Report: U.S. Has Beefed Up Immigration Enforcement

Jan 15, 2013

With such a heated issue like immigration reform, working toward a comprehensive solution requires facts. Critics of immigration reform argue that there isn't enough enforcement. A report released by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) (summarized here) says otherwise and describes a strong federal immigration enforcement infrastructure now in place. It notes that immigration enforcement is now “the federal government’s highest criminal law enforcement priority.” As Josh Boak and Eric Pianin at The Fiscal Times reports, vast sums are being spent on border security [emphasis mine]:

The Obama administration allocated $17.9 billion last year to the three agencies in charge of policing our borders—substantially more than it devoted for the combined budgets of the FBI, Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  Over the past seven years, the Department of Homeland Security doubled the number of agents patrolling the border to 21,444.

According to the report, apprehensions of undocumented immigrants by the Border Patrol have fallen significantly since 2000.  “The decreases have been across all nine Southwest Border Patrol sectors and reflect a combination of the weakening of the U.S. economy, strengthened enforcement, and changes in push factors in Mexico.  Apprehensions in FY 2011 numbered 340,252, one-fifth of the 2000 level and the lowest level since 1970.”

Further, MPI highlights how DHS has dramatically changed its worksite enforcement strategies over time.   As a result, “Since January 2009, ICE has audited more than 8,079 employers, debarred 726 companies and individuals, and imposed more than $87.9 million in monetary fines for violating employer sanctions laws.

The MPI report goes on to state that an enforcement infrastructure is in place that "provides a platform from which to address broader immigration policy changes suited to the larger needs and challenges that immigration represents for the United States in the 21st century."

All sides of the immigration debate talk about the importance for enforcement. The MPI report shows that U.S. immigration enforcement is alive and well (and expensive). Anyone who tells you otherwise is ignoring the facts. Now, policymakers need to take the next step and develop a legal immigration system that can be enforced to meet the needs of today's economy.

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