As #DefundThePolice Movement Gains Steam, Immigration Enforcement Spending and Practices Attract Scrutiny

Muzaffar Chishti & Jessica Bolter
Date of Publication: 
June, 2020
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

This brief explores what is behind some activists’ calls for abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) and notes parallels to the Black Lives Matter movement. In each case there is a concern with how problematic law enforcement actions may reveal a pattern of systemic racism. The authors also see connections between dramatic increases in the budget for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the expansion of the remit of Custom and Border Patrol (CBP), noting that CBP officers have been deployed in areas not typically considered their domain, e.g. New York City during protests against police violence. The report compares the growth of spending on the DHS to other federal agencies, calculating that its budget is now more than the combined budgets of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. ICE’s budget alone increased from $3.1 billion to $8.4 billion between FY 2005 and FY 2020. During this period, the number of detained immigrants soared, reaching 50,165 in FY 2019 (the largest total ever). In addition to money budgeted for ICE, the report explains how private enterprise is profiting from detention related contracts. The authors suggest that accountability has not kept pace with the expansion of enforcement and detention, and that there are widespread examples of malpractice and abuse. The report concludes that immigration enforcement has developed into a“formidable machinery” that not only affects immigrants, but the wider society as well. (Erik Jacobson, Montclair State University)

Download now or view online.


Chishti, M. & Bolter, J. (2020, June). As #DefundThePolice Movement Gains Steam, Immigration Enforcement Spending and Practices Attract Scrutiny. Migration Policy Institute.