When he took office in 2017, President Donald Trump ordered “all legally available resources” shifted to border detention facilities and called for hiring 10,000 new immigration officers. Immigration and Customs Enforcement already had hired McKinsey & Company, an international consulting firm brought on in the Obama administration to help engineer an “organizational transformation” in the ICE division charged with deporting migrants in the U.S. unlawfully. The firm’s new money-saving recommendations made some career ICE workers uncomfortable. Included were proposed cuts in spending on food for migrants and on medical care and supervision of detainees, according to interviews with people who worked for ICE and McKinsey and 1,500 pages of documents obtained in a ProPublica freedom-of-information lawsuit, the New York Times and ProPublica report.
McKinsey’s team looked for ways to accelerate the deportation process, provoking worries among some ICE staff members that the recommendations risked short-circuiting due-process protections for migrants fighting removal. The consultants seemed focused solely on cutting costs and speeding up deportations — actions whose success could be measured in numbers — with little acknowledgment that these policies affected thousands of human beings. McKinsey’s staff ghostwrote a government contracting document that defined the firm’s responsibilities and justified its retention worth $2.2 million. “Well it obviously isn’t ideal to have a contractor tell us what we want to ask them to do,” said one federal official. McKinsey did more than $20 million in consulting work for ICE, a commitment that raised concerns among some of McKinsey’s employees. McKinsey has faced mounting scrutiny over its work on South Africa and opioids.