The United States spends more money on immigration enforcement -- nearly $18 billion in the 2012 fiscal year -- than on its other law enforcement agencies combined, according to a report released Monday from the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.
That spending went to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and US-Visit, a program that helps states and localities identify undocumented immigrants.
By contrast, the U.S. spent $14.4 billion -- combined -- on its other prime law enforcement agencies: the FBI, Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshal Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
There's a reason for the high cost. The Migration Policy Institute found that ICE and CBP also refer more cases to prosecution than those other agencies combined, and the immigration agencies also held more individuals in fiscal year 2011 than the federal Bureau of Prisons.
The odds are pretty good that those costs will stay high for a while with or without immigration reform. Why? Immigration reform will include major new enforcement initiatives as part of the overall package. And without reform, we'll see a continuation of the status quo reported by MPI.