Homeland Security

A bi-partisan DREAM Act: A proposal that must be taken seriously

On March 27th, the news broke in The Hill that there were Republicans in Washington that were working on an alternative and more conservative version of the DREAM Act. While no details were released, Senator Marco Rubio indicated that the Republican plan would differ from the current DREAM Act, in that it would allow for a path to legalization for the kids that could qualify for relief under the bill, but would not allow these kids to have a pathway to citizenship expressly through this legislation. Immediately, several progressive news outlets and advocates denounced the idea as a political move. I find that argument to be both ironic and specious. Their argument is ironic, because for as long as our coalition, Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, has been working to create political space for conservative immigration solutions, we have continually heard the argument that it cannot be done due to politics. I also find their argument to be specious, because it is quite possibly because of election year politics that there is now, in fact, political space to perhaps solve some of our nation’s most pressing and difficult immigration problems.
 
I would like to suggest that everyone should reserve judgment on this issue until the Republicans have had an opportunity to roll their ideas out for public consideration. I note that the actual DREAMers have, for the most part, advocated a cautious yet optimistic approach. The Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform coalition has been quietly working across party lines for almost two years with members of the Senate, the House, the Administration, and their staffs, to seek some kind of compromise legislation that would allow the DREAM Act to become the law of the land. Our goal – which is based on the moral, ethical, and Judeo-Christian values upon which our nation was founded - is to allow the worthy young men and women that can qualify for DREAM Act eligibility to have an opportunity to emerge from the shadows of society, and to participate in their own American dreams.

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Immigration detention is no ‘holiday’

In his recent op-ed, “Alleged illegal and criminal immigrants should not be taxpayer-supported guests,” Rep. Lamar Smith gets several things wrong.  While attacking the newest detention facility opened by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Rep. Smith complains that the facility’s cost was “[over] $30 million taxpayer dollars.”

To quote Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Rep. Smith’s claim is completely false. The $32 million facility was built at the expense of the Geo Group, Inc., a private prison company that no doubt expects to make a profit on the venture. The facility, with grim bunk beds eight to a room and prison-like walls is far from plush (to see pictures, click here). The actual cost to taxpayers of holding detainees at this facility is about half as much, on average, as at other facilities. The truth is this facility actually saves taxpayer money.

Rep. Smith has been wrong on this point before. At Wednesday’s Immigration Subcommittee detention standards hearing derisively entitled, “Holiday on ICE,” Rep. Smith made this claim even though his own witness testified correctly that taxpayers did not fund the construction.

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Counterfeit medicine threat knocking on America’s doors

Just last month, the Food and Drug Administration announced that fake cancer medicines had been shipped to American oncologists from foreign sources. This should serve as a wake-up call that we must not rest on our laurels; rather, we must continue to focus on effective policy solutions that can help prevent the worldwide counterfeit medicine threat from seeping into our borders and contaminating the closed U.S. drug supply system.
 
Since this particular incident, there has been an outcry by members of Congress and the public alike to do more to protect patients, and rightly so. With up to 30 percent of medicines in some developing countries counterfeit, it is critical that we grab the bull by its horns and take meaningful steps forward in safeguarding our nation from this threat.   

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Nuclear Weapons policy: It’s 2012, not 1992

From speeches by Rep. Turner (R-Ohio), to an op-ed by former White House staff in these pages, the debate over U.S. nuclear policy appears to be heating up. Recent weeks have seen a concerted effort to portray the ongoing Pentagon review of our nuclear deterrence stance – how many warheads, deployed against what threats, how best safeguarded – as putting the nation’s security at risk, or even “dangerous.”

As a former White House speechwriter myself, I was pleased and bemused to see my counterparts from the George H.W. Bush administration calling attention to nuclear issues. Their rhetoric is tremendous -- but as policy, it is simply wrong. Bipartisan military leaders and security experts say – and have said for years – that we can maintain our security at levels even lower than what’s under consideration. 

We can make changes to our force posture – how we deploy our weapons – that would increase our own security and that of our allies. And in an era where our greatest security challenges are not nuclear superpower rivals, and where every defense dollar is under close scrutiny, the Pentagon itself has higher priorities.

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A reckless gamble

One of the most consequential issues of our times is passing with only sporadic notice by Capitol Hill.

That issue: If the Obama administration follows through on its recently advertized intention to slash the already greatly reduced U.S. nuclear deterrent, it will put the physical security of the United States and our allies at risk.

The ink had barely dried on the recently ratified New START Treaty, set to cut U.S. nuclear forces to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads, before the administration announced it is considering further reducing U.S. nuclear forces to fewer than 1,100 strategic nuclear weapons in ranges of 700 to 800 or as low as 300 to 400 weapons. While the administration might opt for the higher ranges, if it is managing expectations any of these options will take the U.S. down a very dangerous path, for ten reasons. 

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Protecting the Homeland, Safeguarding Privacy

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is closely monitoring social media for potential threats and hazards to the United States. Little was known about the DHS monitoring program, however, until last month when new details about their policies became public for the first time. As a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, DHS disclosed records revealing information about their tactics. DHS documents revealed that the department has tasked analysts with collecting intelligence on any media reports that “reflect adversely on the U.S. government and the Department of Homeland Security…including both positive and negative reports on FEMA, USCIS, CBP, and ICE.”
 
In one example, DHS used multiple social networking tools—including Facebook, Twitter, three different blogs, and reader comments on news websites to capture reaction of residents to a possible plan to bring Guantanamo detainees to a local prison in Standish, Michigan. This type of intelligence gathering is problematic. Collecting, analyzing, and disseminating private citizens’ comments could have a chilling effect on individual privacy rights and the people’s freedom of speech and dissent.

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Cutting defense spending responsibly

On Monday (2/13), the Obama Administration will submit its fiscal 2013 budget to Congress.

Belt-tightening is the order of the day. And the Defense Department is
expected to announce the cancellation or down-sizing of a number of
high-profile weapons programs.

One of the projects about to undergo major reconstructive surgery is the
development of a new "Joint Air-to-Ground Missile" or "JAGM" -- high-tech
ordnance designed to be deployed from helicopters, fighter jets, and
unmanned aircraft systems.

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Lessons from Iraq

With U.S. troops now home from our military operation in Iraq, there has been a flurry of debate around our mission there, the future of Iraq, and our security interests in the region. Whatever one may think of the reasons for going into Iraq in 2003 or the effects of our travails there, it is a given that the United States has invested a great deal of blood and treasure in order to leave a Iraq a more stable country. Our stabilization and reconstruction efforts following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime were well-intentioned, but fraught with mismanagement and waste.

The U.S.-led rebuilding program in Iraq was met with mixed success, producing a plethora of painful lessons that should be closely examined. Iraq’s current difficulties must not obscure or impede Congress’s careful review of our experience as we seek to develop a more integral and effective system for managing overseas stabilization and reconstruction operations. Strict Congressional oversight is in our national interest. As then-Senator Harry Truman found when fighting waste and mismanagement of funding during World War II, effective Congressional oversight can not only save money and lives, it can make our efforts stronger.

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Time to rethink nuclear weapons spending

The supercommittee’s failure to reach agreement on a deficit reduction plan may trigger deep, automatic reductions in future U.S. defense spending. At the same time, some in Congress are finally beginning to examine how much the United States plans to spend on nuclear weapons in the years ahead.

The automatic reductions, known as “sequestration,” would double the amount of money the Pentagon must cut from its projected budget growth, from about $450 billion to roughly $1 trillion, over the next decade.  

No matter how deeply the defense budget will be cut or how many hundreds of billions of dollars the federal government plans to spend on nuclear weapons, one thing is clear: Republicans and Democrats need to work together to reduce Cold War-era nuclear weapon systems that do not address likely security threats.  

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Political gridlock could mean ‘game over’ for our national security

Rumor has it that Leonardo DiCaprio plans to remake the 1983 blockbuster WarGames, in which a young Matthew Broderick hacked into the government’s computer system and nearly triggered a thermonuclear Armageddon. Even thought the Soviet Union is long gone, it’s easy to see how the time is ripe for a remake.

In fact, the world is now a much more dangerous place. In 1983, only a handful of countries had nuclear weapons. Today, the nuclear genie has long left the bottle. Countries like Pakistan, China, and Russia have created a vibrant international market for nuclear and missile technologies, providing centrifuges, rockets, and know-how to countries like Iran and North Korea. Intelligence reports from the U.S., the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the British government estimate that these countries will develop nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting a U.S. city within a few years – not decades as some assume.

But there’s a real-world twist to the story that will make screenwriters working on WarGames rejoice and everyone else despair. Congress is poised to slash funding for our national defense just as these threats are on the rise, all because of a technicality imposed by the debt ceiling deal. Among many other critical military programs, missile defense could take a serious hit. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

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