Vulnerabilities along the Canadian border are one of more than a half-dozen priorities identified by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano during her first week, along with cybersecurity and ensuring that federal officials are properly communicating with state and local officials.
“The northern border of the United States has become, since 9/11, important to our national security,” Miss Napolitano wrote in an action directive issued Friday.
“As we have designed programs to afford greater protection against unlawful entry, members of Congress and homeland security experts have called for increased attention to the Canadian border,” the directive said.
Miss Napolitano asked for an oral report by Feb. 10 on current vulnerabilities, the overall strategy to reduce such, a budget and time frame for improving security, and the level of risk that will remain once the programs are completed.
Meanwhile, members of the National Latino Congreso are asking Miss Napolitano to use her position as the nation’s leading immigration officer to emphasize immigrant rights and end the department’s “immigration fear-mongering.”
“Virtually every issue related to immigrants is now viewed as a ‘security matter’ while the positive and needed impact of immigrants on the nation’s economy, society, families and communities is ignored,” the group wrote in a Jan. 21 letter.
“We now have an outpouring of hatred and hostility against immigrants by elements of our society who take it out on anyone they believe is Latino or an immigrant,” the letter said. “We hope you will help change the tone of the immigration debate by making the defense of due process and civil rights a DHS priority, and continually using your platform to affirm the enormous contributions immigrations are making to protect our quality of life.”
During her confirmation hearing with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Miss Napolitano said she would increase prosecutions of businesses that hire illegal workers.
But the Hispanic advocacy group is asking her to put an end to raids in schools, neighborhoods and workplaces. The organization said such raids have “destroyed families and spread terror through our communities.”
Citing the increasingly sophisticated number of threats to cyberspace, Miss Napolitano asked Friday for a second oral report Feb. 3 on Homeland Security’s responsibility for protecting government and private-sector domains, as well as the current relationships with the departments of Defense, Treasury and Energy, and the National Security Agency.
On her first day at the helm of the fledgling agency, less than 24 hours after Barack Obama took the presidential oath of office, the former Arizona governor issued directives to brief her in the coming weeks on state and local intelligence sharing, critical infrastructure protection, risk analysis, state, local and tribal integration, and transportation security.
“These action directives are designed to begin a review, evaluation and dialogue between the various functions of this department and me,” Miss Napolitano said. “I look forward to receiving the information and to working with the offices and agencies involved to make DHS a more effective and a more efficient department.”
Amy Kudwa, acting Homeland Security press secretary, said Miss Napolitano spent her first week meeting with top agency officials. She has asked some - including Deputy Secretary Paul A. Schneider and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner W. Ralph Basham - to stay on during the transition period. Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen, a nonpolitical employee, will remain in his position.
Miss Napolitano announced that Mr. Obama will nominate U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Jane Holl Lute to serve as deputy secretary, and she has appointed two of her Arizona aides to Homeland Security posts - Noah Kroloff as chief of staff for policy and Jan Lesher as chief of staff for operations.
“I am confident that the counsel and leadership of my senior team will benefit this department greatly,” Miss Napolitano said.
“Jane’s experience leading large operations with broad and challenging missions lends itself to the undertaking we have before us at Homeland Security. I look forward to working with these talented individuals as we work to further unify this department under our common mission.”
Meanwhile, Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, has requested a meeting with the new secretary to make her case for allowing airport screeners and other employees of the Transportation Security Administration to bargain collectively. The union represents tens of thousands of key front-line Homeland Security employees.
“I look forward to speaking with you about these issues, among others, to foster needed positive change and improvements in the DHS workplace,” Miss Kelley said.