Gov’t Spent $18 Billion on Immigration Enforcement

Alicia A. Caldwell, Yahoo! News, January 7, 2013

The Obama administration spent more money on immigration enforcement in the last fiscal year than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined, according to a report on the government’s enforcement efforts from a Washington think tank.

The report on Monday from the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan group focused on global immigration issues, said in the 2012 budget year that ended in September the government spent about $18 billion on immigration enforcement programs run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the US-Visit program, and Customs and Border Protection, which includes the Border Patrol. Immigration enforcement topped the combined budgets of the FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Secret Service by about $3.6 billion dollars, the report’s authors said.

Since then-President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986—which legalized more than 3 million illegal immigrants and overhauled immigration laws—the government has spent more than $187 billion on immigration enforcement. {snip}

The 182-page report concludes that the Obama administration has made immigration its highest law enforcement priority.

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Critics are likely to bristle over its findings, especially those who have accused the administration of being soft on immigration violators.

“There has been some progress,” said House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas. “But the bottom line is that we are far from having operational control of our borders, particularly the Southwest border, and there are no metrics to quantify progress.”

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Demetrios Papademetriou, MPI’s president, said that the authors reviewed immigration enforcement policies and spending from 1986 on amid ongoing disagreements in Congress on whether border security and enforcement efforts needed to be solidified before reform could be tackled.

“No nation anywhere in the world has been as determined, has made as deep and expensive a commitment to or has had as deep a reach in its enforcement efforts as the U.S. has had,” Papademetriou said. “The reach spans from local court rooms and jails all the way to the ability of goods and travelers to the United States to actually be able to travel to the United States.”

According to federal budgets reviewed by MPI, CBP spent about $11.7 billion on its enforcement operations while ICE had a budget of about $5.9 billion in 2012. US-Visit accounted for about $307 million.

As spending has risen in recent years, the number of arrests at the border has steadily dropped. In 2011, agents made about 327,000 arrests at the southern border, the fewest in nearly 40 years. The Homeland Security Department also removed a record 396,906 immigrants that year. In 2012, nearly 410,000 people were removed from the United States.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has repeatedly touted those statistics as evidence that the border is now more secure than ever.

{snip} Meissner said that the growth of illegal immigration in the U.S. is now at a standstill.

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