Immigration enforcement outspends other agencies
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
1/08/13 at 7:28 AM
See the full report, “Immigration
Enforcement in the United
States: The Rise of a Formidable
Immigration enforcement receives more funding and refers more cases for criminal prosecution than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined, according a report released Monday by the Migration Policy Institute.
"Looking at the whole picture, what you see is an enormous, complex, modern, cross agency system," said Doris Meissner, senior fellow at the institute and co-author of the report. "What has emerged is a machinery."
The Migration Policy Institute is a nonprofit think-tank based in Washington D.C., dedicated to studying the movement of people worldwide.
The 182-page analysis starts in 1986 when Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which is considered the benchmark for the current era of immigration enforcement.
The report includes a detailed view of how the current enforcement measures were enacted and results of those programs. It does not include recommendations.
"What we are looking at is what is in place and why that is significant," Meissner said.
Researchers said the system evolved by design and by unanticipated developments in six key areas: Border enforcement, visa controls and travel screening, data system sharing, workplace enforcement, intersecting immigration and criminal justice system, and detention and removal.
"The question is no longer whether the federal government is willing and able to enforce the nation's immigration laws, but how enforcement and resources and mandates can best be mobilized to control illegal immigration and ensure the integrity of the nation's immigration laws and traditions," the report states.
Researchers say the enforcement foundation is in place and well-funded, but may need adjustments.
"Enforcement alone is not sufficient to answer the broad challenges that immigration - legal and illegal - pose for society and America's future," the report states.
"Answering those challenges depends not only on effective enforcement, but also on enforceable laws that both address inherent weaknesses in the enforcement system - such as employer enforcement - and that better rationalize immigration policy to align with the nation's economic and labor market needs and future growth and well-being."
In spending, immigration enforcement receives 15 times more than it did in 1986, adjusting for inflation.
In fiscal year 2011, immigration enforcement spent $17.9 billion, compared to the $14.4 billion total for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, the U.S. Marshal's Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
A high of 1.7 million border patrol apprehensions were made by border patrol in 2000 and decreased to about 340,200 in fiscal year 2011.
The decline is due to a weakened U.S. economy, stepped up enforcement and changes in Mexico, researchers state.
Changes in how visas are screened, travel approved and data is shared among agencies are significant, researchers say.
"It's hard to overstate the importance of the new information capability," Meissner said.
After the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was eliminated in 2003 and soaked in the Department of Homeland Security, it decentralized the administration of immigration laws, the report states.
"Noncitizens are screened more times against more databases than ever before," Meissner said.
The U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program, called US-VISIT, has a database with more than 148 million fingerprints files, which grows by about 10 million annually, the report states.
This database is compatible with FBI's criminal records and is in the process of linking with records in the Department of Defense.
"Although significant investments have been made in automating information and linking databases, the investments have been uneven, tilting heavily toward border security, less toward interior enforcement, and considerably less toward legal immigration processes," the report states.
The passage of the 1986 law was the first time it became illegal to hire an undocumented immigrant.
However, it was difficult for employers to determine work eligibility because of the numerous documents they could accept, and many were being falsified.
The E-Verify program was created as a pilot program in 1997. Federal agencies were mandated to use the system in 2007.
In recent years, employer focus has shifted from large-scale raids to arrest illegal workers to auditing business hiring practices.
Immigration enforcement intersects with local and state law enforcement through the programs of 287g, Secure Communities and the Criminal Alien Program, with spending going from $23 million in fiscal year 2004 to $690 million in 2011.
Deportations hit record highs under President Barack Obama's administration.
"The legal authority, operational programs and financial investment mean large-scale removals were inevitable," said Don Kerwin, executive director for the Center for Migration Studies and co-author of the report.
Crimes for automatic deportation have risen from about four types of felonies in 1996 to more than 50.
The way immigrants are detained while waiting for a removal hearing has been criticized because facilities are usually jails or prisons, including the Tulsa Jail's 287g contract to hold immigrants.
"No one in immigration custody is serving a sentence," Kerwin said.
Reforms such as alternatives to detention and the opening of a civil detention center for men in Texas are being implemented.
But, some groups, including the American Bar Association, express concern because the rules for detention are geared for prisoners, not civil detainees, Kerwin said.
Ramped up enforcement has led to significant court backlogs, with about 321,000 current pending cases, some waiting one to two years for a resolution. Some judges have a docket of up to 1,000 cases.
Immigration enforcement report key findings
Source: Migration Policy Institute
- More than 4 million noncitizens, mostly illegal immigrants, have been deported since 1990, with removals rising from 30,039 in fiscal year 1990 to 391,953 in fiscal year 2011.
- During a six-month period in 2011, about 46,500 immigrants were deported with a child who is a U.S. citizen.
- Fewer than half of the deported immigrants are removed after a hearing before an immigration judge, with the majority removed by the Department of Homeland Security through its administrative authority.
- The nearly 430,000 detained immigrants in fiscal year 2011 exceeded the number serving sentences in federal Bureau of Prisons facilities for all other federal crimes.
- About 5 percent of immigrants waiting for a deportation hearing are in an alternative-to-detention program, and 94 percent of them appeared at their hearing in fiscal year 2010.
- Immigration enforcement spending has totaled nearly $186.8 billion in the 26 years since 1986, when Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act ($219 billion in 2012 dollars).
- In fiscal year 2012, spending on immigration enforcement was $17.9 billion. In comparison, $14.4 billion was spent for all other federal criminal law enforcement agencies (FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives).
- Border enforcement grew from about 10,000 agents in 1995 to more than 21,000 agents in fiscal year 2012.
- The E-Verify system for employers to determine work eligibility has grown from 10,000 employers using it in 2006 to 355,000 in 2011, which represents less than 10 percent of the nation's employers.
- In Oklahoma, about 12 percent of business firms with five or more employees participate in E-Verify and about 7 percent of business establishments with five or more staff participate. An establishment is a single location where business is conducted, and a firm is a company with more than one location.
- Since January 2009, immigration officials have audited more than 8,000 employers, resulting in fines of nearly $88 million.
- Only two businesses had been fined or sanctioned by federal officials for immigration work violations between January 2005 and July 2011, according to a previous Tulsa World report. The total fine was $5,400.
Original Print Headline: Immigration watch costs billions yearly
Ginnie Graham 918-581-8376