Immigration, customs agency may be headed for hiring spree

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is planning to hire 2,000 agents to work at its division responsible for detaining illegal aliens and sending them out of the United States when possible, according to a recent internal memorandum.

Stephen Dade, Pacific Rim regional director for the Federal Protective Service, which also is within ICE, told about 130 employees in an e-mail memorandum Sunday that "2,000 openings in [ICE's Office of] Detention and Removal [Operations] would be available soon." He added that "this is a good opportunity for police officers who do not want to become [FPS] inspectors to jump ship while the jumping is good."

Dade, when contacted by Government Executive, confirmed that ICE will start hiring shortly, but deferred all other questions to the agency's press office, which did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Dade said when the positions do become available, they will be listed at .

If 2,000 agents are hired, ICE would grow by more than 13 percent, to about 17,000 employees from 15,000. ICE is the Homeland Security Department's largest investigative branch and has four main divisions, including FPS, which is responsible for securing the more than 8,800 federal facilities nationwide.

A source familiar with ICE management said hiring will begin soon for regions "where there are large [detention] facilities and immigration courts, such as Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix [and] Miami." The immigration agent positions will be "heavily weighted" toward the Southwest because of ongoing efforts to enforce immigration law there, the source said, but some positions may open up in New York, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco as well.

ICE will be hiring GS-1801 agents, Dade said in the memorandum. He told FPS employees that, in order to be eligible for the positions, they must be 37 or younger and meet other standards on which he did not elaborate. About 200 protective service employees qualify, he stated.

Another source aware of the hiring plans said a recent pitch offering employees at the cash-strapped FPS early retirement did not attract many takers. "A hundred or so people took [the offer]," the source said. "That's not enough."

In his memorandum, Dade said ICE regional directors were informed of the coming openings with the Office of Detention and Removal Operations Friday during a conference call. "I know that deep cuts still need to be made to get us through this temporary financial situation," he told FPS employees.

While the detention and removal office is bolstering its ranks in what appears to be a greater effort to control illegal immigrants and promote immigration law enforcement, FPS remains under a hiring freeze, sources confirmed. The agency faced a budget shortfall of $42 million in fiscal 2006, in part because of agencies' failures to make timely payments for security services provided by FPS. Congressional appropriators, in a report accompanying DHS' spending bill for fiscal 2007, requested a report explaining how the agency's funding predicament developed and how it will be fixed.

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