2017 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics Released

Immigrants coming to America with lady libertyThe Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics has released its annual report of immigration statistics, the 2017 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics (2017 Yearbook).

The data presented in the 2017 Yearbook goes back as far as the 1860’s, consisting of measurements in the following subject matter: Lawful Permanent Residents, Refugees and Asylees, Naturalizations, Nonimmigrant Admissions, and Enforcement Actions.

A notable finding from the 2017 Yearbook is that the number of aliens apprehended has been trending downward in the 21st century: over 1.8 million reported cases in the year 2000 down to just over 460 thousand cases in 2017. Over that same time frame, the number of persons obtaining lawful permanent resident status has been fluctuating right around 1 million: the low point being in the year 2003 with about 700 thousand cases, and peaking in 2006 with over 1.2 million.

For more information on topics related to this piece, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Immigration.

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Author: Vincent Milano


Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Airport Safety Challenges

unmanned vehicle systemThe Blue Ribbon Task Force on UAS Mitigation at Airports (BRTF) released a report on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and counter-UAS technology, airport safety protocols, and the necessary policy framework. The BRTF, commissioned by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), studied integration, detection, identification, and mitigation of unmanned systems technology in and around airports. In addition, the Task Force sought to provide recommendations to airports and the U.S. and Canadian governments.

Building upon the Interim Report published in July 2019, the Final Report aims to advance aviation and airport safety and security. Specifically, the continuous development and wide-spread use of UAS technology represents a growing concern over drone-related incidents. As revealed by the report, the majority of incidents stem from “careless or clueless” operators of UAS applications. Furthermore, while the use of UAS can provide additional perimeter security, facility safety and inspection, the lack of regulatory framework “poses great challenges for authorities’ response to criminal operators.” In response to these challenges, the report highlights the need for solutions that can safeguard airports from unauthorized or poorly managed UAS.

As a result, the Final Report provides the following key recommendations:

  • Identify roles and responsibilities of key airport stakeholders in UAS spotting and reporting;
  • Request Congressional oversight and authorization of the FAA as the lead agency in monitoring UAS traffic;
  • Empower state and local authorities to respond to offenders through necessary legal and policy initiatives;
  • Assist airports in preparing and responding to authorized and unauthorized UAS missions on or in the airport vicinity;
  • Evaluate the safety of operational integration of UAS in airspace under 400 feet; and
  • Address evolving mission capability of UAS, including EVTOL [electric vertical takeoff and landing] package delivery.

For more information on these issues, check out the resources about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that are available in the Homeland Security Digital Library. Visit the Featured Topics for more on information. Please note: HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

Is Youth Violence Preventable?

explosive burning carsIn a recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), authors Sarah Bast and Victoria DeSimone examine the question of whether or not the pathways to violence can be disrupted, specifically with regard to youth. The report, “Youth Violence Prevention in the United States: Examining International Terrorists, Domestic Terrorists, School Shooters, and Gang Members” argues that, “youths who become international terrorists, domestic terrorists, school shooters, and gang members share similar factors that play a role in their pathways to violence.” Among these four categories of violent offenders (international terrorists, domestic terrorists, school shooters, and gang members) are five types of factors which create and pave the path to violence. These factors include:

  1. Personal-level risk factors, such as psychological/mental health and personal background.
  2. Group-level factors, such as social networks and their dynamics.
  3. Community-level factors, such as social environments and any alienation or marginalization.
  4. Sociopolitical-level factors, such as foreign policy, external happenings, and media.
  5. Ideological-level factors, such as an appealing narrative or ideologues.

“Individuals proceed along the path to violence when they experience problems with which they are unable to cope and become convinced that non-violent solutions will not rectify their  grievances.” The authors note that personal-level risk factors, group-level risk factors, community-level factors, and sociopolitical-level factors were seen in all four types of violence. However, the first two factors (personal-level and community-level) provide the best opportunity at which to insert prevention measures  in an effort to disrupt the pathway to violence. According to the report, there are three central elements to violence prevention.

  1. Early education for school children and educators acts as a safeguard by increasing awareness and mitigating those first steps into a pathway to violence.
  2. Early intervention can redirect an individual who is already on the pathway to violence if the intervention occurs before a crime is committed, and before the individual has fully committed to a violent crime.
  3. Off-ramping is the third prevention component, and involves a community-led intervention, in which an individual is guided away from violence and assisted in reintegrating into the community. This third method of prevention is the last opportunity to disrupt the pathway to violence without bringing in law enforcement.

“There is no one perfect prevention strategy, framework, or program. Rather, different forms of prevention will resonate with different potential recruits, much like different factors affect an individual’s path to violence. The most effective strategies build on indigenous knowledge, expertise, and leadership to produce strategies that are culturally relevant and appropriate to local conditions.” This report, which builds on the National Counterterrorism Center’s (NCTC) 2011 terrorism study, is meant to inform the reader that creating a diverse and dynamic toolbox is the best way to fix what is broken. Especially with regard to the three types of prevention strategies, it seems that an ounce of prevention could certainly be worth a pound of cure.

The HSDL offers many additional resources, such as featured topic collections on Active Shooters, Domestic Terrorism, Global Terrorism, and Gangs. Please note: HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Kendall Scherr

2018 Crime in the United States Data Released

policemen facing an arrestThe FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program has released the annual crime statistics report, Crime in the United States, 2018. The UCR Program collects information on offenses known to law enforcement, including violent crimes of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, as well as the property crimes of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. The Additional Data Collections contain information on persons arrested, police employee statistics, federal crime, human trafficking, and cargo theft.

As stated in the FBI’s press release, the publication highlights the following key findings:

  • In 2018, there were an estimated 1,206,836 violent crimes. The estimated number of robbery offenses fell 12.0 percent, murder and nonnegligent manslaughter offenses fell 6.2 percent when compared to 2017 data. The estimated volume of aggravated assault offenses decreased 0.4 percent, while rape (revised definition) offenses increased 2.7 percent.
  • Nationwide, there were an estimated 7,196,045 property crimes. The estimated numbers for all three property crimes showed declines when compared with the previous year’s estimates. Burglaries decreased by 11.9 percent, larceny-thefts by 5.4 percent, and motor vehicle thefts by 3.1 percent.
  • By violent crime offense, the arrest rate for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter was 3.7 per 100,000 inhabitants; rape (aggregate total using the revised and legacy definition), 7.7; robbery, 27.2; and aggravated assault, 121.4 per 100,000 inhabitants.
  • Of the property crime offenses, the arrest rate for burglary was 54.9 per 100,000 inhabitants; larceny-theft, 275.5; and motor vehicle theft, 28.1. The arrest rate for arson was 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants.
  • In 2018, 13,497 law enforcement agencies reported their staffing levels to the FBI. These agencies reported that, as of October 31, 2018, they collectively employed 686,665 sworn officers and 288,640 civilians—a rate of 3.4 employees per 1,000 inhabitants.

Additionally, the publication provides current information on hate crime statistics, data regarding felonious and accidental in-the-line-of-duty deaths and assaults on officers (LEOKA), as well as the National Incident-Based Reporting System for incidents, offenses, victims, offenders, and arrestees (NIBRS). To download printable files of this publication, please visit here.

The HSDL offers many additional resources related to the issue of Law Enforcement and Statistics. Visit the Featured Topics for more on information. Please note: HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

Wildfire Management: An Analysis of Incident Response to the 2018 Mendocino Complex Fire

The Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest near in California began on Aug. 17, 2013 and is under investigation. The fire has consumed approximately 149, 780 acres and is 15% contained. U.S. Forest Service photo.As another fire season begins, Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics and Ecology (FUSEE) examines the conflicting wildfire protection strategies that resulted in extensive destruction and casualties during the Mendocino Complex Fire in northern California in July and August of 2018.

Futility and Fatality in Fighting the 2018 Mendocino Complex Fire is an interactive story map article describing the chronology of the Mendocino Fire Complex and the decision-making process that was involved in the “largest fire in recorded modern California history” during the “deadliest and most destructive fire season in California history.”

FUSEE suggests that patient control of wildfires, especially in fire-adapted ecosystems, is often a more effective practice than aggressive suppression of fires. Full suppression strategies are engaged when property protection is the predominant incident objective, which is also a necessary condition for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) to provide firefighting resources. This objective, however, directly contrasts with ecological fire management practices that recognize the natural role of wildfires.

Protecting property as a primary goal directly conflicted with and superseded federal policy on wildfire management as the Ranch Fire in the Mendocino Complex moved into open wilderness. This caused interagency conflict and inefficient decision-making despite warnings that full suppression methods would have a “low likelihood of success” due to extreme fire weather conditions. As a result, one firefighter was killed and several more were injured. The Mendocino National Forest is also now fragmented by several catlines that run through previously intact wilderness.

The article highlights the need for interagency communication and ecosystem focused approaches to wildfire management, especially when the risk to life and property is low:

Tree growing from wildfire ashes. Between the two extremes of aggressively “fighting” fires and passively “letting them burn,” there is a whole range of alternative actions for safe, ethical, ecological fire management. Agencies have a multitude of advanced technology and tools that enable them to wisely manage rather than blindly fight all fires – if managers choose to use them. Science-based risk assessments are one of these powerful high-tech tools. The RMAT [Risk Management Assistance Team] reports should have tempered fire managers’ compulsion to do something by providing rationale to do something different than a conventional firefighting strategy and tactics.

As changes in the climate increasingly impact wildfire incidence and extent, FUSEE calls for the use of more proactive strategies for wildfire management to improve overall goals of protecting not only life and property but also natural ecosystems.

More resources on Wildfire can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL).

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Author: Andrea Page

Irreversible Change: A Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere

melting ice blocks on black sand beachThe Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) approved and accepted Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate at its 51st Session held on 20 – 23 September 2019. The IPCC acts as the United Nations body created to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change. Consequently, the IPCC offers a comprehensive policy-relevant analysis of climate change by determining the state of scientific knowledge.

Coinciding with the UN Climate Action Summit 2019, the most recent report is the result of a 2016 IPCC Panel decision to prepare three Special Reports during the Sixth Assessment Cycle. This Special Report focuses on the state of the ocean and cryosphere ecosystems, and their role in climate adaptation. In particular, “[t]he ocean and cryosphere support unique habitats, and are interconnected with other components of the climate system through global exchange of water, energy and carbon.” Significantly, the report underscores the role of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions in furthering the irreversible changes to these systems over next decades to millennia.

The report consists of three parts: Observed Changes and Impacts, Projected Changes and Risks, and Implementing Responses to Ocean and Cryosphere Change. In addition, each section includes various degrees of scientific certainty as related to continuous climate change.

A few key observation of high confidence (or virtual certainty) include:

  • Climate warming has led to shrinking of the cryosphere and reductions in snow cover and Arctic sea ice extent;
  • Continuous increases in global ocean warming remain unabated since 1970 while undergoing increasing surface acidification and loss of oxygen;
  • Global mean sea level (GMSL) is rising along with increases in tropical cyclone winds and rainfall resulting in extreme coastal weather.

The HSDL offers many additional resources related to global climate issues in our special featured topics Climate ChangeHurricanes, Mass Evacuations, and Social Media Use in Emergencies. Please note: you will need HSDL login to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

National Security Strategy Focuses on Changing Nature of Threats

Flag memorial at Ground ZeroThe Department of Homeland Security released the Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism and Targeted Violence to address the changing landscape of security challenges to the nation:

These threats have become more complex, more interconnected, more intertwined with technological advances, and closer to home.

The nation faces a wider variety of threats than in decades past. Rapid advances in technology present both a threat to our nation as well as a means for safeguarding our national security. This report examines the increasing the threat of violent extremism, targeted violence in public spaces, and the radicalization of youth and disaffected populations.

The Strategic Framework implements the 2017 National Security Strategy and the 2018 National Strategy for Counterterrorism using four organizational concepts:

  1. Intelligence
  2. Border security
  3. Domestic prevention
  4. Preparedness

Effective intelligence operations provide understanding of security threats while strong border security strategies inhibit hostile actors from entering the U.S. Terrorism and targeted violence within the U.S. are addressed through prevention strategies that focus on domestic terror groups and ideological extremists. Communities that are prepared are better able to address incidents and respond cohesively to a violent event.

A public action plan will follow that describes the actions for accomplishing the goals presented in the Strategic Framework.

More resources can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL).

Some of the links in this report require institutional access. Click here to view these reports directly: Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism and Targeted Violence, 2017 National Security Strategy, 2018 National Strategy for Counterterrorism

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Author: Andrea Page

In Focus: Ransomware

New In Focus now available on Ransomware.

From the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA):

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has observed an increase in ransomware attacks across the world: See CISA’s Awareness Briefings on Combating RansomwareJoint Ransomware Statement, and CISA Insights – Ransomware Outbreak.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software, or malware, designed to deny access to a computer system or data until a ransom is paid. Ransomware typically spreads through phishing emails or by unknowingly visiting an infected website.

Ransomware can be devastating to an individual or an organization. Anyone with important data stored on their computer or network is at risk, including government or law enforcement agencies and healthcare systems or other critical infrastructure entities. Recovery can be a difficult process that may require the services of a reputable data recovery specialist, and some victims pay to recover their files. However, there is no guarantee that individuals will recover their files if they pay the ransom.

Each HSDL In Focus brings together short lists of resources in the HSDL collection that are highly relevant to current events.

Please Note: An HSDL account may be required to view some resources.

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Author: Jenna Hillhouse

Violent Extremists Risk Assessment: From Recruitment to Action

In a new research paper from the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT), Liesbeth van der Heide, Marieke van der Zwan, and Maarten van Leyenhorst compare risk assessment tools for predicting violent extremism.

According to the report, there has been an increase of “violent extremist offenders (VEOs)” in Europe, which has naturally led to a higher number of VEOs in the prison system. Looking forward, the authors ask: how can we identify inmates who have been subject to radicalization, and what happens when they are released?

The “The Practitioner’s Guide to the Galaxy” assesses and compares seven risk assessment tools that range from identifying recently indoctrinated individuals to monitoring individuals who have working plans to inflict harm, and predicting the probability of an individual’s likelihood of engaging in violent extremism.

black and white image of a crumbling wall in a jail cell that has days tallied in it with lines and large white splotches

For more information, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Domestic (U.S.) TerrorismGlobal Terrorism, and Lone Wolf Terrorism, Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Emily Bruza

E-Book Urges U.S. to Address Hostile Social Manipulation

The e-book, Hostile Social Manipulation: Present Realities and Emerging Trends, from the RAND Corporation’Research Report Series, examines the complicated relationship between modern democracies and the real and potential effects of cyber manipulation on their constituents.

Focusing specifically on the two most pressing and prominent threats, China and Russia, the report explores where we stand with the technology being used against us now, and how we can prepare for more sophisticated attacks as that technology evolves.

The authors urge the U.S. to take immediate action in funding and understanding the complex issue of social manipulation. They believe putting policies and infrastructure in place now will enable us to keep pace with the rapidly-expanding nature of cyber threats in the future.

Close up of keyboard backlit by red lighting, focused on the keypad numbers 1-9

For more information, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Cyber Crime and National Security, Cyber Policy, Cyber Infrastructure Protection, Electronic Surveillance, and Global Terrorism. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Emily Bruza