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Donald Trump breaks promise to triple number of ICE deportation officers
President Donald Trump has not fulfilled his promise to triple the number of deportation officers
Before Trump took office, there were around 5,800 deportation officers and immigration enforcement agents within a division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a fiscal year 2016 budget request. Deportation officers enforce immigration laws by identifying, arresting, detaining and removing immigrants illegally in the country.
To fulfill this pledge, there would need to be more than 15,000 deportation officers on board. Trump hinted at that number when he signed an executive order five days after his inauguration in 2017, calling for the hiring of 10,000 additional immigration officers.
PolitiFact asked ICE for the current number of deportation officers. An agency spokesperson pointed to ICE's fiscal year 2019 end of year report, which said there were an estimated 5,300 deportation officers in the Enforcement and Removal Operations division (excluding supervisory and headquarters personnel.) A February 2020 report from the Congressional Research Service also said ICE had "roughly 5,300 deportation officers."
The number of ICE deportation officers is likely to fluctuate as people are hired or leave the workforce. For instance, an ICE web page last updated early April 2019 said the agency had more than 6,100 deportation officers. But as the end of year report indicates, that number has declined.
Overall, the size of the ICE agency has not increased substantially during Trump's presidency. A budget request for fiscal year 2017 said ICE in fiscal year 2016 had close to 20,000 full time employees, nearly 8,000 of them in the Enforcement and Removal Operations division. In fiscal year 2020, the agency employed close to 21,000 full time employees, around 8,300 in the Enforcement and Removal Operations division.
It's not something his administration has ignored altogether. Trump's budget requests have called for more funding for ICE deportation agents, but Congress hasn't appropriated full funding.
In a supplemental appropriations request for fiscal year 2017, the administration requested $76 million to build hiring capacity, but Congress did not provide funds specifically for the hiring called for in Trump's executive order, said a June 2018 U.S. Government Accountability Office report. The administration also requested about $186 million in fiscal year 2018 for 1,000 additional ICE law enforcement officers and agents and 606 support staff, but only received $15.7 million for 65 agents and 70 attorneys and support staff, the GAO report said.
The logistics of hiring 10,000 more people has also been challenging for ICE. A year after Trump's order, the agency reported not having a sufficient pool of candidates to fill existing vacancies plus the positions requested in Trump's order.
The June 2018 GAO report said ICE officials were ensuring procedures were in place "so that ICE is ready to begin hiring additional immigration officers and support staff if funds are appropriated." In January 2018, ICE issued a contract solicitation to find a company to help the agency with the hiring process, but ICE cancelled that solicitation in May 2018 due to lack of funding for hiring.
A November 2018 report from the Office of Inspector General within the Department of Homeland Security said the department was still preparing to hire the officers requested in Trump's executive order. According to that report, ICE at some point projected hiring 8,500 deportation officers and 1,500 Homeland Security Investigations agents over a four-year period. (ICE's Homeland Security Investigations agents focus on cross-border criminal activity, such as trade crimes, cybercrimes, and human trafficking.)
Trump's January 2017 executive order said the additional hiring of immigraton agents would be "to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations." Logistical challenges and lack of funding have hindered fulfillment of this promise. We rate it a Promise Broken.
Email interview, April Grant, spokesperson for ICE, June 26, 2020
Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Budget Overview, Fiscal Year 2021 Congressional Justification; Budget-in-Brief, FY 2021, Budget-in-Brief, FY 2019; Budget-in-Brief, FY 2017; Budget-in-Brief, FY 2016
ICE.gov, Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Fiscal Year 2019 Enforcement and Removal Operations Report
Office of Inspector General within the Department of Homeland Security, DHS Training Needs for Hiring 15,000 Border Patrol Agents and Immigration Officers, Nov. 26, 2018; Special Report: Challenges Facing DHS in Its Attempt to Hire 15,000 Border Patrol Agents and Immigration Officers, July 27, 2017
U.S. Government Accountability Office, BORDER SECURITY AND IMMIGRATION Initial Executive Order Actions and Resource Implications, June 2018
Congressional Research Service, In Focus: "Sanctuary"Jurisdictions: Policy Overview, Feb. 21, 2020
Wayback Machine, archive of ICE web page last updated April 2, 2019
Trump signs executive order to increase ICE deportation officers
Five days after his inauguration, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to increase the number of immigration officers, a move that's in line with one of his top campaign promises.
Trump's executive order directs the secretary of homeland security, through the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to "take all appropriate action to hire 10,000 additional immigration officers, who shall complete relevant training and be authorized to perform the law enforcement functions described in section 287 of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1357)."
Powers vested in that section of the Immigration and Nationality Act include the ability to arrest an individual who is entering or attempting to enter the United States illegally and to question individuals as to their right to be in the country.
ICE, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, has about 20,000 employees, including an estimated 5,800 deportation officers who identify, apprehend and remove deportable immigrants.
Trump's promise is to triple the number of ICE deportation officers, and by adding 10,000 officers it gets pretty close to tripling the number.
On Jan. 25, Trump told immigration enforcement employees that his executive orders (he also signed an executive order to build a wall on U.S.-Mexico border) will empower ICE officers "to target and remove those who pose a threat to public safety, calls for the hiring of another 5,000 border patrol officers, calls for the tripling of the number of ICE officers."
"And you both do an incredible job, but you need help, you need more," Trump said.
The executive orders signed Jan. 25 say the additional hirings shall be carried out to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
Pending funding and hiring, we rate this promise In the Works.
Email exchange, Steven Cheung, White House assistant communications director, Jan. 25, 2017
Email exchange, ICE official, Jan. 25, 2017
WhiteHouse.gov, Executive Order: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, Jan. 25, 2017
WhiteHouse.gov, Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, Jan. 25, 2017
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, section 287 of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1357, accessed Jan. 25, 2017
More officers means more money needed
One of President Donald Trump's most polarizing talking points during the campaign was the deployment of a deportation force to remove people living in the country illegally.
An estimated 11 million people don't have legal permission to be in the United States. About 742,000 people who came to the country when they were minors were temporarily protected from deportation under a deferred action program introduced by President Barack Obama's administration. During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to eliminate that program, but expressed a more sympathetic tone during an interview with Time magazine that published after the Nov. 8 election.
While Trump's comments on deportations have often been vague, he has frequently declared his determination to deport millions, particularly criminals.
"We are going to triple the number of [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] deportation officers," Trump said during an immigration speech in Arizona in 2016. "Within ICE, I am going to create a new special Deportation Task Force, focused on identifying and removing quickly the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants in America who have evaded justice.
WHY HE'S PROMISING IT
During the presidential campaign, Trump branded himself as a law-and-order candidate whose administration would strictly adhere to and follow the law.
Trump has emphasized his desire to remove immigrants in the country illegally who have been convicted of crimes, saying they've killed thousands of Americans.
"Nearly 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records, ordered deported from our country, are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens," Trump said July 2016 at the Republican National Convention.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN
The Department of Homeland Security would need to allocate its financial resources, appropriated by Congress, toward the funding for the additional ICE employees.
Trump's priority removals, especially for criminals, mirror the ones under Obama's administration.
People who are criminals, gang members, security threats, who have overstayed their visas, recent illegal arrivals and "those relying on public welfare or straining the safety net" are among Trump's enforcement priorities.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST
Trump has not provided estimates of how much would be needed for ICE staffing increases and for the special deportation task force.
ICE receives about $6 billion a year and agency-wide employs about 20,000 people.
In fiscal year 2016, ICE removed 240,255 individuals, 58 percent of them were previously convicted of a crime, according to the agency.
WHAT'S STANDING IN HIS WAY
Trump as president would have discretion to set removal priorities and to decide how to best deploy the finite immigration enforcement resources appropriated by Congress, said Stephen Legomsky, professor emeritus at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis and a former chief counsel at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
"He would not need any further congressional action to change the existing priorities, and he could plausibly announce those priorities on his first day in office if he and his team are ready to do so," Legomsky said.
Trump's promise to triple ICE's deportation officers depends on funding from Congress. The president submits a budget to Congress in February. Based on the 1974 Congressional Budget Act, the deadline for the final adoption of the budget resolution is April 15, though final agreements may come later, notes a report from the Congressional Research Service. The upcoming fiscal year starts Oct. 1, 2017.