U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer Boris Sapozhnikov inspects counterfeit drugs seized by the agency at its offices at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York August 15, 2012. (Photo : Reuters)
The federal government spent more money on immigration enforcement in 2012 that it did on all other law enforcement combined -- about $18 billion, according to a new report from the Migration Policy Institute.
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That's more than the federal government spent on the FBI, the Secret Service, U.S Marshals, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives combined, and that figure is actually down from a high of just under $20 billion in 2009.
Spending on immigration enforcement is nearly 15 times what it was in 1986, after adjusting for inflation, when Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act and narco-traffickers were running rampant.
"Part of that is due to the immense increase in border patrol agents -- they've doubled in the last seven years -- who also play a key role intercepting drug shipments," writes Jordan Weissmann at The Atlantic. "Still, more than half of all federal prosecutions now involve immigration-related crimes -- no great surprise, given where we're putting our resources."
And how is the money being spent?
"At the same time, deportations have exploded," wrote Elise Foley at the Huffington Post. "The U.S. deported about 30,000 people in the 1990 fiscal year; in the 2012 fiscal year, it removed a record 409,894. A majority of those people were deported without an order from an immigration judge, instead using DHS' discretion, the Migration Policy Institute found."
Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at MPI, said the Obama administration's priorities are clear.
"Immigration enforcement can be seen as the federal government's highest criminal law enforcement priority, judged on the basis of budget allocations, enforcement actions and case volumes," she said in a statement.
"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," said MPI President Demetrios Papademetriou. "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."
The Obama administration has received begrudging approval from many Latinos, a population often more affected by immigration policy than the country as a whole.
More than 70 percent of Latinos voted for President Obama in last year's election, yet the administration has come under continued fire for its aggressive pursuit of border enforcement and deportation orders.