National Immigration Forum

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Homeland Security 2.0: DHS on the Web

September 02, 2009 - Posted by Lena Graber



In DHS’s attempts to balance “getting tough” on immigration enforcement with showing that the Administration’s policies aren’t also “more of the same”, a new and curious trend has emerged—an effort to engage the American populace on DHS issues through social networking sites and other online media communications. The question of whether this is a genuine new form of outreach or a public relations ploy has yet to be answered.


The Obama Administration in general has certainly placed an emphasis on the role of technology in government, especially through use of online media. A quick look at the White House and OMB websites makes clear that every effort has been made to give people expanded access to executive information, blog posts by Executive staff abound, and let’s not forget the President’s use of his beloved Blackberry. But to what end is the Department of Homeland Security looking towards with its web-based initiatives such as the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QSHR) and the Our Border site?


The QSHR is DHS’s project to assess and revise its goals and priorities as an agency, and as part of this, DHS created an online forum for National Public Dialogues on its four main substantive areas of work: Counterterrorism and Domestic Security Management; Securing Our Borders; Smart and Tough Enforcement of Immigration Laws; Preparing for, Responding to, and Recovering from Disasters.  There is also opportunity to weigh in on the processes for national risk assessment and planning and capabilities.


The First National Dialogue was open for comments for one week earlier in August, and the second iteration is currently open for public comment this week until September 6.  A final dialogue will open between September 28 and October 4. 


While in the first dialogue comments adhered to discussion of the proposed priorities and mission statements in each area that the QSHR had provided, the second dialogue is degenerating into clamors for securing the southern border with land mines (although unlike many other hostile comments, that one has been fairly roundly rejected).  However, there are a handful of pro-immigrant advocates and people focusing on the policy issues, and they are in need of support.  You can register to join the dialogue, but hurry to comment before the end of the week!


In addition, DHS has another immigration-related website:, the Southwest Border Civic Network.  This seems like an improvement on the nearly unabated tide of militarization that has been launched on border communities in recent years.  As Melissa del Bosque at the Texas Observer commented: “Civic and “border” were never used in the same sentence under George W’s reign. 


That said, the purpose of the website is not entirely clear.  It’s designed as a social networking site, where you can invite friends and create your own page and blog.  There are also forums where people are discussing border and immigration, as well as groups created for comprehensive immigration reform, ICE, CBP, and CIS. 


What is DHS’ goal with these websites?  There is policy commentary to make: the QSHR involves study groups that purportedly have a role in developing DHS policy, and may be looking to the National Dialogues for ideas and input.  The policy link from the OurBorder to DHS activities is less evident.  But it seems that the Obama administration’s message is that even the government itself can be a forum for public organizing and networking, and that DHS supports that process.


Check out the sites and discussions for yourself:


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