The Department of Homeland Security will apply a framework of outreach, collaboration, and intelligence-sharing to counter domestic violent extremism against targeted communities under the department’s new Equity Action Plan.
The plan was crafted in line with President Biden’s Jan. 20, 2021, executive order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, which stated that “because advancing equity requires a systematic approach to embedding fairness in decision-making processes, executive departments and agencies must recognize and work to redress inequities in their policies and programs that serve as barriers to equal opportunity.”
DHS singled out seven focus areas in furtherance of this mission: applying for naturalization, accessing humanitarian protection during immigration processing, bidding on DHS contracts, countering all forms of terrorism and targeted violence, filing complaints and seeking redress in DHS programs and activities, airport screening, and accessing Trusted Traveler Programs.
“The Department of Homeland Security interacts with the public on a daily basis more than any other federal agency. Since January 2021, DHS has taken several meaningful steps to ensure we are equitably serving the public and every community across the country,” Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement Thursday. “The DHS Equity Action Plan builds on our Department’s progress in better integrating equity into the full range of DHS activities and reinforces our commitment to continuing this critical work.”
DHS plans to “augment efforts to address domestic violent extremism and targeted violence by enhancing programs to empower communities to prevent targeted violence and terrorism, build resilience among communities, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of ongoing domestic violent extremism programs,” according to the Equity Action Plan.
“U.S.-based lone actors and small groups, including homegrown violent extremisms and domestic violent extremists (DVEs) who are inspired by a broad range of ideological motivations, pose the most significant and persistent terrorism-related threat to our country,” the plan states. “DVEs are motivated by various factors, including racial bias, perceived government overreach, conspiracy theories promoting violence, and false narratives about unsubstantiated fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Among DVEs, racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, including white supremacists (RMVE-WS), will likely remain the most lethal DVE movement in the Homeland.”
It stresses that the department is “committed to combatting all forms of terrorism and targeted violence, including terrorism and targeted violence meant to intimidate or coerce specific populations on the basis of their ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or political views.”
Domestic violent extremism and targeted violence are called “barriers to underserved communities’ full participation in society at large” in the plan, which cites “a troubling increase recently in violence toward the AANHPI community, the Jewish community, African Americans, and other racial minorities” and attacks against synagogues, mosques, and Black churches. Extremism “also often interferes with these communities’ exercise of their civil rights and civil liberties, including the exercise of their First Amendment rights to engage in free speech and to freely exercise their faith.”
The plan says that a “whole-of-society approach” to preventing terrorism and targeted violence will avoid a countering violent extremism approach that focuses on specific communities but instead “provides communities with the tools to help prevent individuals from radicalizing to violence.”
DHS’ Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3) will continue to “enhance support for local efforts to build violence prevention frameworks,” such as its October digital forum focusing on civil rights and civil liberties that included representatives from the Black, Latino, AANHPI, Arab/Middle Eastern, and LGBTQ+ communities as well as faith-based organizations.
The plan aims to improve underserved communities’ access to the Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program and Nonprofit Security Grant Program through outreach to increase awareness and interest as well as technical assistance and support during the grant process.
The department also vows to “prevent, detect, and respond to potential DVE threats internal to DHS” as it establishes “clear policies and guidance to prevent, detect, and respond to potential domestic violent extremists within DHS, while protecting employees’ privacy rights, civil rights, and civil liberties.”
Intelligence analysis and information-sharing capabilities will be augmented to “provide actionable and timely intelligence to the broadest audience at the lowest classification level possible,” “publish and disseminate intelligence bulletins that provide our partners with greater insight into evolving threats and situational awareness that can inform public safety and security planning efforts to identify and prevent violence,” and foster collaboration with the FBI and intelligence community to “better understand and assess the extent of operational relationships between violent extremists in the United States and those operating in other parts of the world.”
DHS will also “continue to conduct robust engagement with members of underserved communities to understand their concerns related to domestic violent extremism and targeted violence.”
To determine the effectiveness of these initiatives, the department says it will assess how targeted underserved communities “report that they feel that DHS, and the government generally, has taken action that makes them feel that the DVE threat against them has diminished.”
The plan adds that DHS will “continue to meet regularly with members of underserved communities and other stakeholders to report on DHS’s efforts to counter DVE and acts of targeted violence, and to welcome feedback on the effectiveness of those efforts.”