Agencies responsible for preventing persons and goods from entering the country illegally are understaffed but there are other problems as well, which even boosting employment as the administration has proposed won’t address, a Senate hearing has been told.
The president of an AFGE Immigration and Customs Enforcement council, for example, said that while the potential staff increase is welcome, “we have very little faith in the ability of ICE leadership to most effectively implement these additional officers and support staff.” Instead of focusing on numbers, he said, the agency needs to adjust duties to allow officers to spend more of their time on field activities rather than administrative duties.
Similarly, an official from the AFGE Border Patrol Council said that agency currently is short-staffed by some 1,700 positions out of an authorized 21,400. To meet the goal of adding 5,000 more, given normal attrition, the Border Patrol would need to add some 2,700 more in each of the next five years–more than five times as many as it currently newly deploys annually.
Both further cited issues with morale, pointing out that those agencies are near the bottom in that measure consistently in the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.
Also, Tony Reardon, president of the NTEU, which represents Customs and Border Protection Agents, said that CBP is still struggling to fill an additional 2,000 positions authorized in 2014, with some 1,400 positions currently vacant. Staffing shortages have damaged morale there as well, he said, including by requiring extensive overtime.