ICE ramps up staffing at southern border to aid CBP with new migrant surge

FIRST ON FOX: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is sending additional personnel to help Customs and Border Protection (CBP) deal with a massive migrant surge at the southern border that has left authorities overwhelmed.

ICE, responsible for enforcing federal immigration law in the interior and investigating and dismantling transnational criminal networks, is sending dozens of personnel to the border to aid CBP, an ICE official told Fox News Digital.

Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), tasked with the arrest and deportation of illegal immigrants, will provide 141 personnel to assist CBP with border operations.

Those duties will include responding to questions regarding medical and transport issues, enrolling illegal immigrants into alternatives to detention (ATD) electronic monitoring and coordinating removals and the necessary travel documents.

MIGRANT ENCOUNTERS AT BORDER SOAR PAST THE 200K MARK IN DECEMBER 

Meanwhile, the agency currently has 132 ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents at the border, and that number will increase to 197. As part of a memo of understanding, the special agents will be assigned to duties that include hospital watch, transportation, law enforcement searches, security and welfare checks.

ICE is a smaller agency than CBP, so moving significant numbers of staff to the border has the potential to impact ongoing operations. HSI agents have previously complained that deployments have impacted ongoing investigations. 

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION SENDING SURGE OF ICE SPECIAL AGENTS TO BORDER AMID INCREASE IN MIGRANT NUMBERS

“We’re already understaffed as an agency, and pulling us down to the border — it makes us almost a critical level of understaffed,” one agent told Fox News Digital in August.

But the deployment is also coming amid a historic migrant crisis at the border, where other agencies have seen staff sent to the border to pitch in. Fox reported Thursday that there were 200,000 migrant encounters at the border in December, and agents are seeing more than 10,000 a day, meaning the month is on track to shatter records. 

Fox reported this week that transportation resources from the Federal Bureau of Prisons have been sent to the border to assist.

Republicans have blamed the administration’s policies for the crisis. The administration has said it is pursuing a strategy of expanding those pathways while increasing consequences for illegal entry, but that it is also dealing with a hemisphere-wide crisis and needs additional funding and immigration reform legislation from Congress. 

In October, it requested $14 billion in additional funding as part of its supplemental funding request, including money for Border Patrol agents, processing coordinators and other support staff.

That request is being held up in Washington as lawmakers seek to work out a deal after Republicans have demanded greater limits on asylum and the use of humanitarian parole to release migrants into the interior. Lawmakers have indicated that a deal is unlikely until January at the earliest.

Fox News’ Bill Melugin and Griff Jenkins contributed to this report.

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