Immigration and Customs agents won’t have to wait for pay in new fiscal year

The start of the new fiscal year will not interrupt pay for federal agents in the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency spokesman said Monday.

The law enforcement arm of the Homeland Security Department, ICE contains 2,050 special agents from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service and 3,500 investigators from the Customs Service, as well as a handful of investigators from the Federal Protective Service. Some veteran Customs agents have expressed concern that their paychecks could be delayed in the new fiscal year, when they will move to ICE's payroll system, which was used by the old Immigration and Naturalization Service.

But Customs agents will continue to be paid under the old Customs payroll system until they are transferred into the ICE system, a process that could last a few weeks, according to agency spokesman Garrison Courtney. "They'll be on the same pay system until we get them fully transitioned to the new system," he said. "One of the priorities here is to make sure people get paid."

Many Homeland Security employees had looked to Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year, as the moment when new agencies would stop relying on their old departments for administrative services. In ICE, however, officials have said that some administrative decisions may not be resolved by Oct. 1, meaning employees could continue to receive services from their old agencies.

"Oct.1 is important from a fiscal year point of view in terms of accounting and we have factored that in, but it's not really one of those dates that's going to have a big impact on infrastructure decisions," said Michael Dougherty, director of operations at ICE, in a recent interview with Government Executive. "The date will come when we get it right."

While ICE adopts the INS payroll system, the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, which is home to inspectors at U.S. ports of entry and the Border Patrol, will use the old Customs payroll system. ICE employees have been manually entering data on Customs agents into the old INS payroll system for weeks, according to Courtney.

Courtney also confirmed that ICE would adopt a travel system used by portions of the old INS in the new fiscal year. He said the agency would gradually implement a paperless travel system known as Travel Manager. Until the system is installed on individual computers, however, some employees may have to fill out paper vouchers to be paid for their travel, he said.

"They might have to use paper for a little bit longer, but that's not much of a big hindrance," he said.

Some veteran INS employees currently use paper vouchers, while others already are using Travel Manager, according to Courtney. Customs agents have used a paperless travel system for years, and some regard ICE's decision to use an INS system as a step backwards.

"We are regressing 15 years, going from a computerized travel system to a manual system," said one veteran Customs agent who is now in ICE.

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