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US-VISIT About to Be Another Obama Casualty

As the Obama administration continues to try to convince the American people they are securing the borders, their most recent budget request makes clear that “Amnesty by Any Means” remains the consistent mission. The latest installment is buried in the president’s homeland security budget, which includes provisions dotted throughout that, put together, would result in the dismantling of arguably the best border-related program that exists in federal government, US-VISIT, burying its capabilities in two of the most politicized of all government agencies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Right now, US-VISIT plays a vital role in recording biometrics at our borders, identifying terrorists on watchlists, supporting law enforcement investigations in all layers of government, apprehending alien smugglers on land and at sea, weeding out bogus immigration applications from legitimate ones, and helping set up biometric capabilities in other nations. One program of note where US-VISIT is pivotal is Secure Communities, which Obama touts as his big enforcement tool. Yet US-VISIT could very well be stripped of its wide applications in the areas of law enforcement and intelligence by simply breaking up the office that runs it – about 400 employees on a $279 million budget – and stuffing it into border functions whose priorities have never aligned with US-VISIT’s mission to be innovative in technology that serves many government customers. The administration may claim it is creating efficiencies, but by breaking up a tight organization that has become a model for supporting immigration and law enforcement, US-VISIT just looks like it could be just another Obama casualty – if Congress fails to stop the president’s action.

ICE Director John Morton is the linchpin of the administration’s “no enforcement/amnesty” policy, while the Border Patrol in CBP is doing the bidding of its matriarch, Janet Napolitano, in (not) securing the border. In contrast, US-VISIT has thrived because of its independence and the resulting ability to build relationships across federal, state, and local governments without significant intrusion from the politics that haunts ICE and CBP. Broken up, US-VISIT components would likely begin to stagnate in the political wasteland of issues like “comprehensive immigration reform” and amnesty, issues from which US-VISIT to date has remained relatively separate.

Here are the relevant excerpts from the Department of Homeland Security’s “Budget-in-Brief” summary. From p. 7:

The FY 2013 President’s Budget supports these significant efforts to increase transparency, accountability, and efficiency. Following are some key initiatives and proposals included in the Budget that continue to streamline Departmental operations:

  • US-VISIT: In order to better align the functions of US-VISIT with the operational components, the Budget proposes the transfer of US-VISIT functions from the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

From p. 55:

To better align mission activities with operational Components, the FY 2013 Budget transfers US-VISIT functions from the National Protection and Programs Directorate to CBP and ICE by October 1, 2012. US-VISIT functions naturally align with the current missions of CBP and ICE….

Transfer of Functions
Pending enactment, CBP will assume responsibility for the core US-VISIT operations and management of the biometric and biographic information storage and matching and watchlist management services. ICE will assume responsibility of the US-VISIT overstay analysis services.

From p. 86:

Transfer from NPPD to CBP of United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT)……………………………….. $261.5M (338 FTE)
In FY 2013, responsibility for the core US-VISIT operations, including the management of the biometric storage and matching service, will be transferred from NPPD to CBP to align US-VISIT’s operations with CBP’s mission at the border and the collection of airline departure information. US-VISIT leads the collection, storage, and sharing of biometric and biographic identity information on foreign visitors seeking entry into the United States and other immigration benefits, as well as on U.S. citizens applying for access to government sites, programs, and critical infrastructure.

From p. 100:

Transfer of Overstay Analysis from US-VISIT to ICE………..$17.6M (78 FTE)
This request transfers the visa overstay analysis function from the National Protections and Programs Directorate to ICE in order to align US-VISIT operations with ICE’s overstay enforcement mission.

According to the DHS website, the department is well aware that US-VISIT is far from an entity that simply feeds CBP and ICE, even if US-VISIT’s origin began with verifying identity through biometrics at ports of entry. DHS touts the capabilities of US-VISIT on its website as follows:

Government Agencies Using US-VISIT

US-VISIT’s use of biometrics has helped strengthen U.S. immigration and border security to a level that did not exist before.

Every day, 30,000 authorized federal, state and local government users query US-VISIT’s data in order to accurately identify people and determine whether they pose a risk to the United States. US-VISIT supplies the technology for collecting and storing biometric data, provides analysis of the data to decision makers, and ensures the integrity of the data.

By using biometrics, US-VISIT is helping to prevent the use of fraudulent documents, protect visitors from identity theft and stop thousands of criminals and immigration violators from entering the country.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement receives information from US-VISIT to identify those who may have overstayed terms of their admission. US-VISIT matches entry and exit records and provides this information to ICE. This enhanced information-sharing process provides an increased capability to identify and apprehend overstays – a critical tool with which to manage the immigration and border system.

Before US-VISIT, international travelers who overstayed their authorized period of admission were only identified as a consequence of some other encounter with law enforcement.

U.S. Coast Guard uses US-VISIT biometrics-based services at sea to apprehend and prosecute illegal migrants and migrant smugglers. The Coast Guard uses mobile biometric collection devices – handheld scanners and cameras – to collect and compare migrants’ biometric information against information in the US-VISIT database about criminals and immigration violators… in the eastern Caribbean Sea.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services uses US-VISIT’s services to establish and verify the identities of people applying for immigration benefits, including asylum or refugee status.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses US-VISIT’s services at U.S. ports of entry to help facilitate legitimate travel, protect travelers against identity theft, prevent fraudulent document use, and keep our visitors and citizens safe from harm.

CBP officers are responsible for screening all international travelers to the United States. As part of the screening process, CBP officers collect digital fingerprints and a digital photograph from international travelers. Using US-VISIT’s services, officers quickly and accurately verify whether the person applying for entry is the same person to whom the visa was issued. And for all travelers, with or without a visa, officers use US-VISIT’s services to verify that travelers are who they say they are and that they do not pose a threat to the United States.

Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community use biometric information about known or suspected terrorists on watch lists. US-VISIT is working across the federal government to promote intelligence efforts in identifying high-risk persons.

US-VISIT biometric services also facilitate identification of terrorists by matching against latent fingerprints collected from terrorist safe houses and ongoing criminal investigations conducted around the world. The move to a 10-fingerprint collection standard expands this capability by providing additional fingerprints against which to match latent fingerprints.

Department of Justice and State and Local Law Enforcement use US-VISIT’s services to ensure that they have accurate immigration information about individuals they arrest.

US-VISIT is furthering integration, accessibility and interoperability with other law enforcement and intelligence systems. The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI are establishing interoperability between the US-VISIT program’s Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) and the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) fingerprint databases. …

US-VISIT’s Biometric Support Center (BSC) helps many federal, state and local agencies with their investigations. Every week, the highly-trained forensic analysts who verify biometrics 24 hours a day, seven days a week, help solve crimes, identify John or Jane Does and support terrorist investigations.

Department of State uses US-VISIT’s services to establish and verify the identities of visa applicants at embassies and consulates around the world through its BioVisa program. Consular officers use this information in determining visa eligibility.

There are there unique aspects to US-VISIT that do not fit into CBP or ICE, yet would be stuffed into CBP under the proposed budget: (1) IDENT (described above); (2) the Data Integrity Group (DIG); and the (3) Biometric Support Center. The Data Integrity Group not only identifies potential overstays, but also evaluates countries for membership in the Visa Waiver Program – the latter not being an ICE function. Yet ICE by Obama’s mandate does not care about overstays right now, so why absorb this function? Perhaps to kill it? The Biometric Support Center (BSC), in Virginia and California, is made up of a number of highly trained (typically former FBI) fingerprint examiners. As described above, these examiners resolve fingerprint issues for non-law enforcement agencies such as USCIS and State, as well as state and local law enforcement. What happens to these relationships with the BSC absorbed by CBP? What happens to US-VISIT if Congress does not step in and say enough of the derailing of border security?

While Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano consistently calls for a “coordinated and intelligence-driven response” to securing the border, I cannot find one instance where she has applauded or incorporated the successful research and deployment of the biometric solutions that makes the US-VISIT Program Office into just such a “coordinated and intelligence-driven response”. While that makes little sense, it is not surprising now that we know that the administration was never a fan. US-VISIT – a stand-alone operation within DHS since its inception – is clearly a key forensic backbone in securing the country from those who pose a risk. In other words, US-VISIT stands in the way of amnesty, and thus is on the chopping block.

Whether the administration can get away at its latest installment of pulling security out of immigration enforcement depends on the appropriators in Congress, who control these types of reorganizations through their control of purse strings. While CBP and ICE are salivating at US-VISIT’s funds coming their way at a time of tight budgets, none of it can happen if the appropriators say no.

Janice Kephart writes on border and identity security and programs; the implementation of 9/11 Commission recommendations, especially as they pertain to terrorist travel, and leadership and organizational issues concerning the Department of Homeland Security. Read More
  • Dave Francis

     

    One federal law that has not been blocked or held for a
    court ruling by the Supreme justices in the  April 
    session, is
    that any of the 50 states can enforce E-Verify. In Arizona. Judge Bolton
    was the first to make a ruling that the E-Verify law was
    constitutional. “The Legal
    Arizona Workers Act” (SB1070) requires all employers in the state of
    Arizona to verify their employee’s immigration status through a
    voluntary
    federal Electronic Employment Verification System, known as “E-Verify.” 
    This encompasses all 50 states that they can either comply voluntary as a
    few
    strong, hard willed legislators have introduced. While the larger
    majority of
    relaxed states that have completely ignored E-Verify program and just
    done
    absolutely nothing? Many state lawmakers are just not interested in
    enforcing
    laws, which would send illegal aliens packing, once they are unable to
    get
    hired? 

     

    But it will be ‘poetic justice’ that
    those foreign nationals scrambling to leave the few states trying to protect
    their legal population must find another refuge? They have a wide range of
    other States to head for, so they can gain work with some innocent victims
    stolen Social Security card. Additionally the families, who have several
    children smuggled into America before birth, can then apply for a range of
    public assistance including food stamps- as the law at the present time says
    they are U.S. citizens. A foreign illegal mother can deprive a legal family of
    low cost housing, as she is now pregnant again with her third or fourth child.
    With this many children and entitlements of cash payments, the whole family can
    live on this welfare assistance, then making room in the Section 8 housing for
    others who have sneaked across the porous border, or tricked the agent at the
    airport they are a tourist. 

    Judge Wake’s ruling On February 7, 2008,  that Alabama decision to mandate
    that all business owners  in the state
    use E-Verify ruling it’s not in conflict preempted, because Congress did not
    clearly prohibit States from making E-Verify mandatory when they made
    involvement voluntary.  Then in September 28, 2011, Alabama Judge Sharon
    Lovelace upheld most of Alabama’s new immigration enforcement law, H.B. 56,
    including e-Verify that doesn’t forestall the 1986 Immigration Reform &
    Control Act (IRCA.) Judge Wakes ruling has been has been appealed on several
    more occasions, but essentially to been struck down, allowing the state of
    Alabama to implement E-Verify.  Then
    federal judge Thomas Thrash in the state of Georgia, granted a request to block
    parts of Georgia’s law cracking down on illegal immigration from taking effect
    until a legal challenge is resolved, but as anticipated in (H.B.87) most of its
    legal construction remains intact, including E-verify requirements on
    employers.

     Other then Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Utah, Indiana, South Carolina, the
    circuit of less restrictive states of California, Nevada, Montana, North
    Dakota, Wyoming, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas,
    Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut,
    Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have no E-Verify laws, that would
    benefit the unemployed in each individual region of the United States.

     

    Voters must convince their politicians, governors, mayors and all top
    officials
    that we need federal mandatory E-Verify to insure citizens and legal
    residents
    are protected in their jobs, from the illegal alien invaders. This law
    THE
    LEGAL WORKFORCE ACT” (H.R.2885) will force  Employers to face serious
    penalties, fines, and even jail if they knowingly hire someone who is
    not
    lawfully authorized to work according to the information obtained
    through the
    E-Verify database. This is what Mitt Romney referred to in his statement
    at his debates as Self-Deportation,or “ATTRITION THROUGH ENFORCEMENT”
    known as nationwide E-Verify. Unlike Newt Gingrich,who has his own
    opinion that illegal aliens who violated the law, should have some route
    to legalization? Ron Paul doesn’t think we should  control the border
    and Rick Santorum has similar suggestions as Romney for enforcing
    immigration laws.  Not so well known or Publicized is an amendment to
    the 14th
    Amendment, to amend the law that says every baby born in the United States is
    granted citizenship. This is a misinterpretation of the law and citizenship
    should only be given where either parent already has citizenship status.

    The “Birthright
    Citizenship” (H.R.140) Bill that needs every voters attention, as it is
    singularly the most expensive benefit, that citizens are forced to pay in
    unfunded mandates. It is concealed that support for illegal aliens cost over
    $113 billion dollars a year by government and Liberal press editors. If you
    really want the facts about the illegal alien incursions and many other problem
    that cause Americans unnecessary pain and suffering, then you need to view the
    uncensored pages, not suppressed by the Leftist media at (Google) AMERICAN
    PATROL. For information about the dishonesty in Washington and state
    congressional seats of power, check the web pages of the (Google) JUDICIAL
    WATCH.

     

     

    Although mandatory E-Verify is not as
    famous according to which side of the aisle 
    in Congress, it is significant that the word is spreading about the
    powerful application, specifically when the Census Bureau admits that around 8
    million plus are working illegally in this country. Every American is supposed
    to think jobs are the only incentive that drives foreigners, across our
    sovereign borders, but easy access to taxpayer benefits as well. Annually there
    has been huge fraudulent child tax credit reimbursement and also a sudden
    rising crime rate, including unceasing drunken driving ending in death.  For all intents and purposes, President Obama
    has frozen immigration enforcement and through his orders allowing many
    foreigners to stay here. 

     

    Every American voter has a chance to
    fight against unfair taxation, which through judicial unfunded mandates is
    placed firmly in the taxpayers lap. In this session of Congress or before the
    2012 election, it is urgent you concentrate in phoning or otherwise contacting
    Democrat, Republican Senators and House Congressmen at 202-224-3121 to inform
    them strongly you want both nationwide E-Verify and the citizenship bill
    passed. Unless these laws are enacted, then under another five years of
    President Obama we could see another amnesty; deceiving us as comprehensive
    Immigration reform.  The last Amnesty was heavily weighted down with
    fraudulent applications, so a new move to giving 20 million plus illegal aliens
    a path to citizenship is hardly going to be any different?

    While our country has suffered the worst recession in decades, demented
    politicians want to issue California drivers licenses to illegal aliens
    in the name of safety. Perhaps these officials should throw away their
    rose colored glasses and read the daily mayhem on our roads throughout
    America?  Drunken driving is rampant amongst these people, and be
    offering more privileges it just will be yet another attraction to come
    here. Hopefully voters are watching and determine to throw them out out,
    when they come up for reelection?