By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
As a national debate over immigration kicks into gear this year, the mounting cost of immigration enforcement for the United States has been tallied.
According to a report from the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, the federal government currently spends more money enforcing immigration than on enforcing all other major federal laws put together.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, in fiscal year 2012 “spending for the CBP, ICE and US-VISIT reached nearly $18 billion. This amount exceeds by approximately 24 percent total spending for the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Secret Service, US Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which stood at $14.4 billion in FY 2012.”
The policy center found that in terms of “resource levels, case volumes, and enforcement actions,” U.S. immigration enforcement agencies and programs exceed all other “principle federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined.”
This means more money is spent enforcing immigration on a federal level than on drug-related crimes, large-scale fraud such as money laundering or bank fraud, and other white collar offenses.
The study also found that more than half of criminal court prosecutions are currently for immigration-related crimes and more deportations or removals of non-citizens are being carried out through”administrative orders” instead of through immigration judges.
In short, the federal government spends a lot of time and money for the sole purpose of cracking down on immigrants and enforcing immigration laws.
In the first four years of the Obama administration, the federal government set a record for the number of deportations carried out. In fact, the feds deported more than 1 million immigrants, many of whom were not criminals.
The rate of deportations has raised concern and caught the attention of immigrant rights activists.
According to a 2011 investigation by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, an immigration enforcement program aimed at removing undocumented immigrants who were violent criminals was largely used to target and deport immigrants with no criminal backgrounds.
There are signs that the Obama administration is softening its immigration policies. President Obama recently announced that the federal government was going to allow undocumented immigrants with family in the United States to become permanent residents, which would shield them from deportation.
A federal watchdog site has suggested that much of the information ICE has handed over might also be questionable.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, which tracks federal prosecutions, found that much of the data about how many people ICE has detained is wrong.
TRAC writes: “Case-by-case records provided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show that many fewer individuals were apprehended, deported or detained by the agency than were claimed in its official statements — congressional testimony, press releases, and the agency’s latest 2010 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.”
The group has written that either ”ICE has been making highly exaggerated and inaccurate claims about the level of its enforcement activities,” or it is “withholding on a massive scale.”