WASHINGTON - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is considering a hiring surge that would more than double the agency’s size in the coming six years to nearly 46,000 employees, surpassing previously published estimates, according to a government contracting-related document released this week.
In a “Request for Information” Wednesday seeking input from the private sector about staffing services to support such an increase, ICE stated it could hire as many as 25,700 staff members by 2023, beginning in early 2018. The agency currently employs about 20,000 people and has a well-documented struggle with finding and keeping new hires.
The higher figure surpasses the 10,000 new immigration enforcement agents and deportation officers President Donald Trump called for in a January executive order; it also goes above the “more than 6,500 technical and operational support staff” the agency anticipated requiring.
Asked about the potential hiring surge, an ICE spokesperson twice referred to the agency’s Frequently Asked Questions site, specifically a section stating that in addition to hiring the 10,000 agents and officers, the agency would add “additional operational and mission support and legal staff necessary to hire and support their activities.”
The agency declined further comment.
Hiring challenges ahead
A Request for Information (RFI) is an initial step in the government contracting process to gauge the capabilities, interest and estimates of possible vendors, who in this case would be providing human resources support in “recruiting, examining, selecting and placing employees” at ICE.
The document lays out an estimated pace, saying its current estimated hiring need is 2,500 beginning March 2018; 7,000 hires each year from 2019 to 2021; and 2,200 hires in 2022.
An RFI does not guarantee a proposal and bidding process will follow; the document is careful to state that staffing services “may be needed.”
But if ICE follows through with an aggressive hiring plan, it will likely need outside help in the hiring process.
A report by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general in July estimated that in order to add 10,000 immigration agents and deportation officers to the current level of around 6,000, the agency would need to vet about a half-million applicants.
ICE has also had difficulties in keeping up with vacancies from losing 795 employees annually through attrition; DHS has the most understaffed human resource services among larger federal agencies, according to a July DHS Inspector General’s report.
ICE will need about 200 more people who work in human resources to keep up with the hiring process for so many new employees.
Another report from the Inspector General, issued this month, said the agency, along with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “face significant challenges in identifying, recruiting, hiring and fielding the number of law enforcement officers mandated in the January 2017 Executive Orders.”
Trump mandated CBP hire an additional 5,000 border officers in the same executive order as the ICE increase. There is no Request for Information announced for a CBP hiring surge.
But in the November report, the Inspector General noted neither agency “could provide complete data to support the operational need or deployment strategies for the additional 15,000 agents and officers they were directed to hire,” calling into question the need for what Trump ordered.
The degree to which the hiring is carried out will depend on funding allocated by Congress, and also by presidential politics — Trump’s term ends in January 2021, in the middle of the anticipated increase to ICE’s ranks.