economic conditions, are not fully understood and cannot be forecast. Other sources of demand may be predictable, such as the introduction of new technology to aid in detection and personal identification, changes in policy that increase the personal costs of apprehension, or new patrolling or other tactics that contribute to a higher number of apprehensions. All can contribute to increased demand for DOJ enforcement-related services.

Workload Hypothesis

A reasonable hypothesis on which budget estimates might be based is that when resources are increased for efforts to detect and apprehend illegal immigrants—either as they enter the United States or through enforcement efforts such as checks on the status of workers or of people taken into custody for other reasons—the result will be, with some time lag, increased numbers of people who are subject to legal procedures. Those legal procedures range from review of status, to felony prosecution and pretrial detention and transport, to sentencing to federal prison. Higher volumes at the “front end,” when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has responsibility, may lead to higher volumes later at the “back end,” when DOJ has responsibility.

We can examine this hypothesis in light of recent trends. Since its establishment, DHS has received large increases in its immigration enforcement budgets, especially for the Customs and Border Protection (CPB) service; see Figure 2-1. CPB’s functions include not only immigration enforcement, but also other enforcement related to control of the movement of goods and of illicit products including illegal drugs. In addition to the near doubling of the agency’s budget between 2004 and 2010, the then-separate Customs and Border Patrol agencies had received substantial funding increases in the decade prior to DHS’s creation.

Contrary to the committee’s hypothesis, above, during the fiscal 2004-2010 period the budget increases for DHS enforcement were accompanied not by increases in the number of people apprehended as illegal entrants but by a sharp drop in those numbers; see Figure 2-2.1 This trend might be partly a result of more effective interdiction that in turn resulted in fewer initial or repeated attempts to enter the United States illegally. Or it might reflect changes in economic and social conditions on either side of the border and other factors that led to fewer attempts to enter the country.


1The counts of deportable aliens located do not include significant numbers apprehended at ports of entry by U.S. Customs officials or apprehended by nonfederal law enforcement agencies and subsequently removed by DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. The excluded numbers might make an important difference in the time trends shown; this data issue is discussed in Chapter 4.

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