ICE Posts Women-Only Job Announcement In Push For Gender Equality

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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The government’s leading immigration enforcement agency wants to hire more women to fill its ranks of criminal investigators and deportation officers, and it is undertaking a female-only hiring campaign to do so.

In a pair of announcements posted Tuesday to the federal USAJOBS website, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) opened a public hiring period for entry-level jobs in Enforcement and Removal Operations, the group that locates and deports removable aliens, and Homeland Security Investigations, the division that conducts criminal investigations into federal crimes with a nexus to the border.

Such announcements are a common way for federal law enforcement agencies to bring on classes of new recruits, but ICE’s latest postings come with a catch: men are not allowed to apply.

The single-sex hiring push does not stem from a specific job function that requires more female personnel. Rather, the women-only vacancy announcement was posted in an effort to make ICE’s gender composition more closely resemble that of the broader workforce, according to agency spokesman Matthew Bourke.

“To meet its mission requirements and have a workforce more reflective of the civilian labor force, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans to increase its efforts to attract, hire, and retain female law enforcement personnel,” Bourke told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which oversees all federal civilian hiring, gave ICE the green light to post the women-only announcements, Bourke added. He did not elaborate when asked about any specific occupational needs that may have prompted the single-sex job postings.

The announcements were published the same day the Justice Department’s inspector general released a report about gender disparities in hiring and promotion of women in federal law enforcement. The report examined four law enforcement branches that fall under Justice — the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Marshals Service. (RELATED: REPORT: Female Law Enforcement Agents Say Personal Relationships Matter More Than Merit)

Across the four agencies, women comprised only 16 percent of criminal investigators — commonly referred to as “special agents” — at the end of 2016, according to the inspector general. Women in those agencies were far more likely to be employed in non-enforcement occupations such as administration and human resources, the report also found.

Among other recommendations aimed at boosting the share of women in the special agent ranks, the Justice inspector general urged agencies to more closely monitor their hiring demographics and come up with recruitment strategies to attract more female candidates.

While ICE falls under the Department of Homeland Security, not Justice, its special agents perform the same duties as other federal criminal investigators. Also like the law enforcement agencies within Justice, its workforce skews heavily male — about 72 percent male versus 28 percent female at the end of 2016, according to the Partnership for Public Service.

Under federal equal employment laws, federal agencies typically cannot discriminate against job applicants on the basis of sex. But federal rules also allow OPM to restrict consideration to one sex “in unusual circumstances” when it “finds the action justified,” an agency spokesperson told TheDCNF.

OPM’s approval of female-only recruitment under the “unusual circumstances” standard is a fairly common practice for jobs that require intimate, gender-sensitive contact, such as nurses or airport security screeners. It is much rarer for agencies to post single-sex job announcements for the express purpose of achieving a more gender-balanced workforce, as ICE’s latest posting seeks to do.

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