DHS Shut Out Congress and Attorneys During Muslim Ban Chaos, DHS Inspector General Challenges Need for Expansion
The Trump Administration and Republican allies are pushing for billions in additional funding to beef up the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deportation force, including 15,000 new ICE and CBP agents. But revelations and reports that came out yesterday will – and should – generate increased opposition in Congress to this spending request.
Late last night Betsy Woodruff of the Daily Beast reported:
On the chaotic day the Trump administration’s travel ban went into effect, high-level Homeland Security officials directed their staff at airports around the country to stiff-arm members of Congress and treat lawyers with deep suspicion,” according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request from The Daily Beast and The James Madison Project.
President Trump’s plan for an aggressive hiring surge of 15,000 Border Patrol and immigration personnel to help keep out undocumented immigrants is unrealistic — and the Department of Homeland Security has not made a case for it…
Below are excerpts from the Betsy Woodruff piece in DailyBeast:
A CBP official wrote in an email on Jan. 28 that the agency’s employees were forbidden from speaking to members of Congress.
“As stated on the call earlier today, you and your staff are NOT to engage with the media or Congressional representatives at this time,” emailed Todd Owen, the executive assistant commissioner of CBP’s Office of Field Operations, at 7:49 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28. “Please make sure your subordinate Port Directors are following this direction. Please report any such requests to acting AC[REDACTED] from Congressional Affairs. Thank you.”
Owen sent that email about twenty hours after the travel ban went into effect. The ban—which blocked people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.—had already thrown airports around the country into chaos. Protesters flooded into airports by the thousands, waving signs and singing patriotic songs. Lawyers hauled laptops and printers into international baggage claim areas, trying to keep detained travelers from being deported or from accidentally signing away their green cards. And members of Congress held impromptu press conferences and demanded CBP officials tell them how many people were detained.
CBP wouldn’t tell them.
Another email, sent by a CBP official whose name was redacted, shows that the agency made a deliberate choice to ignore questions from attorneys.
“Please be aware that various locations around the country have begun receiving a high volume of calls from various individuals and others claiming to be attorneys regarding the recent Executive Order (EO),” read the email, sent out on Feb. 1 just after 3 p.m.“The callers appear to be reading from a script and they begin by identifying themselves, state they are calling regarding the EO and proceed to ask if we are following the law, the EO and ask how many people we are currently detaining.”
The official added, “This is most likely a form of telephonic protest to the EO.”
“Please advise all your personnel not to engage the callers nor respond to any questions,” the email continued. “Ensure all requests for information are referred to the Office of Public Affairs.”
Below are excerpts from the Lisa Rein piece on the Inspector General report:
“President Trump’s plan for an aggressive hiring surge of 15,000 Border Patrol and immigration personnel to help keep out undocumented immigrants is unrealistic — and the Department of Homeland Security has not made a case for it, the agency’s watchdog says.
A report released this week by the DHS inspector general concludes that based on its rigorous screening requirement for law enforcement jobs and the relatively high rate of attrition among Border Patrol agents, Homeland Security would have to vet 750,000 applicants to find 5,000 qualified personnel.
In addition, to hire the 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents the president called for in executive orders he issued in his first days in office, a pool of 500,000 candidates would need to apply, auditors found.
The report calls into question whether DHS officials even need 15,000 new hires to target undocumented immigrants. Agency leaders have done such poor planning for what their workforce should look like, with an understaffed, poorly trained human resources operation, that they cannot justify thousands of new employees, the report says.
“Neither [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] nor [ICE] could provide complete data to support the operational need or deployment strategies for the additional 15,000 agents and officers,” the report by the office of Inspector General John Roth said.
It also questions whether DHS even needs 15,000 new officers to carry out its mission as immigration arrests decline. The Border Patrol apprehended 12,193 people along the Southwest border in March compared with 18,754 in February, a 35 percent decrease, and 31,577 in January, a 61 percent slide.
“These trends may impact the number of new Border Patrol agents needed,” the report said.
“It’s not surprising that President Trump’s decree to drastically expand the Border Patrol and increase his deportation force was put in place without a clear need for the 15,000 new agents and officers or a plan for hiring and deploying them,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.), the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement.
“I hope DHS goes back to the drawing board and shows us the need for new personnel along with a clear plan on how to better manage them once deployed.”