U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement unions are cheering President Trump's plan to hire 15,000 new agents, claiming that he has boosted sagging morale by promising to finally help the outnumbered immigration officers — and let them do their jobs.
"During my career at ICE I have never had the opportunity to commend a sitting U.S. president, or DHS secretary, but I'm doing so today. Amidst all the hammering from the media, and protests from special interest groups, President Trump and Secretary (John) Kelly haven't wavered, but instead continued steadfast in their support of the rule of law and our officers in the field," said Chris Crane president of the union representing ICE.
In prepared testimony for a Wednesday Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to support the new Trump hiring project, Crane revealed just how outnumbered ICE's Enforcement and Removal force, responsible for seizing and deporting criminal illegals, is.
"Currently ERO has around 5,000 officers to police approximately 11 million illegal aliens, as well as millions of other lawfully admitted foreign nationals, in 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We are set up for failure. Compare ICE ERO's 5,000 officers to the approximately 35,000 officers on the New York City Police Department alone," he said in his testimony, provided in advance to Secrets. He is the president of National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council 118 of the American Federation of Government Employees.
The U.S. Border Patrol isn't much better off. The president of their union, the National Border Patrol Council, said it is 1,743 agents short.
Brandon Judd said in his written comments, "The congressionally mandated floor for manpower at Border Patrol is 21,370 agents. We are currently 1,743 agents below this floor. To put this figure in perspective, 1,743 agents is about the size of the St. Louis Police Department and slightly smaller than the Milwaukee Police Department. This lack of manpower is already impacting our operations and the smuggling cartels are exploiting the fact we do not have full coverage."
In his bid to beef up border security and the deportation of criminal illegals, Trump has pledged to hire 5,000 border agents and 10,000 ICE agents, an unprecedented and swift build up.
Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, in his prepared testimony, said the threat alone of cracking down on illegal border crossings has already had an impact.
"Beyond improved morale, early data might indicate that the president and Secretary Kelly's tough stance on security could be resulting in fewer attempts to break our laws and enter this country illegally. In February alone, apprehensions at the southwest border decreased 40 percent—from 31,578 in January to 18,762 in February This is noteworthy because apprehensions usually spike in February," said Johnson.
Johnson is a big advocate of building the wall and improving border security. This year, he and Arizona Sens. John McCain and Floyd Flake introduced a bill to lift polygraph requirements to hiring border agents. For unexplained reasons, a majority of border patrol applicants typically fail the lie detector, a percentage not seen for other agencies.
If the Trump hiring plan is OK'd, Judd said that it would require the hiring of 2,700 border agents a year for five years in part due to the high number of those leaving the service. For ICE, that would double.
"President Trump's recent executive orders on strengthening border security and immigration enforcement signal his firm commitment to secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws. The president's call for an increase of 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 10,000 ICE officers is meant to improve the department's ability to enforce our immigration laws," said Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican.
Despite the positive morale in ICE and the Border Patrol, the union officials said if Congress decides to stick instead with President Obama's policies it will fall again.
In a warning, Crane said:
"At the congressional level, our officers and employees desperately need your support. We need your support in terms of additional officers, staff and equipment, but we also need you to support the rule of law and the officers who enforce it. Everything you say and do has consequences. Talk of amnesty will create another run on the border. Disparaging comments about our officers will put their safety at risk. If you don't show respect for the laws enacted by Congress, neither will our state level leaders, citizens, or those from other countries."
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org