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U.S. moves to expand deportation capacity

| Wednesday, April 12, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is quickly identifying ways to assemble the nationwide deportation force that President Trump promised on the campaign trail as he railed against the dangers posed by illegal immigration.

An internal Department of Homeland Security assessment obtained by The Washington Post shows the agency has already found 33,000 more detention beds to house undocumented immigrants, opened discussions with dozens of local police forces that could be empowered with enforcement authority and identified where construction of Trump's border wall could begin.

The agency also is considering ways to speed up the hiring of hundreds of new Customs and Border Patrol officers, including ending polygraph and physical fitness tests in some cases, according to the documents.

But these plans could be held up by the prohibitive costs outlined in the internal report and resistance in Congress, where many lawmakers are already balking at approving billions in spending on the wall and additional border security measures.

Administration officials said the plans are preliminary and have not been reviewed by senior Homeland Security management, but the assessment offers a glimpse of the department's behind-the-scenes planning to carry out the two executive orders Trump signed in January to boost deportations and strengthen border enforcement.

Gillian Christensen, Homeland Security's acting spokeswoman, said the agency would not comment on what she called “pre-decisional documents.”

Immigrant-rights advocates called the plans an unnecessary waste of money and resources that are aimed at scaring the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants, many of whom have lived in the country for more than a decade.

Although Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has said Homeland Security is not pursuing mass deportations, Trump's executive orders broadly expanded the pool of undocumented immigrants who are deemed a priority for removal.

“This is an administration that very much is interested in setting up that mass deportation infrastructure and creating the levers of a police state,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “In these documents, you have more proof and evidence that they're planning to carry it out.”

Congressional Democrats, who have opposed Trump's immigration agenda, have expressed skepticism that Congress would agree to approve funding for many of the expensive initiatives.

For example, Trump has called for CBP to hire 5,000 new agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement an additional 10,000. The Homeland Security assessment said the cost of hiring just 500 agents would reach $100 million.

Republican leaders have proposed delaying a decision on Trump's initial request of $1.5 billion for the wall and an additional $2.6 billion for more border security next year until after a new spending bill is approved this month in the hope of averting a government shutdown.

“We believe it would be inappropriate to insist on the inclusion of such funding in a must-pass appropriations bill,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and four Democratic colleagues wrote of the wall in a recent letter to the Senate's Republican leadership.

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