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Immigration Law

Immigration Enforcement Spending and Practices Attract Scrutiny

Muzaffar Chishti and Jessica Bolter, MPI, June 25, 2020

"...[T]he muscular nature and shielding from accountability that Americans have come to accept as problematic—and increasingly unacceptable—with respect to local law enforcement are equally valid in the case of immigration enforcement. The federal budget for immigration enforcement agencies has ballooned dramatically in the post-9/11 period, and their practices and priorities have raised a number of concerns. As the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) first reported in 2013, the federal government now spends significantly more money annually on immigration enforcement than it does on the combined budgets of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The result has been an ever more muscular immigration enforcement presence in U.S. life. Indeed, as protesters crowded the streets of Washington, DC, in early June to denounce police brutality, among the federal forces they encountered were nearly 400 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. In 15 cities, protests were monitored by overhead drones and aircraft managed by a branch of CBP. The presence of immigration officers may be unexpected at a civic protest whose participants' immigration status was not under question, but it fits with a broader trend of these agencies gaining extra funding and equipment that allow them to substantially expand their reach and activities.

Post-9/11, as the functions of immigration enforcement agencies have been increasingly seen through the lens of national security, they have seen increases in funding, staffing, detention, and deepening and expanding connections with local law enforcement agencies. Put simply, immigration enforcement is a “formidable machinery” that has evolved over time and taken deep roots, with enormous consequences for immigrants and their communities. ... [more] ..."