tion, incarceration, or requiring court security and transportation by U.S. marshals. Decisions by DHS to allow fewer apprehended immigrants to be returned to their countries of origin voluntarily without civil or criminal processes have increased the workload of DOJ’s parts of the immigration enforcement system, despite a sharp decline in total apprehensions.

The flows of unauthorized entrants across the southern U.S. border have declined since 2000, most likely as a result of changes in U.S. economic conditions and Mexican demography, among other factors. The increased probability of or greater severity of sanctions for those apprehended has not been a major cause of the decline. Budget decision making is hampered by lack of analysis about the actual deterrent or other effects of specific sanctions or other DHS and DOJ actions.

In 2003-2010, only a few sizable adjustments were sought to the original appropriated amounts to DOJ, in spite of significant changes in workload demands. This lack of requests for changes appears to reflect in part the ability of administrators at both national and local levels to adjust their operations to whatever level of resources is available. That is, problems in estimating resources for immigration enforcement are more likely to manifest themselves as changes in operations (and possibly service quality and enforcement effectiveness) than as requests for supplemental appropriations or other spending adjustments.

The accuracy and timeliness of budget estimates—developed up to 2 years in advance of the fiscal year for which appropriations are made—are affected by all the usual limitations of any financial forecast and by some limitations specific to estimating resource needs for immigration enforcement. The complexity of the immigration enforcement system also limits the utility of standard modeling methods for predicting budget demand.

DOJ confronts at least five technical challenges to modeling its resource needs for immigration enforcement that are specific to the immigration enforcement system:

1.   the nonlinearities arising from the nature of “queuing” for services at various points in the enforcement process;

2.   adaptive behavior by both enforcement agencies and immigrants;

3.   jurisdictional complexity and dispersal of decision-making responsibility;

4.   uncertainty from sources out of DOJ’s control such as DHS policy shifts and changing migration patterns; and

5.   the limits of available data on costs and effectiveness.

Therefore, in responding to its charge to “develop a robust approach or model to predict future DOJ costs…” and having concluded that it is impractical now or in the foreseeable future to specify and estimate a

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement