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Report: spending on immigration enforcement tops all federal law enforcement

In late December, this blog reported that federal immigration officials had audited more than 3,000 companies for I-9 compliance in enforcing business immigration laws. Those I-9 compliance audits were part of a policy change in recent years in how the government generally conducts workplace immigration enforcement, according to a report issued Monday by a non-partisan Washington think tank, the Migration Policy Institute.

Workplace immigration enforcement currently involves a smaller focus on physically raiding businesses targeting undocumented workers, and a larger focus on conducting paperwork raids through I-9 compliance audits.

Monday's think tank report, however, looked at the overall immigration enforcement efforts, and says that the federal government spent roughly $18 billion in fiscal year 2012 enforcing U.S. immigration laws. The report indicates that the U.S. government spent more on overall immigration enforcement efforts than the amount of money spent by all of the other federal law enforcement agencies combined last year, including criminal law enforcement through the Justice Department.

The think tank says that since the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 became law, the federal government has spent $187 billion on immigration enforcement, according to the Associated Press story in the Miami Herald.

Included in the report's findings on immigration enforcement, he report says that arrests at the border have been on the decline. In 2011, border patrol agents on the southern U.S. border made 327,000 arrests, the lowest number in 40 years. Meanwhile, immigration officials deported nearly 410,000 immigrants in 2012.

A great deal of public debate over immigration policy and immigration reform has focused on politics recently. The think tank's report has drawn support and opposition alike. Commentators in support of immigration reform say that the report shows that enforcement efforts are in place sufficient to allow for real immigration reform. Opponents of immigration reform say that the report does not show that the borders are secure.

Source: Miami Herald, "Gov't spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement," Alicia Caldwell, Jan. 7, 2013

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