Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Price Tag for Immigration Enforcement

Are Americans willing to pay for the intensifying crackdown on immigrants?

Just as we are squandering billions abroad in the war in Iraq, we are wasting billions of dollars at home in what has become a war on immigrants. The collateral costs of this anti-immigrant crackdown—including labor shortages, families torn apart by deportations, overcrowded jails and detentions centers, deaths on the border, courts clogged with immigration cases, and divided communities—are also immense.

Together the financial and social costs of the administration's "enforcement-first" immigration policy are too high to bear.

Tom Barry is a senior analyst for the Americas Policy Program ( at the Center for International Policy ( He writes:

The Bush administration and Congress are fueling an increasingly hard-line immigration policy with seemingly unlimited federal funding. The Department of Homeland Security, which in 2003 became the new home of both the Border Patrol and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, is requesting a 19% increase for immigration enforcement and border control for 2009.

The requested $12.1 billion will pay for the expanding immigration-related operations of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the two principal DHS agencies that enforce immigration laws.

With its $5 billion budget, ICE pledges to "protect the American people from the illegal entry of goods and the entry of terrorists and other criminals seeking to cross our Nation's borders."

The bulk of the ICE budget is dedicated to immigration enforcement through investigations, interior enforcement, detention, and deportation of illegal immigrants. Other ICE programs, like the Federal Protective Service (which protects federal buildings), have little or nothing to do with immigration enforcement.

Like ICE, Customs and Border Protection also couches its mission in terms of the president's "war against terrorism." With its $9.3 billion current budget, CBP forms the "frontline in protecting the American public against terrorists and instruments of terror."

Since 2002 the budgets for the operations of these two DHS agencies have ballooned. Customs and Border Protection's budget increased from $5 billion in 2002 to $9.3 billion in 2008 while Immigration and Customs Enforcement's budget rose from $2.4 billion in 2002 to $5 billion in 2008.

The drive to deport immigrants and stop them at the border has become a leading thrust of the government's post-9/11 focus on homeland security. The overall DHS budget has increased steadily since its creation in 2003—rising from $35 billion to $47 billion in 2008. But the funds dedicated to immigration control and border security have increased disproportionately, doubling in size while total DHS funding increased by just a third.

By way of comparison, the combined budgets of CBP and ICE in 2008 were 80% larger than the annual budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, and nearly $4 billion more than the State Department's budget.

Click here for the entire piece.


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When considering the costs of our current immigration policy, we should not forget the impact on millions of individuals that apply for a U.S. visa through our consulates around the world. As long as the U.S. in unable to enforce the law as it is currently written, our consulates abroad end up acting as a prelimary defense against illegal immigration. The impact of this on the U.S. image abroad and on commerce and exchange is something that is not often considered sufficiently. If one concludes that getting the immigration enforcement issue properly resolved would allow for freer access to non-immigrant visas, then the cost of having a more restrictive policy at our consulates should have a greater part to play in the overall discussion.

Posted by: VISITAMÉRICA | Jun 6, 2008 9:34:45 AM

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