The shift will mean a major cut in the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents involved in detention and removal of illegal aliens to about 4,000, the newspaper said.
Jim Brown, a spokesman for American Federation of Government Employees and also an agent with the Fugitive Operation unit, said the reduction was too much of a burden to handle the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.
"That's just not enough," said Brown.
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, long a critic of weak immigration enforcement, said manpower resources need to be reassessed and expanded if necessary.
"It lacks wisdom to take 20 percent of your work force who know how to deal with criminal detainees -- experienced officers -- and make grapefruit inspectors out of them," Poe told the Times.