Tag Archives: Department of Homeland Security

Janet Napolitano

Napolitano steps down as Homeland Security Secretary

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the former Arizona governor who led the burgeoning Department of Homeland Security through a host of policy changes in the post 9/11 era, is resigning to head the University of California system.

Napolitano, just the third person to lead the 10-year-old department, told her senior staff Friday she would be leaving for California. She will become the president of the University of California system, which includes UCLA and the University of California, Berkeley, among other campuses. The University of California also announced Napolitano’s nomination to be the 20th president of the statewide system.

“The opportunity to work with the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, who serve on the front lines of our nation’s efforts to protect our communities and families from harm, has been the highlight of my professional career,” she said in a statement. “After four plus years of focusing on these challenges, I will be nominated as the next president of the University of California to play a role in educating our nation’s next generation of leaders.”

“I thank President Obama for the chance to serve our nation during this important chapter in our history,” Napolitano said, “and I know the Department of Homeland Security will continue to perform its important duties with the honor and focus that the American public expects.”

Obama issued a statement commending Napolitano for “her outstanding work on behalf of the American people over the last four years.”

A rendering of the memorial planned to be constructed at Ground Zero in New York City.  Rendering by Squared Design Lab from www.national911memorial.org

Government Secrecy About Terror Plots Sometimes Tolerated, Sometimes Not

The ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks is tomorrow, and a study shows that Americans will tolerate government secrecy about terror plots, but only in certain circumstances.

The study, which was led by professor V. Kerry Smith of the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, surveyed more than 2,000 Americans about their beliefs concerning government secrecy about terrorism.  The study, also conducted by Carol Mansfeld and H. Allen Klaiber, included results from an Internet panel run by Knowledge Networks.

“The reason we were interested in doing (this survey) is there’s a presumption that security requires a certain amount of secrecy,” Smith said.  The survey was aimed at determining in which situations Americans will tolerate secrecy from the government in return for the promise of safety, he said.

Survey participants were asked to determine whether the government should release or withhold information regarding terrorist plots in three different situations.  The questions were asked with the caveat that if the information was released, it could increase the possibility of terrorist threat.

In two situations, a threat to disrupt Internet service at local banks, which would disrupt the processing of credit and debit card sales in the U.S. for 48 hours, and a threat to destroy major airports in Los Angeles and New York, participants responded similarly.

More than 75 percent of participants said they would want the government to withhold information rather than give away any knowledge that would make it more difficult to uncover future plots or give terrorists an upper hand.

However, when asked about the government releasing information about the true nature of a plane crash due to a terrorist attack, more than 80 percent of those surveyed said they would want the government to release this information.

“What was the surprise to me and others was the very dramatic differences” in the types of information that Americans would agree to have withheld, Smith said.

Smith says most Americans don’t perceive all threats as being the same, which means that the government shouldn’t think that Americans’ tolerance to secrecy is uniform for all threats.

He suggests a reason why Americans are more sensitive to the threat of an attack on a commercial airplane is that what happens during a plane flight isn’t something they can control, whereas the other situations that can be more easily controlled.  This reasoning comes from results of risk assessment surveys, not done during this survey.

Risk assessment surveys also offer an explanation as to why women and people living in married households were more willing to support the withholding of information, and people with college degrees were more likely to support the release of information.  These definable characteristics of people, gender, marital status or education, can be used to track trends in the way people assess risk and make decisions.

Smith also said survey results don’t change based on whether Americans are confronted with terrorism at the time of the survey or not.

The first leg of the survey, which polled about 1,900 people in 33 major cities in December 2009, was bracketed by the Christmas shoe bomber’s attempt to blow up a commercial plane, Smith said.

Some of the participants took the survey before the attempt, some after, some even lived in Detroit, the plane’s destination, he said.  However, the results of the survey weren’t affected, Smith said.

The second part of the survey, which polled about 500 people in four major cities in April 2010, showed the same results as the December 2009 portion of the survey.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security through the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events supported the research for this survey.

    Three scenarios summarized and the survey responses:

    “Should the government release the details of a major plot to destroy airports in Los Angeles and New York after the terrorists have been captured, even though it might give away the techniques law enforcement used and make it harder to uncover future plots?”

    Information Released – 23 percent; Information withheld – 77 percent

    “Should the government announce the details of a major terrorist plot to disrupt Internet service at commercial banks, and prevent the processing of credit and debit card sales across the United States for 48 hours, if the terrorists have been captured, even though it would give away the techniques used to identify the suspects and reveal specifics of the security network?”

    Information Released – 24 percent; Information withheld – 76 percent

    “Should the government release the true cause of an airplane crash due to a terrorist attack, even if that will have major economic effects on commercial airlines, give the terrorists notoriety and create an increased fear of flying?”

    Information Released – 83 percent; Information withheld – 17 percent

Greater Maricopa Foreign Trade Zone - AZ Business Magazine Jul/Aug 2010

The Greater Maricopa Foreign Trade Zone Opens Up Business Possibilities In The West Valley

At a time when the West Valley could use an economic boost, officials have put the finishing touches on the proposed Greater Maricopa Foreign Trade Zone. Under the administration of WESTMARC, an acronym for Western Maricopa Coalition, this new Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) is seen as a welcome economic development tool that will spawn jobs and millions of dollars in new investment.

Participating cities are Avondale, Buckeye, El Mirage, Gila Bend, Goodyear, Peoria and Surprise. Initially, four sites in three of the cities have applied for FTZ status: two in Goodyear at Interstate 10 and Loop 303, one in Surprise near Bell Road, and one west of Buckeye in an unincorporated area. The Greater Maricopa Foreign Trade Zone is actually a series of trade zones, with each city acting independently but represented by WESTMARC.

Federal approval of WESTMARC’s application of the overall trade zone by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Department of Homeland Security is expected before the end of the year. Launched in 1934, the federal Foreign Trade Zone program provides for reduced or eliminated federal taxes and fees in connection with imports and exports. For customs purposes, an FTZ is considered outside the United States.

Consultant Curtis Spencer, president of Houston-based IMS Worldwide, says there has been quite a bit of interest in West Valley sites from brokers looking for build-to-suit opportunities, particularly for solar and other manufacturers.

Spencer says developers generally pay the initial fee of about $50,000 to be in the FTZ depending on proposed use. Companies locating in an FTZ also pay an annual fee, but Spencer estimates the savings to a company can range from $300,000 to $1 million a year.

A typical business in an FTZ pays wages 7 percent to 8 percent more than a similar company not involved in exporting and importing, and employs 10 percent to 20 percent more workers, Spencer says.

“Foreign Trade Zone activities now exceed the statistical equivalent of imports and exports carried by truck into and out of Canada and Mexico,” Spencer says. “It’s a significant portion of our economy.”

A company in the West Valley area that decides to seek FTZ status puts in an application that will go through WESTMARC, which holds the federal permit, and on to the federal Foreign Trade Zone board. Zones are not limited to the four that have been selected. Likely candidate businesses for an FTZ range from high-tech manufacturers to distributors.

“It should give a major boost in investment and job creation,” Spencer says. “In the next 10 years we should have added hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of new investment.”

Basically, FTZs speed up the supply chain, reduce importing costs and provide better security, Spencer says.

“It’s faster, cheaper and better,” he adds.

Regarding security, companies that have been certified for FTZ status by federal authorities undergo extreme scrutiny, and therefore are not likely to be dealing with unfriendly countries or terrorist organizations. Concern over the importation of contraband has heightened since the attacks of 9/11.

Harry Paxton, economic development director for the city of Goodyear, says participating cities can use the FTZ as a marketing tool.

“It says that these communities are ready to accept businesses involved in international commerce,” he says.

Goodyear, which was among the first to express an interest in establishing an FTZ three years ago, hopes to fill some existing buildings by offering significant property tax breaks. Personal and real property taxes in an Arizona FTZ are cut by 75 percent.

But the perception that such tax reductions will have a negative impact on a city is incorrect, Paxton says. The assessed valuation of an activated FTZ reduces to 5 percent from 20 percent, but still generates additional revenue when compared to agricultural-use sites that collect $300 per 10 acres. What’s more, Paxton says, the FTZ becomes a catalyst for other development not requiring FTZ tax benefits, resulting in a full tax rate on those businesses.

“It’s a win-win,” he says. “It helps us become more competitive.”

Mitch Rosen, director of office and industrial development for SunCor Development Company, says his company owns 250 acres that will be part of the FTZ.

“The reason we’re interested is that we believe it to be an exceptional tool to stimulate the economic development of the West Valley,” he says. “It’s a good way to stimulate quality employment and it creates a competitive advantage for Arizona and the West Valley. It encourages businesses throughout the country to elect to locate in the West Valley.”

Jack Lunsford, president and CEO of WESTMARC, expects FTZs to spring up throughout the sprawling West Valley as cities become more aware of the benefits.

“We are thrilled,” he says, “to help bring this economic development tool to our West Valley communities that will assist them, especially at a time like this.”

www.imsw.com | www.suncoraz.com | www.ci.goodyear.az.us

Arizona Business Magazine Jul/Aug 2010

american flag, protest

Legal Arizona Workers Act Does Not Cause Expected Upheaval

In 2007, the state of Arizona made its first foray into “immigration reform” when it passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act. However, before the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA) even became effective on Jan. 1, 2008, the Legislature went to work on amending the statute, presumably to “cure” some of the more controversial aspects of the law.

While the fundamental purpose and structure of LAWA has not changed, employers need to be aware of the current version of the law in order to limit the chances of being on the receiving end of an enforcement action. For example, the same legislation that tweaked LAWA also criminalized the act of knowingly accepting identity information from someone who is not actually the person represented in that identity information. Nevertheless, recent trends reported by a researcher from the University of Arizona suggest the enforcement tsunami that was expected to hit the business community is, up to now, little more than a ripple in a pond.

LAWA prohibits employers from “knowingly” or “intentionally” employing any unauthorized alien workers after 2007, and creates stiff penalties for employers who do. Penalties for first violations include mandatory probation for, and possible temporary suspension of, all business licenses issued by the state of Arizona. For a second violation during the probationary period, whether knowing or intentional, employers face permanent revocation of their state-issued licenses — thus effectively preventing the employer from doing business in Arizona. LAWA also requires every Arizona employer to verify new hire work eligibility through the federal government’s E-Verify system. However, LAWA created no “penalty” for failure to use E-Verify. So an employer who becomes the target of an enforcement action will likely be presumed to have “knowingly” hired an undocumented worker if that employer failed to use E-Verify. Evidently, most employers have decided either to roll the dice or they simply don’t recognize a risk. According to Department of Homeland Security data, as of late August 2008, only 5.6 percent of Arizona employers have enrolled in E-Verify.

Non-participation in E-Verify is not an option for contractors and subcontractors of any Arizona governmental entity. The LAWA amendments passed last year require those employers to participate in E-Verify as a condition of their government contract. In fact, any Arizona governmental entity (state or any political subdivision) would be prohibited from awarding a contract if the contractor or subcontractor does not comply with federal immigration laws and E-Verify requirements. LAWA requires government entities to ensure that their contractors comply with those requirements, and to include the following terms in their contracts:

  • Each contractor or subcontractor must warrant their compliance with LAWA’s provisions.
  • A breach of that warranty is to be deemed a material breach of the contract, subject to penalties up to, and including, termination of the contract.
  • The government entity retains the legal right to inspect the papers of the contractor and subcontractor employees who work on the contract in order to ensure compliance with the warranty.

Also, employers seeking to obtain an economic development incentive from a government entity must first register for and participate in E-Verify, and show proof of doing so. LAWA further requires the Attorney General’s office to, on a quarterly basis, request a list of Arizona employers registered with E-Verify from the Department of Homeland Security. The Attorney General must make that list available to the public on its Web site.

So far, enforcement actions against employers have been anemic at best. Judith Gans, manager of the Immigration Policy Program at the University of Arizona’s Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, prepared a study on the preliminary impact of LAWA on immigration trends and businesses in Arizona. She found that not a single superior court enforcement action was filed during the first year of LAWA’s existence. The number of complaints filed with each county attorney during that period was one or none in nine out of Arizona’s 15 counties. The Pima County attorney reported only five complaints, four of which were declined because they involved individuals hired before 2008. The Maricopa County attorney’s office stated that it does not keep track of the number of reported complaints, and those that are filed reportedly are turned over to the county sheriff for investigation. Notwithstanding a number of high profile “raids” conducted by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2008, as reported in the local media at the time, no complaints have resulted in a LAWA enforcement action to date.

Finally, LAWA’s potentially adverse impact on Arizona’s economy has been negligible, or is simply undetectable. According to Gans’ study, the current recession has had a disproportionately adverse impact on business sectors that rely heavily on immigrant labor, such as construction. Therefore, because employment of all workers in those sectors, including immigrant labor, has been hard hit as a result of the current economic meltdown, any “LAWA-effect” has been masked.