- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2017

An inspector general put a major dent Monday in President Trump’s call for 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and 10,000 new deportation officers, releasing a report saying the administration can’t begin to justify that exceptional level of hiring.

Given the stringent standards and hiring rates, U.S. Customs and Border Protection would have to receive a staggering 750,000 applications in order to find 5,000 Border Patrol agents.

The numbers are only slightly better for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — some 500,000 people would have to apply in order to fill the 10,000 deportation officer slots Mr. Trump wants, said Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth.

Even if they could hire the agents and officers, the government can’t explain how it would train and deploy them in a way that would make sense, Mr. Roth said. CBP, for example, said it’s still at least three years away from being able to describe its operational needs — much less align its workforce to meet those objectives.

“Neither CBP nor ICE could provide complete data to support the operational need or deployment strategies for the additional 15,000 agents and officers they were directed to hire,” Mr. Roth said. “Without well-defined operational needs and comprehensive deployment strategies, DHS may not be able to achieve the correct number, type and placement of personnel.”

Mr. Trump called for the massive hiring surge during last year’s campaign, then once in office moved quickly to follow through, issuing an executive order laying out the aggressive moves.

The 10,000 ICE agents would constitute the “deportation force” the president promised, while the 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents would bolster efforts to seal off the southwest border.

Mr. Trump’s 2018 budget asked for a down payment of 500 Border Patrol agents and 1,000 deportation officers.

Democrats said the new report should pump the brakes on the president’s rush to hire.

“President Trump’s decree to drastically expand the Border Patrol and increase his deportation force was put in place without a clear need for the 15,000 new agents and officers or a plan for hiring and deploying them,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee.

He told Homeland Security to go “back to the drawing board” and come up with a new plan that not only defends the hiring, but explains how agencies will bring them on board.

In its official response to the report, Homeland Security brushed aside Mr. Roth’s assessment without addressing any of his findings. Instead, the department defended Mr. Trump’s vision, saying it was a response to “emerging operational needs and changes in technology.”

“DHS remains committed to ensuring correct staffing levels, ratios and placements,” said Jim H. Crumpacker, the department’s liaison with the inspector general.

The 10,000 deportation officers would require ICE to hire another 6,500 technical and operations support staff, the inspector general said. CBP would have to hire another 3,000 staff to support the 5,000 new agents.

Mr. Roth said both agencies are already facing problems in identifying, recruiting, hiring, training and deploying personnel.

At least a third of Border Patrol agents supposed to be patrolling the southern border are actually doing desk jobs right now, and could be pushed out to the front lines rather than hiring thousands of new personnel.

With the level of illegal immigration across the southwest border apparently dropping already, Mr. Roth said it may not even be necessary to hire so many new agents.

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