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MPI: Enforcement is plenty robust, now time for other reforms

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Robust immigration enforcement has long been a political precondition for immigration reform, and the federal government more than satisfied it, argues a report from the Migration Policy Institute.

In part because lawmakers haven't been able to agree on other immigration changes, stronger enforcement has been the nation's main answer to illegal immigration. But immigration enforcement spending now exceeds that of all other kinds of federal law enforcement.

In fiscal 2012, the report (.pdf) says, the federal government spent nearly $18 billion on Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the US-VISIT program to collect biometrics from visitors and immigrants.

That year, less than $15 billion in total went toward the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

CBP and ICE also refer more cases for prosecution than does the entire Justice Department--which includes the FBI, DEA and ATF.

And, the immigration detention system brings in more individuals each year than are in federal prison for all other federal crimes, the report also notes.

The difference in spending, case loads and and enforcement actions leads the report authors to conclude that immigration enforcement has eclipsed all other federal law enforcement priorities. They also say that those who insisted on strong enforcement before other reforms have accomplished their goals and that lawmakers should now address other reforms.

"The formidable enforcement machinery that has been built can serve the national interest well if it now also provides a platform from which to address broader immigration policy changes," the report says.

For more:
- download the report, "Immigration Enforcement in the United States: The Rise of a Formidable Machinery" (.pdf)

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