While President Obama and Congress fight over what budget cuts to make in order to reduce the gigantic U.S. deficit, there is a politically-correct idea that could save billions of dollars: reduce the amount of money wasted on anti-immigrant raids.
The very idea of cutting funding destined to enforce immigration laws is sacrilege for conservatives who think that the United States is being "invaded" by illegal Latin Americans who steal jobs from the citizens of the country. But there is growing evidence that the arrest and deportation of illegal immigrants has become big business for private companies devoted to the control and arrest of immigrants, without managing to reduce the flow.
"[B]illions could be saved if government agencies better used the resources they've already been allocated, if Congress terminated wasteful or duplicative programs," says the National Immigration Forum, which supports comprehensive immigration reform. Among its conclusions, a study points out that last year the U.S. deported 197,000 immigrants who had no criminal record, at a cost of $23,000 per person, which represented an expense of $45 billion [sic]. Instead of deporting agricultural workers needed by the U.S. labor market, the government should focus on the deportation of violent criminals, the study says.
The United States spends $7,500 for every arrest on the Mexican border, which is a 500 percent increase compared to six years ago. Despite this huge rise in spending, the number of border arrests has not changed much. In addition, the budget for patrols has increased by an average of $300 million annually since 2005, although the number of people who cross the border illegally has declined. Simply stopping the annual budget increases of patrols would save hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the study.
Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform say that instead of wasting money, we should solve the underlying problem: a system that does not grant enough legal visas, and that forces millions of immigrant workers to enter the country without documents. Then they are arrested by private detention companies that have a powerful lobbying group in Washington. Just as there is a military-industrial complex of arms manufacturers in the U.S. that influences military policy, there is also an immigration-industrial complex that helps to shape immigration policy.
National Public Radio revealed that Arizona's draconian anti-immigration law was conceived behind the scenes by the private prison industry. NPR cites the Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison company in the country, as one of those that pressed for the Arizona law.
My opinion: When Obama and Congress consider drastic cuts in public spending — from FBI funding to pensions — they should also discuss the possibility of cutting the waste in the area of immigration. They should examine whether it makes sense to spend $4.5 billion to deport workers who do work that Americans don't want to do, and at the same time cut funding for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies that try to put dangerous criminals behind bars.