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Immigration enforcement cost $18b

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration spent more money on immigration enforcement in the last fiscal year than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined, according to a report on the government’s enforcement efforts from a Washington think tank.

The report on Monday from the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan group focused on global immigration issues, said in the 2012 budget year that ended in September the government spent about $18 billion on immigration enforcement programs run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the US-Visit program, and Customs and Border Protection.

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Immigration enforcement topped the combined budgets of the FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Drug Enforcement Administration; and Secret Service by about $3.6 billion dollars, the report’s authors said.

Since President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 — which legalized more than 3 million illegal immigrants and overhauled immigration laws — the government has spent more than $187 billion on immigration enforcement.

According to the report, federal immigration-related criminal prosecutions also outnumber cases generated by the Justice Department.

The 182-page report concludes that the Obama administration has made immigration its highest law enforcement priority.

Demetrios Papademetriou, MPI’s president, said the authors reviewed enforcement policies and spending from 1986 on, amid ongoing disagreements in Congress on whether border security and enforcement efforts needed to be solidified before reform could be tackled.

‘‘No nation anywhere in the world has been as determined, has made as deep and expensive a commitment to or has had as deep a reach in its enforcement efforts as the US has had,’’ Papademetriou said.

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