The nearly $18 billion cited by the report includes funding for “things such as screening cargo, checking the duty-free purchases you made abroad, and so on,” Krikorian wrote in a blog post. “It’s not so much for law enforcement in the G-man sense as it is management of the daily business of government, like the Post Office or highway maintenance.”
Although the Obama administration is seeking to create new pathways to legal residency for the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, it has simultaneously kept up the trend of tougher enforcement.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced on Dec. 21 that it deported a record 410,000 illegal immigrants in fiscal 2012, up from 396,000 in fiscal 2011 and 392,000 in fiscal 2010.
Meissner said the federal government’s emphasis on enforcement may not be sustainable in an era of shrinking budgets. The report also notes that tougher enforcement — combined with a stagnant U.S. economy and greater opportunities for workers in Mexico — has slowed the influx of illegal immigrants from the southern border.
“The facts on the ground no longer support assertions of mounting illegal immigration and demands for building an ever-larger law enforcement bulwark to combat it,” the report finds.
Meissner added that Congress could curb the growing costs of immigration enforcement, should it agree to a comprehensive policy overhaul that includes a pathway to legal status for undocumented residents who might otherwise face deportation.
“If the Congress decides on a legal-status program of some kind, that removes an enormous number of people from the potentially removable population,” probably decreasing enforcement costs, she said.