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Lofgren leads Dems in urging stop to ICE raids

A Bay Area congresswoman helped lead 146 House Democrats in urging President Obama to suspend Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids targeting Central American families and children.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Downey; and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., sent their letter to the White House just hours before the president was scheduled to deliver his final State of the Union address Tuesday. The entire Bay Area delegation except for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, signed the letter.

Lofgren is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

The lawmakers wrote that the Department of Homeland Security operation “has generated widespread fear and panic in immigrant communities and has far-reaching impacts beyond the alleged targets for removal.” And it has raised due-process concerns “including meaningful access to legal counsel for mothers and children after apprehension and DHS officers reportedly using deceptive tactics to gain entrance into private residences,” they wrote.

“For these reasons and others, we believe that this operation should be immediately suspended until we can ensure no mother or child will be sent back to a country where they would face persecution, torture or death,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Democrats blasted the Obama administration for failing to provide a comprehensive refugee solution for those fleeing from violence in Central America.

“Your Administration has used family detention, Spanish language communication campaigns in Central America urging people not to come to the United States, and financial assistance to Mexico to deter, arrest, and return those fleeing violence,” they wrote. “This strategy has proven to be ineffective, as mothers and children continue to arrive at our Southwest border seeking refugee protection. Desperate Central American mothers and children will continue to flee to the United States and seek protection, regardless of the deterrent actions taken by this Administration.”

A regional solution to the crisis should include refugee screening and resettlement, the use of safe havens in appropriate third countries, temporary protected status for those in the United States, the use of priority refugee processing, and other humanitarian remedies, all in cooperation with other countries and non-governmental organizations, they wrote.

“The goal of this comprehensive refugee approach should be to ensure that Central American refugees, particularly mothers and children, are able to live free from an endless cycle of violence and persecution,” the lawmakers concluded. “We urge you to immediately halt the current enforcement actions towards Central American mothers and children and take steps to engage in a comprehensive effort with our hemispheric partners to address this regional refugee crisis in an appropriate humanitarian manner.”

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House passes ‘clean’ homeland security funding

About a third House Republicans joined with Democrats on Tuesday to pass legislation fully funding the Department of Homeland Security through this year’s end.

Some more conservative Republicans opposed the move, refusing to vote for a bill that doesn’t defund or otherwise roll back President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. But the GOP leadership – speaker John Boenher, R-Ohio; Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Bakersfield; and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. – all voted for it. The vote was 257-167.

From Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin:

“For the past three months, House Republicans have been playing a dangerous game in which the American people are on the losing end. Today, reason prevailed and the games are finally over. The people charged with protecting our national security deserve more than uncertainty. It is outrageous that Homeland Security funding was held hostage to a partisan debate. This is not how we should govern.

“Americans are rightly sick of the politically manufactured crises they’ve come to expect from this Tea-Party-led Congress. I am grateful to finally move past this brinkmanship and address real challenges. It’s time to get to work doing what the American people sent us here to do, creating economy-boosting jobs that pay enough for hard-working families to get ahead.”

From Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock:

“The top priority of Congress is to ensure the safety of the American people. Today’s vote ensures that our homeland security agents and personnel have the certainty and long term funding necessary to do their critical work of keeping us all safe. I do not support the President’s unilateral executive action on immigration as it flies in the face of the United States Constitution and ignores the will of the people. However, we cannot hold hostage funding for our national security and I will continue to push for a full debate on every aspect of immigration reform.”

From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

“Once again, Leader Pelosi has led the House out of a dire situation by providing the Democratic votes necessary to avert a dangerous partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security. The agency will be fully funded through the remainder of the fiscal year, and the American people can be assured that key national security operations will not be interrupted.”

From Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel:

“Our national security will not be shut down. Thankfully enough Republicans put their country before their party and joined with the Democrats to pass a clean DHS bill. Funding for our national security should never be held hostage in a political debate. Those upset by the President’s immigration plan should instead work with us to fix our broken system.”

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Rep. Eric Swalwell attended Ebola hearing in Dallas

Rep. Eric Swalwell was in Dallas on Friday for a House Homeland Security Committee field hearing on the Ebola virus.

The only person so far to be diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil, Thomas Eric Duncan, died Wednesday in Dallas. People with whom he came into contact are being watched carefully for signs of the disease.

Swalwell, D-Dublin, and other members of Congress at Friday’s hearing discussed with health officials how the federal government is working to control the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and prevent a serious outbreak in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security will be implementing enhanced security procedures at the five international airports in the U.S. that account for over 90 percent of travel to the U.S. from areas affected by Ebola.

“As we respond to the Ebola crisis overseas, I called on health officials to aggressively address the situation in West Africa, prepare local hospitals and clinics, and to bust the myths that threaten to cause unnecessary panic,” Swalwell in a statement issued after the hearing.

Swalwell will hold a conference call Tuesday with East Bay hospital officials and the Centers for Disease Control about the Ebola virus and how his office can help to ensure local hospitals and clinics are prepared to screen, diagnose and treat potential Ebola patients.

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Caption contest: Swalwell trips the VR fantastic

(Click to enlarge)
Swalwell at Facebook

The real story: Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, was among House Homeland Security Committee members who visited Facebook’s Washington, D.C., office Tuesday morning; he tried out the new Oculus virtual reality system as part of learning how social media can be used during disasters.

I thought maybe he was immersing himself in a virtual reality in which:

    his bipartisan bills don’t get killed at the last minute by conservative groups;
    someone is calling him “Speaker Swalwell;”
    he’s nominated by peers and chosen by The Hill’s staff to be on that publication’s 11th annual “50 Most Beautiful” list. (Oh, wait – that really happened today. Well, maybe he’s envisioning himself in a sash and tiara, gripping a bouquet of flowers while the late, great Bert Parks croons “There he is…”).

What do YOU think Rep. Swalwell is seeing in those virtual-reality goggles? Keep it clean, please; we’re a family-oriented publication.

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Swalwell wants airport perimeter security check

A Bay Area congressman wants an updated assessment of the nation’s airport perimeter security needs following a Santa Clara teen’s stowaway voyage in the wheel well of a jetliner taking off from Mineta San Jose International Airport.

The 15-year-old jumped a fence to get into the airport Sunday, and miraculously survived a five-and-a-half hour flight to Hawaii despite freezing temperatures and low oxygen levels.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, the only California congressman on the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security, notes there have been several such breaches since the Government Accountability Office last evaluated airport perimeter security in 2009. Several Democrats on the committee requested an update in February, and Swalwell wrote to the agency Tuesday to bolster that request.

“While we have made significant progress in airport security since 9/11, this latest incident near my congressional district in the Bay Area raises serious concerns affecting passenger safety,” Swalwell, D-Dublin, said in a news release. “I join my colleagues on the Homeland Security Committee to call for an updated assessment of airport perimeter security so we can identify vulnerabilities, protect our perimeters, and prevent future breaches.”

Read the full text of Swalwell’s letter to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, after the jump…
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Lawmakers seek update on power station attack

Silicon Valley’s House members want an update on the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation of the sniper attack on PG&E’s Metcalf power substation last April.

METCALF plant 020614Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose; wrote a letter Thursday to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

“Although the damage from the Metcalf incident was largely contained, the potential for a catastrophic attack impacting both our electric grid and communications infrastructure is evident,” the lawmakers wrote. “As we understand it, rolling blackouts throughout our region were narrowly averted. The Metcalf attack, while sophisticated, was relatively small. A larger attack is not difficult to imagine and the effects could be crippling.”

Somebody fired rifle rounds last April to take out 17 transformers and 6 circuit breakers, causing $15.4 million in damage at the facility near Coyote Ranch Road in South San Jose. Nobody was hurt and nobody lost power, but circumstances suggest it was a planned attack.

Given the Bay Area’s high concentration of Fortune 500 companies, patent generation and economic productivity, a successful attack on the area’s power grid “would impact not only our region but our country as a whole,” they wrote.

The lawmakers asked Johnson to respond by March 14 with a summary of his department’s work on the incident, including the initial emergency response; work since the incident on improving protection of critical infrastructure, emergency mitigation and coordination with other agencies; recommendations for more improvements; and guidance on whether any congressional action is needed.