Immigration Leads Law Enforcement Budget

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 8 2013 3:49 PM

Administration Spends More on Immigration Than all Other Federal Law Enforcement Combined

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Members of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency watch over New York demonstrators

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Last year, the Obama administration spent almost $18 billion on immigration enforcement. That's more than what it spent on the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, combined, according to a report by the Migration Policy Institute. Twenty-four percent more to be exact.

Considering the amount of money that is spent, "today, immigration enforcement can be seen as the federalgovernment's highes criminal law enforcement priority," a co-author of the report said in a statement.

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In addition to huge spending, immigration enforcement accounts for over half of federally prosecuted crimes. The nearly 430,000 people detained each year for immigration-related crimes is a significantly larger number than the entire population currently serving sentences for all federal crimes combined. Meanwhile, deportations have increased from 30,000 in 1990 to nearly 400,000 in 2011. From 1990 to 2011more than 4 million people have been deported from the United States, according to the report.

Here's how the MPI explained their findings in the 182-page report that the New York Times describes as "an opening salvo in a contentious debate over immigration that President Obama has pledged to lead this year":

[The] findings tell a story of aggressive enforcement of immigration laws at the borders and in the nation’s interior, and of immigration agencies that are utilizing wide-ranging statutory and procedural authorities. Moreover, immigration enforce- ment is increasingly going global through international agreements, unprecedented cross-border cooperation with Mexico and Canada, and special initiatives that combat transnational crime. Dramatic growth, advanced technology, and new programs have cohered to constitute a transformed immigration enforcement system that increasingly implicates foreign relations, national security, counterterrorism, trade, labor standards, system that increasingly implicates foreign relations, national security, counterterrorism, trade, labor standards, states’ rights, criminal justice, and civil-rights policy realms.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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