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Remarks by Secretary Janet Napolitano to the Anti-Defamation League

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano speaks to the Anti-Defamation League.

On April 29th, Secretary Janet Napolitano was honored by the Anti-Defamation League with the William and Naomi Gorowitz Institute Service Award for her work as Secretary of Homeland Security in combatting terrorism, extremism, and injustice. The Secretary's full remarks are below.

Thank you, Abe, for your kind words.

I’ve been privileged to work with the Anti-Defamation League since the 1990s and was honored to receive the ADL Leader of Distinction award as Arizona Attorney General, and your “Torch of Liberty” award as Governor, as Abe mentioned.

I am truly humbled again tonight to receive the William and Naomi Gorowitz Institute Service Award, for the Department of Homeland Security’s work to “combat terrorism, extremism, and injustice”.

Receiving an award from an organization like the ADL, with its history of fighting inequality, bigotry and hatred is moving for me personally.

But I accept it tonight on behalf of the more than 240,000 men and women of DHS.  This is truly a recognition of their collective efforts, day in and day out, to ensure the security of our country, while protecting fundamental human rights and civil liberties.

DHS does not do this work alone; we succeed through partnerships with organizations like yours. For nearly a century, Americans have known the ADL as a strong voice, standing against anti-Semitism, bigotry, and violent extremism, and for human rights and dignity.

I’m pleased that our partnership has expanded over the last few years, becauseat DHS, we believe that local authorities and organizations are best able to identify those individuals or groups exhibiting dangerous behaviors, and to intervene before they commit acts of violence. 

In that spirit, the ADL helps us, as part of DHS’s three-pronged efforts to counter violent extremism:

Better understanding violent extremism and the threat it poses to the Nation and to specific communities;

Strengthening relationships with those communities targeted for recruitment by violent extremists; and

Supporting information-driven, community-oriented policing efforts that have proven effective in preventing violent crime across the Nation for decades.

ADL has helped to train senior leaders at DHS, and thousands of law enforcement officers in communities around the country, sharing your extensive knowledge to help those on the frontlines better understand the behaviors, tactics, and other indicators that could point to terrorist activity, and the best ways to mitigate it.  

Local law enforcement agencies are often in the best position to spot early signs of violent extremism, and your work with them has been invaluable. Thank you.

Tonight, I want to highlight some of the work DHS has done to prevent and respond to mass atrocities, to collaborate on security efforts with Israel, ensure the security of American, and in particular, American Jewish communities, and reform our immigration system. 

As we know too well, hatred can inspire violence anywhere in the world, as we remind ourselves every year on Yom Ha’shoah. 

On Monday, at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, President Obama reminded the nation of our duty, not only to remember the Holocaust, but to prevent and respond to atrocities today, because, as he said, “…remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture.  Awareness without action changes nothing.”

I know some of you were there, and I hope everyone had a chance to hear his full remarks, because they were a powerful statement of what we, as a country, have done in the last few years – from South Sudan to Libya to the pursuit of Joseph Kony and the arrest of Ratko Mladic, charged with ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. America’s actions have saved lives.

The President has identified the prevention of mass atrocities as a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States, and our actions have sent a message to war criminals and would-be war-criminals that they will face justice.

President Obama also spoke of what we must do, and will do going forward, to meet the challenge of “never again” – to, as he said, “defend the fundamental right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security.”

This is not an issue that can or should be addressed by our military alone, and DHS is proud of its part.

DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has investigated hundreds of suspected war criminals and human rights violators, working closely with partners at the Department of Justice and State Department to bring them to justice. 

We all know about infamous Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk, who was deported by ICE for the last time in 2009, to stand trial in Germany for assisting in the murder of at least 29,000 Jews at Sobibor.

But we have helped bring many other human rights violators to justice, like:

Gilberto Jordan a Guatemalan soldier who by killing a child, started a two-day massacre in which he and his unit killed more than 170 people.  In 2010, he was stripped of U.S. citizenship, and he’s in prison today.

Marko Boskic and Nedjo Ikonic Both men were involved in different parts of the massacre of Bosnian Muslims known as the genocide at Srebrenica in 1995.  In 2010, after serving time in U.S. prison, ICE deported both men to Bosnia Herzegovina, where they were taken into the custody of war crimes prosecutors.

Charles Taylor, Jr., a brutal murderer, convicted of torture in support of his father’s regime in Liberia.  He was the first person the Department of Justice prosecuted under the federal criminal torture statute passed in 1994.  Sentenced in 2009, he is now serving a 97-year prison term.  And his father was just convicted this week by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, for aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity in that country.

Since 2004, ICE has deported more than 500 of these human rights violators, with others serving time in U.S. prisons.

ICE’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit, created in 2008 and made permanent by ICE Director John Morton in 2009, strengthened our focus on denying these criminals entry to the U.S. and bringing those already here to justice. 

Over the last four years, this unit has issued nearly 16,000 lookouts for people from more than 90 countries, and stopped 103 human rights violators or war crimes suspects from entering the U.S.

And under President Obama’s new strategy, we will do even more to ensure that the United States will not be a safe haven for war criminals.

And to prevent human rights abuses and ensure the safety of citizens around the world, we work with our international partners to enhance global security. 

DHS personnel are stationed in over 75 countries in just about every part of the globe, where our activities range from helping protect the international aviation system to strengthening cargo security to helping other nations secure their own borders and prosecute criminals of all kinds, including human traffickers and smugglers.

I’m pleased to note that DHS has a particularly strong partnership with our friend and steadfast ally Israel.  I need not remind anyone here of the special bond shared between the United States and Israel.  Not only do our two nation’s share strategic interests and face common dangers, but we share common values.  And that’s why we’ve have increased cooperation between our two countries to unprecedented levels.

We are working directly with our Israeli counterparts in a number of areas:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Israel Customs are partnering on the Container Security Initiative in the Port of Haifa and conducting high risk cargo scanning in Israel – to ensure dangerous cargo does not threaten either of our countries.

U.S. and Israeli law enforcement are cooperating on extraditions of criminals convicted of crimes such as money laundering. Together, we support joint financial investigations and target illicit finance and bulk cash smuggling between our two countries.

We have ICE attaché offices in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  These offices work closely with Israeli law enforcement and customs counterparts to investigate transnational crimes of concern to both nations.

We’re collaborating with Israel on science and technology, emergency management, and intelligence analysis and exchange.

And of course, Israel’s aviation security system is known as the most innovative in the world.  While we have different challenges in this area, we have looked to Israel for lessons that we can apply to our own aviation security system in the United States to make it even more effective and threat-based.  Indeed, our experts meet twice a year to exchange aviation security information.

And aviation security brings me back to our domestic work.  Because our work overseas with our international allies is central to our mission at home.  

We have learned that an engaged, vigilant public is essential to efforts to prevent acts of terrorism,

And all of our work to collaborate with the public and non-profits is clear in DHS’ relationship with the American Jewish community.

It’s a partnership that didn’t necessarily begin with this Administration, but I’m proud that we have built upon and expanded it under President Obama’s leadership.

We have depended on this partnership recently as we’ve witnessed a number of high profile domestic and international events that have directly impacted the Jewish community, both here and abroad.

It’s also a partnership we have leveraged to make communities across the country better prepared to deal with threats that may originate within this country or abroad.

We know that the Jewish community has concerns, especially in light of the recent events in Toulouse, France; increased tensions overseas; the fire bomb against a Rabbi’s home in New Jersey; and threats that emerged from Bulgaria, Greece, and Thailand.

While there is no intelligence regarding a credible threat by a foreign organization directed at any specific target within the United States, we monitor intelligence every day and we work with state and local officials and organizations like the ADL to take measures necessary to provide timely and detailed information regarding potential threats.

And we continue to be vigilant to ensure the security of the Jewish community.

I met with Jewish community leaders at the White House last week, and we’ve stayed in close contact over the past several months to address the issues I just mentioned.

And we are working closely with the FBI to hold coordinated outreach and briefings to the Jewish community; and to identify potential targets and address any vulnerabilities.

In addition, we are expanding our “If You See Something, Say Something,” partnerships since we announced our partnership with the Jewish community last June.  The Jewish community is the first faith based community that DHS has partnered with on this important campaign.

We also have worked more broadly to support faith-based communities through DHS grants and information sharing, because we recognize the important role of nonprofits in our homeland security efforts and the threats that are faced by many nonprofit organizations across the country. 

That’s why in spite of Congress’s nearly 50 percent cut to grants in Fiscal Year 2012, we sustained funding for our Nonprofit Security Grant Program.  And for the first time, we made nonprofit organizations eligible for Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Activities (LETPA) funding.

We also created a Faith Based Task Force under the Homeland Security Advisory Council to explore ways to increase partnerships and information sharing with the faith-based community. And this task force has Jewish community representation.

The ADL understands the complexities of the world we live in.  And you understand that even as we fight for progress every day, it does not always come as quickly as we want it to. 

One area where we’ve made significant progress, but still have a way to go, is the issue of immigration. 

The United States is a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. Our very founding is rooted in immigration.  At every great and momentous occasion throughout our proud history, immigrants have contributed to the richness of our culture, the strength of our character, and the advancement of our society.

The best way to honor that tradition and carry it forward is through smart and effective enforcement of immigration laws, combined with streamlining and facilitating the legal immigration process. 

And over the last three years, that’s exactly what we’ve done, to the greatest extent possible under current law. 

We have worked to reduce bureaucratic inefficiencies in visa programs, streamline the path for entrepreneurs who wish to bring business to the U.S., and improve systems for immigration benefits and services.

And we’ve developed sensible priorities for enforcement to make the best use of our limited resources.  90 percent of the people we removed from the country last year were criminal aliens, repeat immigration law violators, recent border entrants, or immigration fugitives.

And while there are some who say we’re doing too little and others who say we’re doing too much, our results are clear: illegal immigration attempts are at their lowest levels since 1971, crime in border communities is down, removals of criminals are up, and our reforms have made our immigrant detention system more fair, safe and humane.

But fundamental change will require Congress to change our broken immigration laws.  And President Obama has made clear that in his second term he will challenge Congress to pursue immigration reform, including passing the Dream Act, as a step toward ensuring that our laws reflect our values 

As people of conscience, you’re engaged on issues like immigration, all the areas we’ve discussed tonight, and many more – both as members of the ADL and in your every day lives.  In the spirit of “tikkun olam,” you stand for civil rights and civil liberties for all.  

And we strive for that every day at DHS, as we tackle many complex and difficult issues facing our nation today.

National security and civil rights and liberties are not at odds – to the contrary, they bolster and support each other.  A free society that engages all its people is inherently more secure than one that does not provide opportunity for all.

The ADL understands that intuitively, and I look forward to continuing our work together.  Thank you again for the Gorowitz Institute Service Award.

Together, we can continue to make the Jewish community, all communities of faith, and all Americans safer, while defending and preserving civil rights and civil liberties for all.

Jarrod Bernstein is the Director of Jewish Outreach in the Office of Public Engagement.