Wednesday, September 23, 2009

USCIS website

It's not interesting to a lot of people, but I happily received this e-missive from the Department of Homeland Security:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas and Federal Chief Performance Officer Jeff Zients today launched a redesigned USCIS website—available in English and Spanish—a major effort which fulfills President Obama’s pledge to offer enhanced navigation tools for the public to access immigration information and review case status Here's the press release

I'm on board because I've been signed up for DHS emails since the federal immigration ball started rolling toward the CNMI (My inner civil libertarian also wants to see what this huge post-911 monstrosity of a department is up to.)

For instance, a little more than a week ago, I fruitlessly looked for this press release about the proposed foreign investment rules for the Commonwealth. On the new site it was two clicks away. (To be fair, they may not have been updating the old site very well because they knew it was on its way out.)

Ah, those rules; let's take a meeting

The Marianas Variety has a Press Release from Congressman Gregorio C. Sablan with the statement that "Published visa waiver regulations will not be changed before Nov. 28, Napolitano said, although she did hold out the hope of some creative solution to allow Chinese and Russian tourists into the Marianas." So much for having a comment period. Okay, okay, I'm sure there were a lot of comments and they were duly considered. But, still...

Creative solution? Hmm, how about ankle bracelets? Talking to DEA about searching everyone on the planes? That's off the top of my head.

I'm glad the Secretary was able to take the time to discuss the issues, more happy that she "gets it". What does that mean in the real world?

If Napolitano says the tourist visa regulations are signed, sealed and deliverable, I'd guess nil and none are the chances for changes on foreign investment. All in all, not much about the meeting to like, other than the fact it took place. I do like Kilili's last sentences in the Press Release: "I also find it interesting that these investor regulations will even waive fees for investors. This is what we need to do for other people, IRs and permanent residents, who also have made a long-term commitment to the Northern Marianas and cannot easily afford the fees for U.S. visas."

Great suggestion. I hope Napolitano "gets it".

Changing the subject (and why not?)

My daily chuckle came from the line in the release about the USCIS website praising President Obama's pledge and naming all of the officials responsible for it. It reminded me of the current hullabaloo in the 'red'* blogs about the cost of road signs touting projects with 'recovery' or 'stimulus' act funding. Their source seems to be this Washington Times article. "These are self-congratulatory signs; they're political signs", according to Sen. Judd Gregg. "They're so that lawmakers can pat themselves on the back."

The money is small potatoes, though waste is waste (Those $3,000 signs in New Jersey must pad a lot of pockets). Just another teapot tempest.

We see that stuff so much that it's almost invisible. Newspaper notices from supposedly autonomous agencies that have to slip in the Governor's name. The phrase "under the leadership of" slipped gratuitously into stories. Sen. Gregg is either naive or cynical to make such a big deal about it. It's interesting, for instance, that Sen. John McCain's effort to get pork out of the transportation and housing bill didn't get any traction at all.

* (Yes, I hate labels, but that's the closest I can get. They're not exactly conservative, not all Republican. I don't know how else to lump them together in one tent. Even more off of the subject: how did they get to be red, while the liberals got blue. It seems to be an inversion of that whole pinkie, red menace meme.)

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