President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration includes a reorganization plan for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Jon Adler, national president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, was understandably curious about how this executive order would affect the ICE and border patrol officers his organization represents.
“What’s at stake is very important,” Adler recently told In Depth with Francis Rose. “But also, when you commit resources to put certain systems in play, you need a long-term commitment to make them work.”
The executive order creates three new law enforcement task forces along the U.S.-Mexico border. It also calls for research and review of the pay compensation system for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations.
Adler was happy to see this last item addressed, as he said “serious issues” remained regarding the structure of the administratively uncontrollable overtime pay.
He also liked that ICE ERO and the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer had a December deadline to complete a new job series classification.
“The priority is obviously down at the border, all the issues coming across, whether it’s human trafficking or guns, drugs and/or just a pathway for terrorists to come here,” Adler said. “That, obviously, requires a lot of our assets, our law enforcement assets, our technology, our intel and so forth. The thing is you just can’t wave a magic wand and have these things materialize out of nowhere.”
In the case of ICE and in particular CBP, Adler wonders if the assets are being allocated along the border, what investigative areas are going unaddressed because of that shift in resources.
“It’s always a concern again to make sure you have enough resources to cover all your priorities,” he said. “Another thing is the command structure. What we’re obviously doing here is we’re pulling into play ICE, CBP, the Coast Guard and, of equal importance, state and local law enforcement components. So, when you’re bringing in fingers of the hand, the hand can be dysfunctional or it can be incredibly talented and able. It’s really ultimately what are the neurons and tendons and so forth that pull all the fingers together to make a unified fist and operate effectively.”
That all comes down to the command structure and making sure the state and local components receive the funding and resources they need to participate effectively.
Adler’s concern in regards to the members of his organization is whether they will be sufficiently aware of all the rules from the get-go.
“They’re proposing a Joint Task Force West, a Joint Task Force East and an investigative task force, and the question is, in finding these assets to fill these task force areas, what are the rules of engagement up front?” he said. “Meaning, what is the time commitment? What are the resources? It obviously will involve relocating law enforcement personnel to cover these areas. What’s the command structure?”
ICE already has the Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) in place made up of the same components that would be involved in the newly proposed task forces. The difference is that BEST is primarily a maritime task force.
“So, this is now taking it from just that one premier task force and we’re taking this Joint Task Force West to focus almost exclusively on the border as well as the West Coast,” Adler said. “Whereas the East Coast task force is going to sort of function more in terms of what BEST has been doing in terms of crossings by maritime or by sea.”
The remaining task force will focus on investigations, drawing from ICE- Homeland Security Investigations and CBP resources.
“One of the things we’ve been advocating for is to build up the investigative piece of CBP as well, where it has been predominately border patrol and inspection oriented and officer oriented,” he said. “So, how do they avoid duplication of what’s being done? I think what they’re trying to improve on irrespective of the different naming and geographic targeting of the task force names is the command structure. The command structure is critical. If we don’t have synchronicity, we’ree basically a task force with two left legs and two left thumbs.”