Legislative Activity

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Nomination Hearings

On Tuesday, October 1, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will consider Obama administration nominees for U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the General Counsel and Under Secretary of Homeland Security. The committee is expected to report out the two nominees to the Senate floor. Both Chairman Thomas Carper (D-DE) and Ranking Member Tom Coburn (R-OK) have urged the Obama administration to nominate individuals to fill a number of open leadership slots at DHS, in particular DHS Inspector General – which has been vacant for two years – and DHS Secretary since Janet Napolitano stepped down.

Immigration and Border Security

In advance of a national day of grassroots immigration action on Saturday, October 5, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has announced that she will introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Instead of introducing the bill passed by the Senate earlier this summer (S. 744), Leader Pelosi plans to introduce legislation that combines the version of the Senate bill as passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee (S. 744 Committee Print) and the bipartisan Border Security Results Act (H.R. 1417) passed by the House Homeland Security Committee. Importantly, the version of the Senate bill as approved by the Judiciary Committee does not include the border security provisions offered as a Senate floor amendment by Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and John Hoeven (R-ND). Democrats hope that Leader Pelosi’s bill would garner support from pro-immigration Democrats seeking comprehensive reform and pro-border security Republicans who supported the House’s border security legislation over the Corker-Hoeven language. Leader Pelosi also chose this strategy because the House border security bill is widely expected to be the first – and possibly the only – piecemeal immigration bill to move to the House floor before the end of the year.

Biometric Entry-Exit System

Congress is renewing its focus on the lack of a DHS biometric entry-exit system for United States ports of entry. While members of Congress praised DHS for strengthening information collection procedures – including fingerprints and photographs – for foreigners entering the United States, they also criticized DHS’s inability to match this with biometric information gathered upon foreigners’ exit from the country. In a statement preceding the House Homeland Security Committee’s hearing on the topic, Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee Chair Candice Miller (R-MI) noted that DHS has a backlog of more than one million “unmatched” records where U.S. Customs and Border Protection has recorded an entry, but no corresponding exit information is available – thus leading to concerns that foreigners are “overstaying” their visas. Lawmakers continue to urge DHS to address this issue in a manner that strengthens homeland security as well as supports immigration enforcement efforts.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Monday, September 30: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a full committee business meeting to consider the following nominations: (1) Stevan Eaton Bunnell to be DHS General Counsel; and (2) Suzanne Eleanor Spaulding to be Under Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • Tuesday, October 1: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a full committee hearing titled “The Navy Yard Tragedy: Examining Government Clearances and Background Checks.”
  • Tuesday, October 1: The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security will hold a hearing titled “Implementation of an Entry-Exit System: Still Waiting after All These Years.”
  • Thursday, October 3: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a full committee hearing titled “Threats to the Homeland.”

Regulatory Activity

National Infrastructure Protection Plan

The DHS Office of Infrastructure Protection is working with the private sector to update the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) by October 10. Last updated in 2009, the NIPP provides a unifying framework to enhance the safety of U.S. critical infrastructure to prevent, deter, neutralize, or mitigate the effects of a terrorist attack or natural disaster. DHS is updating the NIPP to conform to the requirements of Presidential Policy Directive 21, Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience, by clarifying roles and responsibilities across the federal government, establishing more effective partnership with owners of critical infrastructure, and including cybersecurity in addition to physical infrastructure preparedness.