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By Will Racke
President Donald Trump repeatedly said on the campaign trail that he would create a “deportation force” to crack down on criminal aliens, and his administration is now moving aggressively to make good on that promise.
An internal Department of Homeland Security assessment obtained by The Washington Post shows that the agency has already taken a number of steps to prepare for a sharp increase in detentions and deportations.
DHS has identified 33,000 additional detention beds to house illegal immigrants and initiated discussions with dozens of local police departments, which could be empowered to assist with immigration enforcement operations, the memo said. It has also received over 400 bids from construction companies to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, the centerpiece of the administration’s border security policy. (RELATED: Border Wall Protoypes To Be Built Near San Diego Crossing)
Trump’s January executive order on improvements to border security called for hiring an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents. According to the DHS assessment, certain employment screening tests may have to be waived in order to expedite the build up.
Among the pre-employment phases that could be modified or suspended for applicants are the polygraph examination and a physical fitness test.
All Border Patrol candidates are currently give a polygraph to determine if they are susceptible to corruption or influence based on familial and social ties. The assessment said that Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, is exploring options to expand eligibility for a polygraph waiver to applicants with a “demonstrated track record of integrity and service,” such as veterans or law enforcement officers who have previously passed a polygraph.
DHS is also considering a change to physical fitness screening, the memo said. Border Patrol agents and CBP officers are currently run through two pre-employment fitness tests, but the department might move the second test to a “non-adjudicative phase” of hiring for Border Patrol, and eliminate it altogether for CBP officers.
Administration officials said the hiring plans are preliminary and have not been approved by DHS management. Gillian Christensen, DHS’s acting spokesperson, told the Washington Post that the agency would not comment on “pre-decisional documents.”
The Border Patrol is currently staffed at 92 percent of its statutorily mandated strength of 21,370 agents, DHS documents show. Trump has requested an additional $61.1 million in the fiscal year 2017 budget to expedite hiring enough agents to cover the shortfall.
Assuming it is able to get funding, CBP expects to reach the statutory minimum sometime in early FY2018, the memo said. The agency plans to request $100 million to bring on 500 Border Patrol agents for that year.
Increasing agency manpower isn’t the only method DHS is employing to speed up deportations. The agency has also identified pilot locations for a program that uses video teleconferencing to remotely conduct removal proceedings for illegal immigrants incarcerated in federal prisons. (RELATED: Sessions Moves To Quickly Deport Imprisoned Immigrants)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last month that the Department of Justice would expand the program to ensure that criminal aliens are “expeditiously removed from our country as the law requires.”