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Pentagon Plan would dedicate 20,000 uniformed troops inside U.S. by 2011

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    (a) Pentagon to detail plan to bolster security Plan would dedicate 20,000 uniformed troops inside U.S. by 2011 ... (b)  Subject: Dems pressed on immigration
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1 12:41 PM
      (a) Pentagon to detail plan to bolster security

      Plan would dedicate 20,000 uniformed troops inside U.S. by 2011


      (b)  Subject: Dems pressed on immigration laws


      December 1, 2008

      Esteban Pimentel, right, and his wife Juana Pime  ntel, left, hold signs during a protest at the front entrance to the U.S. Border Patrol Station,=2  0Imperial Beach.

      Esteban Pimentel, right, and his wife Juana Pimentel, left, hold signs during a protest at the front entrance to the U.S. Border Patrol Station, Imperial Beach. (AP Photo)

      Dems pressed on immigration laws

      Desert Sun Washington Bureau

      WASHINGTON — With more Democrats in Congress next year and a Democrat in the White House, immigration rights groups are gearing up to again urge lawmakers to overhaul the nation's immigration laws.
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      But they concede their agenda could be pushed back while the new administration and Congress wrestles with other pressing problems: the struggling economy, the health care crisis and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      “It's going to be a pretty crowded table,” said=2 0Mary Giovagnoli, director of policy for the National Immigration Forum, an advocacy group. “We're hopeful that there's space at the table for immigration reform.”

      Karan Kler, executive director of the Coachella Valley Immigration Service and Assistance, said immigration is one of the nation's most pressing issues behind the struggling economy.

      0They are interrelated,” Kler said. “Immigrants are the ones who will help bring the economy” back.

      Efforts to change federal immigration policies have sparked bitter partisan battles in Congress. For years, comprehensive immigration reform measures have failed, and scaled-back plans have stalled. Most action on immigration policies has happened on the local level.

      “The Congress is going to be forced to deal with the issue. The previous administration had not wanted to. They had been at a stalemate,'' Kler said. “Any policy that is geared toward enforcement only will never work. You have to give us a solution. If you shut the borders down, they will still kee p coming. But what do you do with the people who are living here?”

      While immigration did not dominate the presidential election, Rep. Mary Bon o Mack, R-Palm Springs, expects it will be an issue in the next Congress, said Chris Foster, a spokesman for the congresswoman.

      “It is something that would absolutely affect Riverside County,” said Foster, noting the county's huge agricultural sector.

      Bono Mack doesn't favor specific legislation but supports an approach that ensures border security first, Foster said. She also feels Congress needs to “develop a robust employee verification'' and build upon the E-Verify system.

      Foster said Bono Mack plans to work with her colleagues on a “non-amnesty guest worker program.''

      “It0Areally runs the gamut from the agricultural sector to the service industry as well at the high-tech sector,'' Foster said of the guest workers.

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      Immigration advocates say their case is bolstered by the huge Latino support of Democrats, particularly President-elect Barack Obama. Advocates say many immigrant voters supported Obama because he promised reform.

      “Immigrants are affected by the economy, the war. ... But immigration reform is a defining issue,” said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “It was a threshold issue.”

      Congressional leaders should “use the power of the new majority to really deliver on this issue,” Hong said. “What we're opposed to is avoiding the issue and letting the issue fester when there are clear solutions.”

      Not all agree

      But even with increased Democratic majorities in the Congress and a Democrat in the White House, immigration reform advocates are cautious about being overconfident.

      “It's not a slam dunk,” said Jeanne Butterfield, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, adding that bills will need bipartisan support. “In the Senate, you still don't have every Democrat on board.”

      Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada plans to take up immigration reform but is working with the new administration on timing, said Jon Summers, a Reid spokesman. House leaders also have promised to consider measures.

      Democratic lawmakers have proposed measures that in clude increased border security, expanded guest worker programs and more programs to allow undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship. Experts estimate there are 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

      Republicans have favored stronger security measures, including building a fence at the Mexican border. They also support a limit on the number of immigrants allowed into the country and stepped up enforcement such as the recent federal crackdowns on companies employing undocumented immigrants.

      Donald Kerwin of the Migration Policy Institute said that with such differing views, Congress is not likely to act on immigration early in the session.

      “This is a very, very difficult, highly charged issue,” Kerwin said. “We will see a lot of rifts within the Democratic Party. I don't think it's going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination.”

      But Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said if lawmakers don't consider the issue early, it could 0slide into midterms” — the 2010 election — and again become a contentious campaign issue.

      “This is one of those issues that needs to be done early on,” said Menendez, noting that it has been difficult for Congress to approve even bipartisan measures such as the Dream Act.

      The legislation, which would allow children of undocumented immigrants more access to college and citizenship, is one measure that could pass next year, experts say.

      Major election issue

      Menendez initially blocked renewal of a pilot program for employers to use government databases to verify the legal status of workers. He said he wanted to improve the E-Verify program but also insisted that thousands of unused visas from past years be distributed. The program allows would-be immigrants to unite with family members already in the U.S.

      He said that with a new Congress, he plans to again p ush his measure. “I do want to see the reforms,” he said.

      Immigration was a major factor in some key races where Republican candidates lost, immigration advocates said. They point to North Carolina, where Sen. Elizabeth Dole, a Republican, was unseated by Democrat Kay Hagan.

      Democrats “now have a clear shot at governing,” said Cecilia Munoz of the National Council of La Raza. “If the immigration question is still festering two or four years from now, people are going to (doubt) what they can deliver. ... Democrats will have to do more than not sound like Republicans.”

      Raju Chebium and Ledyard King contributed to this report.
      < font face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif">
      Contact Deborah Barfield Berry at dberry@...

      Additional Facts Today's poll question:

      Do you think the new C ongress and President-elect Barack Obama will tackle the immigration issue? Weigh in on our poll at mydesert.com

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      Pentagon to detail plan to bolster security

      Plan would dedicate 20,000 uniformed troops inside U.S. by 2011

      Image: Army National Guard stand watch near   the Holland Tunnel

      Stephen Chernin / Getty Images File
      Army National Guard members stand watch near the Holland Tunnel on New York City's Canal Street on May 28, 2003. Security has been more visible since the federal government heightened the terrorism alert from red to orange.

      By Spencer S. Hsu and Ann Scott Tyson

      The Washington Post

      updated 11:46 p.m. ET, Sun., Nov. 30, 2008

      The U.S. mil itary expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials.

      The long-planned shift in the Defense Department's role in homeland security was recently backed with funding and troop commitments after years of prodding by Congress and outside experts, defense analysts said.

      There are critics of the change, in the military and among civil liberties groups and libertarians who express concern that the new homeland emphasis threatens to strain the military and possibly undermine the Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military's role in domestic law enforcement.

      But the Bush administration and some in Congress have pushed for a heightened homeland military role since the middle of this decade, saying the greatest domestic threat is terrorists exploiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

      Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, dedicating 20,000 troops to domestic response -- a nearly sevenfold increase in five years -- "would have been extraordinary to the point of unbelievable," Paul McHale, assistant defense secretary for homeland defense, said in remarks last month at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But the realization that civilian authorities may be overwhelmed in a catastrophe prompted "a fundamental change in military culture," he said.

      The Pentagon's plan calls for three rapid-reaction forces to be ready for emergency response by September 2011. The first 4,700-person unit, built around an active-duty combat brigade based at Fort Stewart, Ga., was available as of Oct. 1, said Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., commander of the U.S. Northern Command.
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      If funding continues, two additional teams will join nearly 80 smaller National Guard and reserve units made up of about 6,000 troops in supporting local and state officials nationwide. All would be trained to respond to a domestic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive attack, or CBRNE event, as the military calls it.

      Military preparations for a domestic weapon-of-mass-destruction attack have been underway since at least 1996, when the Marine Corps activated a 350-member chemical and biological incident response force and later based it in Indian Head, Md., a Washington suburb . Such efforts accelerated after the Sept. 11 attacks, and at the time Iraq was invaded in 2003, a Pentagon joint task force drew on 3,000 civil support20personnel across the United States.

      In 2005, a new Pentagon homeland defense strategy emphasized "preparing for multiple, simultaneous mass casualty incidents." National security threats were not limited to adversaries who seek to grind down U.S. combat forces abroad, McHale said, but also include those who "want to inflict such brutality on our society that we give up the fight," such as by detonating a nuclear bomb in a U.S. city.

      In late 2007, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England signed20a directive approving more than $556 million over five years to set up the three response teams, known as CBRNE Consequence Management Response Forces. Planners assume an incident could lead to thousands of casualties, more than 1 million evacuees and contamination of as many as 3,000 square miles, about the scope of damage Hurricane Katrina caused in 2005.

      Last month, McHale said, authorities agreed to begin a $1.8 million pilot project funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency through which civilian authorities in five states could tap military planners to develop disaster response plans. Hawaii, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Washington and West Virginia will each focus on a particular threat -- pandemic flu, a terrorist attack, hurricane, earthquake and catastrophic chemical release, respectively -- speeding up federal and state emergency planning begun20in 2003.

      Last Monday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered defense officials to review whether the military, Guard and reserves can respond adequately to domestic disasters.

      Gates gave commanders 25 days to propose changes and cost estimates. He cited the work of a congressionally chartered commission, which concluded in January that the Guard and reserve forces are not ready and that they lack equipment and training.

      Bert B. Tussing, director of homeland defense and security issues at the U.S. Army War College's Center for Strategic Leadership, said the new Pentagon approach "breaks the mold" by assigning an active-duty combat brigade to the Northern0ACommand for the first time. Until now, the military required the command to rely on troops requested from other sources.

      "This is a genuine recognition that this [job] isn't something that you want to have a pickup team responsible for," said Tu ssing, who h as assessed the military's homeland security strategies.

      The American Civil Liberties Union and the libertarian Cato Institute are troubled by what they consider an expansion of executive authority.

      Domestic emergency deployment may be "just the first example of a series of ex pansions in presidential and military authority," or even an increasein domestic surveillance, said Anna Christensen of the ACLU's National Security Project. And Cato Vice President Gene Healy warned of "a creeping militarization" of homeland security.

      "There's a notion that whenever there's an important pro blem, that the thing to do is to call in the boys in green," Healy said, "and that's at odds with our long-standing tradition of being wary of the use of standing armies to keep the peace."

      McHale stressed that the response units will be subject to the act, that only 8 percent of their personnel will be responsible for security and that their duties will be to protect the force, not other law enforcement. For dec ades, the military has assigned larger units to respond to civil disturbances, such as during the Los Angeles riot in 1992.

      U.S. forces are already under heavy strain, however. The fir st reaction force is built around the Army's 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, which returned in April after 15 months in Iraq. The team includes operations, aviation and medical task forces that are to be ready to deploy at home or overseas within 48 hours, with units specializing in chemical decontamination, bomb disposal, emergency car e and logistics.

      The one-year domestic mission, however, does not r eplace the brigade's next scheduled combat deployment in 2010. The brigade may get additional time in the United States to rest and regroup, compared with other combat units, but it may also face more training and operational requirements depending on its homeland security assignments.

      Renuart said the Pentagon is accounting for the strain of fighting two wars, and the need for troops to spend time with their families. "We want to make sure the parameters are right for Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. The 1st Brigade's soldiers "will have some very aggressive training, but will also be home for much of that."

      Although some Pentagon leaders initially expected to build the next two responseunits around combat teams, they are likely to be drawn mainly from reserves and the National Guard, such as the 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade from South Carolina, which returned in May after more than a year in Afghanistan.

      Now that Pentagon strategy gives new priority to homeland security and calls for heavier reliance on the Guard and reserves, McHale said, Washington has to figure out how to pay for it.

      "It's one thing to decide upon a course of action, and it's s omething else to make it ha ppen," he said. "It's time to put our money where our mouth is."

      © 2008 The Washington Post Company

      © 2008 MSNBC.com


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