Monday, November 24, 2014

Part of the Obama Plan: Personnel Reform for ICE Officers


Photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website

As fleshed out in some detail by the Department of Homeland Security, President Obama's recently announced immigration plan has quite a few components. One item on the list of immigration initiatives is "Personnel Reform for ICE Officers": 

"Related to these enforcement and removal reforms, we will support job series realignment and premium ability pay coverage for ICE ERO officers engaged in removal operations. These measures are essential to bringing ICE agents and officers pay in line with other law enforcement personnel."

A memorandum from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas S. Winkowski further provides that

"In recent years , Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) priority missions have increasingly focused on national security and public safety. In furtherance of that, the Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations ' (ERO) enforcement strategy and initiatives have shifted heavily towards the investigation, identification, location, arrest, prosecution, and removal of criminal and other aliens who present a danger to national security or threaten public safety. This targeted approach has in fact resulted in recordĀ­ breaking numbers of criminal removals. ICE ERO has accomplished this under a personnel structure that lags behind that of other federal law enforcement agencies and components , including other ICE components. This discrepancy hurts morale and presents other management challenges. I know you share my commitment to address this.

Today we announced new enforcement priorities for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that will further ICE ERO's focus on DHS's national security and public safety missions. I have concluded that these policy changes should be accompanied by a recalibration of ICE ERO's workforce and personnel pay structure."

The memorandum lists the following steps to be taken ion the ICE personnel reform:

 1.  Job Series Realignment for ICE ERO Officers

2.  Premium Ability Pay Coverage for ICE ERO Officers

3.  "Next Steps: "DHS Secretary Johnson] will thus recommend that the Administration pursue and prioritize regulations and legislation necessary to address job series realignment and premium pay structure that synchronizes our personnel structure and compensation with the critical mission the component executes on behalf of the public."

The steps outlined by the seem to be rather modest reform to the job classifications and pay practices for ICE officers involved in detention and removal operations.  The changes can be expected to be important to the recruitment, retention, and morale of ICE officers. 

The personnel reforms, however, do not address serious concerns about the adequacy of the training of the Border Patrol officers, which allegedly has lagged in a time of greatly increasing numbers of officers.   Several reports, including by the DHS's own Office of the Inspector General, have questioned the training and called for improvements.


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