Napolitano Offers Up Border Patrol and Detention for Sequestration

By Jessica M. Vaughan on February 26, 2013

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has announced that ICE detention capacity and Border Patrol salaries will be slashed in order to meet the requirements of the sequestration exercise. This move suggests that she views the nation's fiscal crisis as an opportunity and cover to accomplish the administration's immigration enforcement reduction agenda.

The budget cuts haven't even gone into effect yet, and aren't supposed to until Friday, March 1, at the earliest, but ICE is already releasing large groups of criminal aliens from detention facilities in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, according to various reports.

Last week ICE field offices all over the country were ordered to reduce the number of detainees from 34,000 to 25,000 by March 1. That's a 26 percent cut in detention capacity, when the sequestration deal calls for cuts of 10 percent across the board. This order will put about 9,000 offenders back on the streets. Remember, more than half of ICE's caseload consists of individuals who have been convicted of crimes — and most of the other 45 percent are in ICE detention because they got arrested for something or because they have committed multiple immigration offenses.

This order follows months of micromanagement from ICE headquarters of the daily detention decisions made by ICE officers in the field. I am told that ICE field offices receive messages and spreadsheets on a daily basis from headquarters with suggestions for the release of detainees who appear from afar not to meet the agency's restrictive priorities, and whose continued detention has upset an advocacy group somewhere.

Meanwhile, some Border Patrol agents feel that they have been unfairly singled out for cuts within the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. Notes a Border Patrol Union website in the Tucson area:

  • Border Patrol agents have been targeted to absorb the largest share of salary cuts within the CPB "family". OFO (port inspectors) will absorb far less in salary reductions.

  • Border Patrol agents number approximately 21,394.

  • Port inspectors number approximately 21,790.

  • Border Patrol agents have been targeted for $248 million in salary cuts.

  • Port inspectors have been targeted for only $35 million in salary cuts.

I am not holding my breath, but this would be a good year for Congress to pass a budget and appropriations bills for a change, so that it can have some say in how the laws it passes get enforced.