THE BURDEN OF IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENTDRUM MAJOR INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC POLICY
Faced with gaping budget shortfalls, communities across America are struggling to preserve core public services.Yet amidst cutbacks to education, street repairs, and even fire protection, one growing burden on our cities hasgone largely unexamined:
the local costs of enforcing the nation’s federal immigration laws.
This paper explores the fiscal, administrative, public safety and civic costs that cities incur as they assumeincreased responsibility for immigration enforcement. We find that while the vast majority of Americans believethat the nation’s immigration system needs to be reformed, the current laws are being enforced more rigorouslythan ever – and our fiscally strapped cities are bearing too much of the cost.Drawing on the latest research in cities around the country, we examine three federal-local partnership programsthat leverage urban communities and their resources in service of federal immigration enforcement goals—287(g),Secure Communities and the Criminal Alien Program. We find that these programs impose high costs on city budgets and local economies, prove counterproductive to protecting public safety, and draw support from amisguided understanding of the relationship between immigration and crime.
Local immigration enforcement is costly for city budgets and local economies.
One joint federal-local enforcement program, 287(g), costs many local governments more than a milliondollars in unreimbursed costs a year. Mecklenburg County, NC, spent an estimated $5.3 million to set upand operate the 287(g) program in its first year.
According to the Government Accountability Office, 62 percent of local law enforcement agencies that participate in 287(g) receive no federal reimbursement for any costs associated with the program.
The federal government reimburses cities for less than a quarter of city and county costs for jailingimmigrants who have committed crimes, an expense incurred under all the federal-local enforcement programs.
Immigrants produce 20 percent of the economic output in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas,according to the Fiscal Policy Institute. When immigration enforcement programs succeed in pushinglocal immigrant populations underground, local economies suffer: businesses close, jobs and tax revenueare lost.
Local immigration enforcement is counterproductive to public safety.
Enforcing civil immigration law diverts police time and resources away from criminal matters. In oneextreme case, when Maricopa County, AZ began immigration enforcement, local deputies arrived latetwo-thirds of the time to the most serious emergency 911 calls. County detectives’ arrest rates for criminal investigations plummeted.
Local immigration enforcement undermines police-community relationships in immigrant communities,deterring crime reporting. In Salt Lake City, UT, experts found that one in three city residents areunwilling to report drug-related crimes when local law enforcement has the power to detain based onimmigration status.