Immigration Enforcement in the United States: The Rise of a Formidable Machinery (Meissner et al. 2013)

Meissner, Doris, Donald M. Kerwin, Muzaffar Chishti, and Claire Bergeron. 2013. Immigration Enforcement in the United States: The Rise of a Formidable Machinery. Migration Policy Institute.

The U.S. government spends more on federal immigration enforcement than on all other principal federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined, and has allocated nearly $187 billion for immigration enforcement since 1986. In fiscal 2012, the federal government spent nearly $18 billion on immigration enforcement—approximately 24 percent higher than collective spending for the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Almost three decades after IRCA, enforcement first has de facto become the nation’s singular policy response to illegal immigration. Deportations have reached record highs, border apprehensions 40-year lows, and more noncitizens than ever before are in immigration detention. Additionally, 2011 was the first year that number of returns exceeded number of removals, with more of these deportations being carried out through administrative orders than through orders issued by immigration judges.

The report traces the evolution of the immigration enforcement system, particularly in the post-9/11 era, in terms of budgets, personnel, enforcement actions, and technology—analyzing how individual programs and policies have resulted in a complex, interconnected, cross-agency system.