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  • This Chart Shows the U.S. Border Security Spending by Year

This Chart Shows the U.S. Border Security Spending by Year

Border enforcement has become a top political issue in the United States, but what is its current cost and by how much has it risen? To explore this, we look at the American Immigration Council’s fact sheet titled “The Cost of Immigration Enforcement and Border Security.” The data originally comes from the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection webpage.

Border Security Spending by Year

  • The cost of border enforcement has hit record highs for the past five years, with total overall budgets surpassing $20 billion.
  • The annual budget of the U.S. Border Patrol has increased more than tenfold since 1993.
  • The number of U.S. Border Patrol agents have nearly doubled from 2003 to 2018.
  • Since its founding in 2003, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spending has grown 103 percent.

Our viz shows the annual budget of the U.S. Border Patrol since 1990. Each full block represents $200M. A darker shade indicates a higher relative budget for that year. The Border Patrol is part of a larger system of immigration and border enforcement in the U.S., which the Department of Homeland Security has been tasked with since its founding in 2003. This system can mainly be broken into two segments: border security, handled by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and interior enforcement, handled by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The U.S. Border Patrol is an arm of CBP. The report includes data on budget and staffing for each of these areas. Because of its relative size, the Border Patrol’s staff is reported separately from CBP’s.

U.S. Border Security Spending by Year (since 2010)

2010: $2.96B
2011: $3.55B
2012: $3.53B
2013: $3.47B
2014: $3.64B
2015: $3.8B
2016: $3.8B
2017: $4.29B
2018: $4.46B
2019: $4.7B

Customs and Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Spending Since 2010

2010 - CBP: $11.5B, ICE: $5.7B
2011 - CBP: $11.2B, ICE: $5.8B
2012 - CBP: $11.8B, ICE: $6B
2013 - CBP: $11.9B, ICE: $5.9B
2014 - CBP: $12.5B, ICE: $5.9B
2015 - CBP: $12.8B, ICE: $5.3B
2016 - CBP: $13.2B, ICE: $6.1B
2017 - CBP: $14.4B, ICE: $6.2B
2018 - CBP: $14.4B, ICE: $6.2B
2019 - CBP: $14.7B, ICE: $7.6B

Since 1990, two significant changes in immigration policy have occurred. First, in 1993, the U.S. began its current strategy of concentrated border enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border. Then, in 2003, the Department of Homeland Security was established, along with ICE.

Each change in policy has resulted in significant budget increases. Since 1993, the annual budget of the U.S. Border Patrol has increased to more than $4.7 billion from $363 million. Since 2003, ICE spending has grown to $6.7 billion from $3.3 billion.

One drawback to evaluating these agencies based on their budget history is that these figures are not adjusted for inflation. However, we can also look at the overall staffing of each agency as a proxy for its overall size. These numbers tell a similar story to the budget.

Since 1993, the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents has grown from 4,139 to 19,555. Of these agents, 16,608 were deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border, with the remainder deployed to the U.S.-Canada border and coastal border sectors. The number of ICE agents devoted to enforcement and removal operations increased from 2,710 in 2003 to nearly 8,000 in 2018. From the perspective of both budget and personnel, the costs of border enforcement continue to rise.

Take a look at the data and the viz -- it’s great to be well-informed here, as it’s likely to be the most influential topic of the 2020 presidential election. What did you find surprising about this information? Do you believe these trends will continue? What would have to change for these cost increases to stop? Let us know in the comments.

Data: Table 1.1

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