National Data | Bush Claims He's Boosted Immigration Law Enforcement. He Hasn't, Of Course.
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To hear George W. Bush tell it, his administration declared all-out war on illegal immigration from day one. In a recent radio address, Mr. Bush crowed:

"Since I took office, we've increased funding for border security by 66 percent, and the Department of Homeland Security has caught and sent home nearly 6 million immigrants.  [VDARE.COM note: i.e. were stopped at the border—there are only about 110,000 actual deportations a year.]

"Since I took office, we've increased funding for immigration enforcement by 42 percent. We're increasing the number of immigration enforcement agents and criminal investigators, enhancing work site enforcement, and going after smugglers and gang members and human traffickers."

Bunk, of course. To put Bush's claims in perspective, while he has been President, the stock of illegal immigrants in the U.S. has increased by an estimated three million.

Bureaucratic changes make it difficult to check how the President's speechwriters came up with his enforcement numbers. But the current data shows absolutely no strong Bush commitment to immigration law enforcement, whether in dollars, manpower, nor results.

According to the administration's budget summary, Homeland Security's total discretionary outlays will rise by $2.4 billion in FY2007, to $35.6 billion.

That's a 7 percent increase—but only 4 percent in real dollars.

And most of the increase is supposed to be funded by a doubling of airline passenger fees—from $2.50 to $5.00 for a one-way ticket—a proposal that Congress summarily rejected last year and is likely to do so again.[PDF]

Without the fees, Homeland Security spending will decline in real 2005 dollars, as follows: (Table 1)

  • 2005: $29.4 billion


  • 2006: $29.7 billion


  • 2007: 29.2 billion

Border Patrol spending is indeed slated to rise more than $3 billion, an increase of 29 percent over 2006, including funds for 1,500 new agents.

Sounds great—until you realize that this represents a reduction of at least 1,000 agents from levels Congress agreed to in the December 2004 intelligence overhaul bill.

And there will still be only 13,800 agents in the Border Patrol—as opposed to 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Also telling: the Bush tendency to "pay" for border security by starving other immigration control programs.

For example: The 2007 budget proposes eliminating the State Criminal Alien Assistance Control Program (SCAAP), which reimburses states for the costs they incur in detaining and incarcerating criminal aliens.

Yet as it is, the SCAAP program covers only one-quarter of such costs.

The obsession with symbolic border control at the expense of, well, comprehensive immigration law enforcement is strikingly evident in the distribution of federal immigration enforcement spending.

Here are the 2002 allocation of Homeland Security enforcement spending, according to the Migration Policy Institute: [PDF]

  • Border Patrol: 58 percent


  • Detention and Removal: 33 percent


  • Interior investigations: 9 percent

In terms of personnel, immigration enforcement priorities appear even more skewed:

  • Border Patrol: 18,043 (68.8 percent)


  • Detention and removal: 5,102 (19.4 percent)


  • Interior investigations: 3,092 (11.8 percent)

Interior investigations include efforts to find and fine employers who hire illegal aliens. Worksite enforcement was to be the key to controlling illegal immigration following the 1986 reform act.

But in fact, it is clearly the low person on the Bush Administration's agenda. Today the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—the branch of Homeland Security that enforces immigration laws and removes violators—devotes only about 4 percent of its personnel to "worksite enforcement", down from 9 percent in 1999. [The Search for Illegal Immigrants Stops at the Workplace, By Eduardo Porter, New York Times, March 5, 2004.]

The missing personnel have presumably been sent to the border.

Not surprisingly, under the Bush Administration worksite arrests of illegal aliens fell some 97 percent, from 2,859 in 1999 to 159 in 2004.

This astounding number is the bottom line on Bush immigration law enforcement.

He has not only failed to strengthen enforcement—inside the U.S., he has virtually abandoned it.

Edwin S. Rubenstein (email him) is President of ESR Research Economic Consultants in Indianapolis.

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