DHS Struggling to Hire Border Agents, Immigration Officers, Despite Trump's Promise of 15,000 Jobs

A U.S. Border Patrol agent's uniform in McAllen, Texas, on January 15. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency is reportedly struggling to meet hiring goals outlined by President Donald Trump. SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty

It has been two years since President Donald Trump signed an order to hire 15,000 new border agents and immigration officers as part of his administration's border security crackdown. However, despite dedicating tens of millions of dollars to the effort, his administration has reached less than 5 percent of that goal.

So far, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has only seen 33 new hires from a $60.7 million contract that was awarded to management consulting firm Accenture Federal Services as part of a larger $297 million deal to recruit new border agents over a five-year span, The Los Angeles Times reported.

While Border Patrol saw a net gain of 120 agents in 2018 (the first net gain in five years, according to a recent report by CNN), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently brought attention to the fact that are currently nearly 3,000 job vacancies within the CBP. That's 2,000 more than the agency was reported to have at the time Trump signed an order demanding a hiring surge.

Pelosi made the point during a weekly briefing on January 17, the 27th day of the recent partial government shutdown, asserting that taxpayer funds would be better off being used to fill those vacancies than going toward the construction of the border wall Trump has fought to build between the U.S. and Mexico.

Read more: Donald Trump thinks avoiding another government shutdown isn't likely: "I personally think it is less than 50-50"

Speaking to the Times on the condition of anonymity, a Homeland Security official said the department was having "ongoing difficulties with regards to hiring levels to meet our operational needs." However, he described the Border Patrol's small gains last year as a "huge improvement."

Despite CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan previously outlining the goal for the agency to add more than 2,700 Border Patrol agents each year, in November the inspector general's office at the Department of Homeland Security concluded that Trump's "hiring surge" had "not begun."

In a following report the next month, the DHS watchdog sounded the alarm on CBP's need to "address serious performance issues" on the Accenture Hiring contract, warning, "Accenture claimed it would have the capability and capacity to perform all steps of the hiring process within 90 days of awarding the contract. However, with the contract nearing the end of its base year, Accenture has yet to demonstrate the efficient, innovative and expertly run hiring process.

"As such, we are concerned that CBP may have paid Accenture for services and tools not provided," the report continued, adding that "without addressing the issues we have identified, CBP risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on a hastily approved contract that is not meeting its proposed performance expectations."

CBP's apparent hiring difficulties come as the Trump administration continues to drive its border security crackdown and as the president appeals to lawmakers for funding to get his long-promised border wall built.

While the U.S. leader brought the recent government shutdown over his border wall to an end on January 25, the funding bill he signed to end the shutdown runs out on February 15, giving lawmakers a few short weeks to come to an agreement before risking another shutdown.

On Sunday, Trump warned that another shutdown was a real possibility if Democrats and Republicans could not come to an agreement over border security before the mid-February deadline. The U.S. leader said he believed there was a "less than 50-50" chance that Congress members would be able to strike such a deal.