As Illegal Immigration Ebbs, U.S. Spends Billions on Border Enforcement


The U.S. southern border bristles with technology and manpower designed to catch illegal immigrants and drug smugglers, reports NPR. Since 1986, the government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on fences, aircraft, detention centers, and agents. Even as federal budgets shrink and illegal immigration ebbs, experts say that there’s no end in sight for the growth of the border-industrial complex. Stocked with equipment like Blackhawk helicopters — hundreds of aircraft fly daily missions — much of the southern border has grown into an industrial complex that is fed by the government and supplied by defense contractors and construction companies.

The infrastructure includes a border fence that in some places has been built and rebuilt several times. The border-control efforts have spread farther, into cities where Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents pursue illegal immigrants and visa violators. Nationally, it extends to roughly 250 immigrant detention centers. Some of those centers are run by the government, some by private prison corporations. The government spends an estimated $5 million each day to house detainees awaiting deportation. Some 80,000 federal employees work in immigration enforcement. If you add up the budgets of the responsible agencies since 1986, the bill is $219 billion in today’s dollars — roughly the entire cost of the space shuttle program. House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) says, “It is a sort of a mini industrial complex syndrome that has set in there.”

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