construction and we are willing to seek reasonable alternatives provided the solution meets the operational needs of the Border Patrol.
Though we will try to accommodate landowner concerns, we cannot indefinitely delay our efforts or engage in endless debate when national security requires that we build the fence. Moreover, in areas where we use our authority to waive certain environmental laws that threaten to impede our progress, we do so in conjunction with the necessary environmental studies so that we can take reasonable steps to mitigate the impact of our construction. Of course, we will provide appropriate compensation for any property the federal government acquires through the process of eminent domain.
U.S. Border Patrol
Fencing is an important element of a secure border, but it does not provide a total solution. For this reason, we also have continued to expand the Border Patrol to guard our nation's frontline and respond to incursions with speed and agility.
Over the past year, we have accelerated recruitment, hiring, and training of Border Patrol agents. 15,500 Border Patrol agents are currently on board and we will have over 18,000 agents by the end of this year - more than twice as many as when President Bush took office. This represents the largest expansion of the Border Patrol in its history, and we have grown the force without sacrificing the quality of training the Border Patrol Academy prides itself on delivering.
As an additional force multiplier, we continue to benefit from the support of the National Guard under Operation Jump Start. This has been an extremely fruitful partnership. We are grateful to the Department of Defense as well as governors across the United States for allowing us to leverage the National Guard in support of our border security mission.
Technology and SBInet
A third critical element of border security is technology. While not a panacea, technology allows us to substantially expand our coverage of the border, more effectively identify and resolve incursions, and improve Border Patrol response time.
Over the past year, we have deployed additional technology as part of our Secure Border Initiative (SBI), which includes the development of the Project 28 (P-28) prototype in Arizona to test our ability to integrate several border technologies into a unified system. There has been some confusion about the purpose of the P-28 prototype and its role in the Department's larger efforts at the border. Allow me to put P-28 into its appropriate context.
P-28 was designed to be a demonstration of critical technologies and system integration under the broader SBInet initiative. Specifically, its purpose was to demonstrate the feasibility of the SBInet technical approach developed by the contractor, Boeing, and to show that this type of technology could be deployed to help secure the southwest border. After successful field testing, we formally accepted P-28 from Boeing on February 21st of this year. We have a system that is operational and has already assisted in identifying and apprehending more than 2,600 illegal aliens trying to cross the border since September 2007.
It is important, however, to recognize that key outcomes of any prototype or demonstration are the lessons learned. These lessons learned are part of the true value of the technology demonstration. P-28 is no exception. Different segments of the border require different approaches and solutions. A P-28-like system would be neither cost-effective nor necessary everywhere on the border. Accordingly, we are building upon lessons learned to develop a new border-wide architecture that will incorporate upgraded software, mobile surveillance systems, unattended ground sensors, unmanned and manned aviation assets, and an improved communication system to enable better connectivity and system performance. This is Block 1 of our SBInet technology and will be deployed this year to two sites in Arizona.
As part of our broader SBI effort, we are continuing to deploy additional assets and technology along both the southern and northern borders. This includes a fourth unmanned aerial system, with plans to bring two more on-line this fiscal year. One of these systems will be operating on the northern border. We also anticipate expanding our ground-based mobile surveillance systems from six to forty. And we will acquire 2,500 additional unattended ground sensors this fiscal year, with 1,500 of those planned for deployment on the northern border and 1,000 on the southwest border. These will supplement the more than 7,500 ground sensors currently in operation. To continue to support our investment in border security, we have requested $775 million in funding as part of the President's Fiscal Year 2009 budget.
We are also mindful of the need to coordinate these strategies with our operational components in order to achieve effective situational awareness along the border. Intelligence and information integration is a priority for the President and Congress, and we have taken steps to achieve this goal. The Department's Homeland Intelligence Support Team, or "HIST", working with DHS operational components, ensures that strategic fencing, border patrol personnel, and intelligence technology form the foundation of our Secure Border Initiative. The HIST, an initiative co-located at the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), will coordinate the delivery of national intelligence and information-sharing capabilities in support of operational objectives along the border. The HIST will work directly with our Border Patrol, law enforcement personnel, and intelligence analysts to identify how intelligence can strengthen our enforcement activities and ensure information is coordinated with key stakeholders quickly and accurately.
Metrics of Success
Have our efforts achieved their desired impact? If we look at the decline in apprehension rates over the past year and third-party indicators such as a decrease in remittances to Mexico, the answer is unquestionably yes.
For Fiscal Year 2007, CBP reported a 20 percent decline in apprehensions across the southern border, suggesting fewer illegal immigrants are attempting to enter our country. This trend has continued. During the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2008, southwest border apprehensions were down 18 percent, and nationwide they were down 17 percent over the same period the previous year.
Through programs like Operation Streamline, we have achieved even greater decreases in apprehension rates in certain sectors. Under Operation Streamline, individuals caught illegally crossing the border in designated high-traffic zones are not immediately returned across the border. Instead, they are detained and prosecuted prior to removal. In the Yuma sector, for example, apprehension rates dropped nearly 70 percent in Fiscal Year 2007 after we initiated Operation Streamline. In the first quarter of this year, the Department of Justice prosecuted 1,200 cases in Yuma alone. And in Laredo, we experienced a reduction in apprehensions of 33 percent in the program's first 45 days.
In addition to the decline in apprehensions, our frontline personnel also prevented record amounts of illegal drugs from entering the United States last year. In Fiscal Year 2007, CBP officers seized 3.2 million pounds of narcotics at and between our official ports of entry. Keeping these drugs out of our country not only protects the border, but it protects cities and communities where these drugs may have ultimately been sold or distributed...
from Lexis Nexus