Reports Reveal True Cost of ‘Enforcement First’ Immigration Policy

by Lauren McCauley on January 8, 2013

Two new reports show policies deteriorate public safety while costing more than all other law enforcement combined

The United States’ enforcement driven approach to immigration is deteriorating trust and safety while costing the government billions, according to two recent reports on immigration policy.

A report released by the ACLU of Tennessee last week explores the erosion of public trust in law enforcement and the consequent deterioration of public safety specifically caused by the ICE’s new enforcement legislation, 287(g), which delegates immigration enforcement authority to participating law enforcement agencies across the country.

Local immigration advocates have found that undocumented individuals and their family members who had been victims of robbery, domestic violence, vandalism and sexual exploitation neglect to report crimes to the police for fear of immigration implications for themselves or a family member.

“The damage to community-police relations incurred by the [local] 287(g) program stems from its encouragement of racial profiling and the deportation of nearly 10,000 people largely for minor, often traffic-related, offenses during its implementation,” writes the ACLU in a statement about the report.

They continue:

When a significant portion of the population feels uncomfortable reporting crimes they have witnessed or experienced, it poses a public-safety threat for all residents. This is especially ironic given the 287(g) program’s stated goal of responding to “immigration violators who pose a threat to national security or public safety.”

According to a second report, released Monday by the nonpartisan think-tank Migration Policy Institute, nearly $18 billion has been spent in the 2012 fiscal year on immigration enforcement, in comparison to the combined $14.4 billion spent on its other prime law enforcement agencies including the FBI, Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshal Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Immigration Enforcement in the United States: The Rise of a Formidable Machinery,” (.pdf) cites the reason for the exorbitant costs are the extreme numbers of individuals being held and prosecuted by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) who, according the report, held more individuals in 2011 than the federal Bureau of Prisons and referred more cases to prosecution than those other agencies combined.

The report also found that while costs have skyrocketed deportations have increased, as well. Compared with the 30,000 people deported in the 1990 fiscal year, in 2012 the US removed a record 409,894 individuals. “A majority of those people were deported without an order from an immigration judge, instead using Department of Homeland Security’s discretion,” the Huffington Post writes.

“Enforcement alone—no matter how well administered—is an insufficient answer to the broad challenges that illegal and legal immigration pose for America’s future,” Doris Meissner, the director of the U.S. immigration policy program at the Migration Policy Institute, wrote in The Washington Post Monday.

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