From today’s LA Times Op-Ed:

“By Christine Stenglein and John Hudak
Customs and Border Protection last year awarded a $297-million contract for assistance in recruiting and hiring the 5,000 border patrol agents President Trump believes we need to combat “the recent surge of illegal immigration at the southern border with Mexico.”

Those bold numbers may please the Make America Great Again crowd, but it will be exceedingly difficult to find qualified agents, or to deploy them effectively since the border is actually quieter than ever.

Under the Clinton administration, it took 27 applicants to yield one Border Patrol officer. And the hiring ratio has gotten worse. In spring last year, when Customs and Border Protection requested bids for private contractors to help fulfill Trump’s order, it wrote that it now takes 133 applicants to hire one full-time employee.

A private contractor may improve on those figures by designing a new recruitment strategy and implementing it in labor markets that Customs and Border Protection hasn’t previously tapped. The contractor may not repeat the agency’s past mistakes, like spending millions on polygraph tests for applicants who have already admitted to disqualifying offenses like human trafficking. Still, it’s a tough task. The contractor needs to find men and women who will be willing to work in remote areas, can pass the physical fitness requirements and haven’t touched marijuana in at least two years.

But let’s imagine that Customs and Border Protection succeeds in hiring, training and equipping all 5,000 new officers and manages to hang on to the roughly 20,000 agents it already has (which hasn’t been easy up to this point). Are they as urgently needed as the executive order would have us believe? The best evidence available tells us the answer is “absolutely not.”

In 2017, the number of people apprehended at the border fell 26% compared with the previous year, and the totals haven’t been this low since the Nixon administration. The “recent surge of illegal immigration at the southern border with Mexico,” the president’s basis for his border security push, likely reflects only a temporary rise in apprehensions from 2015 to 2016. If you zoom out, that’s a blip in a long, downward trend, from more than 111,000 apprehensions in 2004 to fewer than 30,000 last year.

Besides, Customs and Border Protection itself doesn’t even seem to know where it would be optimal to deploy additional personnel or whether they’re needed at all. According to a special report from the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General, “Neither CBP nor ICE could provide complete data to support the operational need or deployment strategies for the additional … agents and officers they were directed to hire.”

A suddenly larger law enforcement agency, with numerous new recruits and without a clear deployment strategy, isn’t just a financial liability, but a safety risk.

Another Homeland Security Inspector General report found numerous problems with DHS agencies keeping track of and securing their equipment. Customs and Border Protection, for instance, did not have an accurate firearm inventory and one agent left his gun in a backpack at a gym, where it was stolen.

Adding an enormous number of employees to an agency that faces administrative dysfunction and has no coherent plan to detail new agents will create a scenario in which costs will be high and benefits may be quite low.

There’s negligence and inefficiency, and then there’s actual malfeasance. In the spring of 2016, around the time Trump was starting to make inflammatory speeches about immigrants, the Homeland Security Advisory Council cautioned that Customs and Border Protection’s disciplinary process was “broken.” It urged the agency to hire an adequate number of internal investigators and described serious dysfunction in the handling of complaints and disciplinary cases.

For major areas of concern like domestic violence and alcohol abuse, it found that the agency lagged behind standard law enforcement practices. A host of harmful activities, from bribery to alleged sexual assault, have come to light and caused problems for Customs and Border Protection in the past.

The risk is that Trump’s hiring surge at the border will please his base, while accomplishing little and increasing the possibility of policy failure.

Christine Stenglein is a research assistant at the Brookings Institution. John Hudak is a senior fellow in governance studies at Brookings.”


Meanwhile, Head ICEman Tom Homan would like more agents so he could violate the Constitution by arresting and prosecuting local officials who refuse to take part in ICE’s “Gonzo” Immigration Enforcement program. That’s even though to date Federal Courts have unanimously found sanctions on states and localities for refusing to act as ICE enforcement agents unconstitutional.

DHS (much like the US Immigration Courts) is an administrative mess! DHS should be required to account for both their current use of enforcement personnel (including filling all current vacancies with qualified agents) and plans for future deployment before any additional enforcement agents are authorized.

As I have suggested, under the Trump Administration, DHS is being turned into an “internal security police force.” Today, they are treading on the rights of migrants, Latinos, and their supporters. Tomorrow, it could be YOUR rights at stake.





ICE Director Sarah R. Saldana Responds To Retired U.S. Immigration Judges’ Oct. 31, 2016 Letter Expressing Concerns About Immigration Detention Policy!

Here is Secretary Johnson’s response, written by ICE Director Sarah R. Saldana, to the Oct. 31, 2016 letter expressing concerns about detention policy written by a group of twelve retired U.S. Immigration Judges and Board of Immigration Appeals Members, including me.
Not really much new or unexpected here.  But, it was nice of Director Saldana to write such a lengthy reply and summary of the policies.

The Director attached the “Report of the Subcommittee on Privatized Immigration Detention Facilities” dated Dec. 1, 2016, which has previously been released.  I had  seen this document.  The most remarkable part is the “dissenting opinion” of Subcommittee Member Marshall Fitz of the Emerson Collective contained at FN 14:

“Separate views of subcommittee member Marshall Fitz on this recommendation:
Based on the review this subcommittee conducted, I respectfully dissent from the conclusion that reliance on private prisons should, or inevitably must, continue. I concede, as reflected in this recommendation, that overall enforcement policy, historical reliance on private prisons, and geographic concerns are presently driving reliance on private facilities. I also acknowledge that any shift away from such reliance would take years,carry significant costs,and require congressionalpartnership.As a result, I understand the position adopted by the s ubcommittee, but I disagree that these obstacles require our deference to the status quo.

First, in my estimation, the review undertaken by the subcommittee points directly toward the inferiority of the private prison model from the perspective of governance and conditions.To be sure, fiscal and flexibility considerations represented countervailing factors. However, on balance, my preliminary judgment, based on the evidence we actually gathered as part of this review, is that a measured but deliberate shift away from the private prison model is warranted.

Second, as the body of this report acknowledges, the short time line and tools at our disposal necessarily limited the depth of our review. As such, I emphasize the preliminary nature of my judgment above. I believe, however, that recommendation (1) likewise should have acknowledged that process constraints rendered any firm conclusion on the appropriate mix of detention models premature.

Third, a number of key issues that went beyond the scope of this review are too consequential and too integral to allow for a fully informed decision on federal versus private detention models. Ameaningful determination on the best detention model in light of all relevant factors demands deeper investigation. Any such investigation should consider a broader set of questions regarding the most effective and humane approach to civil detention as well as whether alternatives to detention could lead to diminished reliance on physical incarceration. Absent that type of thorough review, I cannot, in good conscience, agree that status quo reliance on the continuation of the private detention model is warranted or appropriate.

Aside from this fundamental question, I strongly concur in the remainder of the subcommittee’s recommendations regarding steps that should be taken immediately to improve the conditions, inspections, and oversight of extant facilities.”

Significantly, a substantial majority of the Committee that reviewed the Report and forwarded it to Secretary Johnson joined the dissent. Stripped of all the bureaucratic double speak, the Committee basically recommended that DHS get out of the private detention business.

The question is, with a change of Administrations in the offing, will anyone pay attention?  Perhaps.  Incoming DHS Secretary Gen. John Kelly impresses me as a thoughtful leader who does not want to spend his tenure fighting “wrongful death” and “substandard conditions” lawsuits, which is where this is going unless somebody in charge both adopts and expedites the exit from private detention.

Gen. Kelly also has a reputation as someone who was firmly committed to protecting human rights while in the military.  So, I also have to doubt if he wants to have his reputation suffer just to save a few bucks on civil detention (which seems to have been the traditional DHS mode of operation).  At least, that’s what I hope.  Only time will tell.

The full Subcommittee Report and the original retired judges’ letter are at the links below.



85436 Enclosure-Detenton Report