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Gabrielle Levy
U.S. News

The Trump administration is seeking ways to increase capacity within immigration enforcement agencies to create a deportation force President Donald Trump repeatedly advocated on the campaign trail.

According to a document obtained by The Washington Post, the Department of Homeland Security has begun the process of ramping up its abilities to rapidly deport thousands of people who are in the country illegally.

The report, dated April 25, is a progress report on the president’s executive orders to restrict who is allowed to travel to the U.S. While a federal judge has blocked parts of both executive orders relating to a ban on travel of people from several Muslim-majority countries, other portions of the orders instructing officials to strengthen vetting procedures were allowed to go forward.

According to the report, Homeland Security has located 33,000 additional beds for immigrants being held for deportation, begun to reach out to local police that could be empowered to enforce immigration laws and mapped the construction plans for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The agency is also looking at ways to expedite the hiring of 5,000 of new officers as part of a major expansion of Customs and Border Patrol. The altered hiring procedure might eliminate a polygraph test, a physical fitness examination and Spanish language proficiency from the entrance exam.

Trump has repeatedly said he would focus his immigration enforcement on “criminals,” and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly has said the administration is not implementing “mass deportations.” But a USA Today analysis in the first weeks of the new administration found the number of immigration raids targeting people with criminal records was 74 percent of the total detentions, down from 90 percent in 2016.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have been reluctant to meet the administration’s $4.5 billion request for emergency funding to go toward the increased border security measures, including the start of construction on the wall. The wall is ultimately expected to cost about $20 billion.

Democrats have described the border security increases as non-starters for the spending legislation that Congress must pass by April 28 in order to prevent a government shutdown.

“We believe it would be inappropriate to insist on the inclusion of such funding in a must-pass appropriations bill,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote in a letter to Senate Republican leadership.

If Congress does appropriate the money, the DHS documents describe next steps that include coordination with the Army Corps of Engineers on the “highest priority area”: a 34-mile barrier in the Rio Grande Valley and 14 miles of wall near San Diego.

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