Deportation Force Expansion Advances as Lawmakers Back Trump

(Bloomberg) -- Lawmakers in the U.S. House took the first step to back President Donald Trump’s initiative to expand the number of federal agents responsible for rounding up and deporting undocumented immigrants.

The House Judiciary Committee, on a party-line vote Wednesday, approved a bill to allow U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hire as many as 10,000 deportation officers. The measure, H.R. 2406, also would provide 2,500 new detention guards and 60 new prosecutors.

Trump made securing the border and deporting undocumented immigrants a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. Five days after taking office he signed a pair of executive orders to add the 10,000 agents and set in motion the construction of a wall at the Mexican border. The bill acted on Thursday would place the hiring of additional agents in law.

ICE currently has about 6,000 law enforcement officers assigned to enforcement and removal of undocumented immigrants.

Between Jan. 22 and April 29, ICE said it arrested more than 41,000 people who were either known to be or suspected of being in the U.S. illegally, a 38 percent increase over the same period last year. Nearly 75 percent of those arrested were criminals, the agency said on its website.

Trump, a Republican who took office Jan. 20 and weeks later described his deportation policy as a "military operation," has struggled to follow through on some of his toughest immigration pledges, including plans to build the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Lawmakers refused to start funding a wall during the current fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.