The federal government spent more on immigration enforcement in 2012 than on all other federal criminal law enforcement combined. A recent nonpartisan report from the Migration Policy Institute notes that the federal government spent $18 billion on immigration-related enforcement programs, an amount far greater than the combined budgets of the FBI, ATF, DEA and Secret Service (in fact, nearly $4 billion more). According to the report, “[j]udging by resource levels, case volumes, and enforcement actions, . . . immigration enforcement can thus be seen to rank as the federal government’s highest criminal law enforcement priority.” Further, according to the report, immigration-related referrals for prosecution from CBP and ICE outnumber referrals by the DOJ.
Some have questioned the report’s main findings noting that CBP and ICE also spend significant resources conducting non-immigration related enforcement such as screening cargo at the nation’s ports and detecting counterfeit goods. However, even after accounting for resources spent on cargo and goods, the statistics are no doubt staggering. In addition, resources spent by other agencies involved in immigration-related enforcement are not included in the $18 billion figure (for example, USCIS, DOL, and DOJ OSC, not to mention state resources directed to immigration-related enforcement). There is no question that there has been a significant increase in immigration enforcement in recent years. Between 2005 and 2012, ICE’s funding alone increased from $3 billion to nearly $6 billion. There is also no question that the level of immigration enforcement seen in recent years will only continue.