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New Federal Laws Address Whistleblowers and Border Security

12/10/2012 -President Barack Obama recently signed two bills into law. One of the laws (P.L. 112-205) improves security along the U.S. border with Mexico while the other (P.L. 112-199) expands whistleblower protections for federal employees.

P.L. 112-205 is designed to improve security along the U.S. border with Mexico by requiring that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) establish a border enforcement security task force. The task force will facilitate collaboration among federal, state, local, tribal, and foreign law enforcement agencies. These groups will share information and launch coordinated crime reduction activities.

ICE will be required to report to Congress on the effectiveness of the program in enhancing border security and reducing drug trafficking, arms smuggling, illegal-alien trafficking, violence, and kidnapping along the border.

P.L. 112-199 reaffirms whistleblower rights that have been taken away via interpretation by the courts. For example, the law makes it clear that a whistleblower need not be the first person to report a wrongdoing to reap the protection of the law. The law also makes it easier for whistleblowers to prove that they were retaliated against by changing the burden of proof. Under the new law, whistleblowers need only prove that the protected disclosure was a significant, motivating factor in the retaliation, not the only motivating factor.

The law extends special protection to specific government employees, such as scientists who reasonably believe their work has been censored. The law also protects employees of the Transportation Security Administration and allows the disclosure of homeland security infrastructure information by whistleblowers.