Immigration Think Tanks Squabble Over the Facts

Patrick Poendl /

January 8, 2013; Source: Slate

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) recently released a report on immigration enforcement that not only caught the attention of major media outlets but also elicited protests from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), another research institution focused on immigration. The report’s most important take-away, according to the MPI authors, is the finding that “the U.S. government spends more on its immigration enforcement agencies than on all its other principal criminal federal law enforcement agencies combined.”

In FY 2012, U.S. government spending on Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the latter’s primary technology initiative, and the Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) reached nearly $18 billion. That is, U.S. spending on immigration issues exceeded, by about 24 percent, the total spending for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

MPI challenges what it perceives as the obsession that hawks in Congress have with immigration enforcement. The authors argue that “the question is no longer whether the government is willing and able to enforce the nation’s immigration laws. The report argues that the government has more than proven its concern with immigration enforcement, as evidenced by the record-setting four million deportations during President Obama’s first term. Moreover, Pew Research documents that net migration from Mexico has fallen to zero, or possibly even less (i.e., a potential reverse flow to Mexico). Thus, MPI experts reason that the proper question is “how enforcement resources and mandates can be best mobilized to control illegal immigration and ensure the integrity of the nation’s immigration laws and traditions.”

Fox News Latino reports that CIS labeled MPI’s work as “bogus” and an “attempt to help sell the president’s immigration agenda.” CIS accuses MPI of misleading readers with “grossly” inflated numbers. “I couldn’t help but think they were being deliberatively manipulative,” said Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies at CIS. “Frankly, it took just a few hours to see that they were way off on the budget.”

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“A large amount of that spending has nothing to do with immigrants,” Mark Krikorian, CIS executive director, told the New York Times. Doris Meissner, an author of the MPI report and former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in the Clinton administration defended the integrity of the research. “This particular report offers no policy recommendations,” Meissner told Fox. “We have not suggested any reductions in funding anywhere. This is a report we would have issued regardless of who was president.” She also added, “[I]f you look at CIS’s research, I don’t think you see the same kind of rigor.”

Those who are serious about understanding immigration (and other issues, for that matter) need to be discerning about information released by think tanks. They have to ferret out any underlying agendas. While many research institutions remain nonpartisan and present evidenced-based data to inform policy discourse, there are those that act more like advocacy tanks than think tanks (in fact, the NPQ Newswire recently noted a potential move in this direction by the Heritage Foundation). These institutes sometimes frame issues or pick information to advance their causes and politics rather than laying out full and fair assessments of issues. As for the dispute between MPI and CIS, we suggest that you visit their respective websites and peruse their materials. It’s all rather apparent. –Erwin de Leon

  • Dave Francis


    Everybody can have a say in this illegal immigration controversy, by calling their federal and state representatives? President Obama is determined to give people who have no respect for our laws, a path to citizenship; even low key criminals. Zero-in on your politicians and demand they vote for passage of Texas Republican Lamar Smith “(The Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 2885)” to remove unauthorized workers from nationwide business by implementing mandated E-Verify. Both businesses and the American people overwhelmingly support E-Verify. Nearly 360,000 American employers voluntarily use E-Verify and over 2,700 new businesses sign up every week. The program quickly confirms 99.5% of work-eligible employees. It’s free, fast, and easy to use. With 23 million Americans unemployed or underemployed and unknown millions of illegal immigrants working in the U.S., now is the time to increase E-Verify. Then we MUST demand passage of the “Birthright Citizenship bill (Rep. Steve King, R-IA; H.R.140)”, which will collapse the intentional smuggling of the illegal unborn into the United States to collect hundreds of billions of dollars in entitlements from taxpayers by parents. Plus the parents have figured how to scam the child tax credit of $4 to 7 Billion dollars without paying anything, and the IRS ignoring this disgraceful theft. Way above the original figure of $113 Billion dollars is being extracted at state level, with many welfare programs that don’t exist for Americans and legal residents. The welfare state is flourishing for illegal aliens, freeloaders from many different countries and we get the bill?

    Called “anchor babies,” the children of illegal immigrants born/ smuggled into the United States cannot actually prevent deportation of their parents. It is not until they attain the age of 21 that the children are able to file paperwork to sponsor their parents (CHAIN MIGRATION) for legal immigration status. The cost is unbridled for the U.S. taxpayer who is charged with the free education, health care and low income shelter and cash payments. The parents remain illegally exposed until that point and deportable. A well regulated Guest Labor force could be provided for agriculture, but not permanent residency. Plus the STEM program for technical professionals who wish to immigrate, but not unlimited numbers? The impoverished should not apply, as America has millions of its own under privileged. All the facts, the shocking costs to federal and mainly states welfare benefits, which the Liberal Progressives press, does not wish to be known at NumbersUSA website.

    Are we about to lose our rights, our guns to protect our families and a government influenced by the 7.billion annual cost for the United Nations; and the second illegal alien AMNESTY? The cost for this negative immigration application as reported by the Heritage Foundation ($ TWO TRILLION DOLLARS PLUS) for processing, retirement and pensions out of your taxes.