The mounting costs of nationwide immigration enforcement

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After campaigning on an anti-immigration platform, President Trump is aiming to deliver on a major promise, by substantially stepping up immigration enforcement activities.

Part of this effort involves federal programs enticing localities into partnerships with Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), increasing immigration enforcement costs to counties and communities with little proven public safety benefit.

While the majority of these partnerships began under the respective administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, there has been a 25 percent increase just since Trump has been in office.

{mosads}While partnering with the federal government around immigration enforcement may seem like a “free resource,” local law enforcement and taxpayers need to be clear that when they partner with ICE, it will cost them.


In The Cost of Crimmigration: Exploring the intersection between criminal justice and immigration, the Justice Policy Institute explores the financial and social costs connected to increased participation by local law enforcement in enforcing federal immigration laws.

Currently, 45 localities have partnered with ICE, and that number is expected to grow even further under President Trump’s executive order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.

Additionally, the administration is approaching former partners to rejoin partnerships that had ended in recent years. For example, the partnership with North Carolina’s Alamance County was terminated by ICE under Obama based on allegations of potential racial profiling — but under the Trump administration, ICE has approached the sheriff about rejoining.

Counties and cities deepen their involvement through the Delegation of Immigration Program — or 287(g) — which deputizes select law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws on behalf of ICE. 287(g) allocates resources for 48-hour ICE holds — a window of time that the local detention center holds potential non-citizens while ICE determines if arrest for deportation is necessary.

While the federal 287(g) program authorizes local law enforcement to carry out immigration enforcement, the federal funds available don’t come close to covering the full cost of participation.

A myriad of costs come along with immigration enforcement, including funding for officers, detention facilities and lawsuits.

Alamance County, which is seriously considering re-joining the program, previously, built a $12 million jail expansion to accommodate for the growth.

Maricopa County, in Arizona, accumulated $43 million in litigation costs, in death and abuse lawsuits, before their partnership ultimately ended.

Harris County, Texas, ended its agreement with ICE in February of 2017 after facing $1 million in overtime costs every two weeks during the partnership.

In all these cases, the burden fell heavily on local taxpayers and communities, as federal funding largely doesn’t cover these hidden costs.

The costs of increased participation also go well beyond the financial impact. Law enforcement leaders around the country fear these types of partnerships because it fractures the Latinx community’s trust with local law enforcement.

Davidson County, Tenn., – a former partner of the 287(g) program – saw 54 percent of Latinx surveyed refusing to report crime, and 73 percent admitted to apprehension to cooperate with the police.

These examples reflect fear grounded in the notion that non-citizens would become subject of an investigation based on racial profiling after any involvement with police.

And while the current administration continues to spout rhetoric that non-citizens commit dangerous crimes, research shows just the opposite: Despite having lower levels of income and education, non-citizens are less likely to have engaged in violent or non-violent behavior than native-born individuals.

It is clear that the increased costs associated with participation in the 287(g) program come with little to no public safety benefit. Rather than participate in costly programs based on faulty rhetoric and fear mongering, local officials should decline participation under the 287(g) program, and instead establish a clear line of jurisdiction for local law enforcement that aligns with their community’s public safety priorities and their values, not an anti-immigration agenda.

Non-citizens are an integral part of communities across the country, and elected officials locally and nationally should be pursuing policies that balance the need to fairly enforce our immigration laws while also improving public safety and enhancing economic growth in our communities.

Marc Schindler is executive director of the Justice Policy Institute. Jeremy Kittredge is the research and policy associate with the Justice Policy Institute.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Barack Obama Criminal justice reform ICE Immigration police reform policing undocumented
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