Trump administration moving quickly to build up nationwide deportation force

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The Trump administration is quickly identifying ways to assemble the nationwide deportation force that President Trump promised on the campaign trail as he railed against the dangers posed by illegal immigration.

An internal Department of Homeland Security assessment obtained by The Washington Post shows the agency has already found 33,000 more detention beds to house undocumented immigrants, opened discussions with dozens of local police forces that could be empowered with enforcement authority and identified where construction of Trump’s border wall could begin.

The agency also is considering ways to speed up the hiring of hundreds of new Customs and Border Patrol officers, including ending polygraph and physical fitness tests in some cases, according to the documents.

But these plans could be held up by the prohibitive costs outlined in the internal report and resistance in Congress where many lawmakers are already balking at approving billions in spending on the wall and additional border security measures.

Administration officials said the plans are preliminary and have not been reviewed by senior DHS management, but the assessment offers a glimpse of the behind the scenes planning at DHS to carry out the two executive orders Trump signed in January to boost deportations and strengthen border enforcement.

Although Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly has said DHS is not pursuing mass deportations, Trump’s executive orders broadly expanded the pool of undocumented immigrants who are deemed a priority for removal.

“This is an administration that very much is interested in setting up that mass deportation infrastructure and creating the levers of a police state,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “In these documents, you have more proof and evidence that they’re planning to carry it out.”

Congressional Democrats, who have opposed Trump’s immigration agenda, have expressed skepticism that Congress would agree to approve funding for many of the expensive initiatives.

If Congress were to allocate more funds, the next step for CBP, according to the documents, would be to begin work with the Army Corps of Engineers to launch construction of 34 miles of levee wall or a border barrier in the Rio Grande Valley sector, which the agency calls the “highest priority area,” as well as 14 additional miles of a border barrier in the San Diego sector.

Although ICE has identified 27 potential locations that could increase its detention space by 21,000 additional beds, that agency “will be unable to secure additional detention capability until funding has been identified,” according to the documents.

In addition, CBP has made contingencies to expand its own detention capacity by 12,500 spaces, but the agency does not spell out whether funding is available for those slots.

“They’re throwing a lot of public resources at a problem that should not be a priority, especially since the number of [border] crossers is down considerably,” said Kevin Appleby, a senior director at the Center for Migration Studies.

“Up to now, they have really been using scare tactics to put on a show, to demonstrate to supporters they are tough on immigration,” Appleby said. “Eventually, they really have to produce results. Without congressional approval [for funding], they will not reach the deportation numbers under Obama. That will be the test. If in the first year, if there are not a significant number deported, how will they distinguish themselves from the previous administration?”

 

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