Criminal prosecutions against border crossers in South Texas have come back up to historic highs, resulting in boom-time funding for private prisons say two recent reports from watchdog groups.
Grassroots Leadership has issued a “green paper” of the report “Operation Streamline: Drowning Justice and Draining Dollars along the Rio Grande.” Operation Streamline is a controversial policy that mandates the criminal prosecution of border-crossers in certain areas. Before Streamline, immigration was usually enforced in the civil immigration system. The report analyzes the impact of Streamline on two border districts in Texas.
“Operation Streamline has clogged federal criminal courts with prosecutions of border-crossers,” said report co-author Tara Buentello. “Our report shows that Operation Streamline has had little deterrent effect on migration while it has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars.”
Key findings include that federal districts along the Texas-Mexico border have spent more than $1.2 billion in government dollars on the criminal detention and incarceration of border-crossers since the onset of Operation Streamline in 2005. More than 135,000 migrants have been criminally prosecuted in these two border districts since 2005 under two sections of the federal code that make unauthorized entry and re-entry a crime. The vast majority of these detention costs have been funneled into for-profit private prisons contracted by U.S. Marshals Service and Federal Bureau of Prisons.
“The human costs of Operation Streamline fall squarely on immigrant families,” said Donna Red Wing, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership. “Meanwhile, private prison corporations like Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group are quietly profiting from this broken system.” The new green paper follows Grassroots Leadership’s 2006 report, “Ground Zero: The Laredo Super-Jail and the No Action Alternative” that demonstrated that federal detention expansion along the Texas-Mexico border is driven almost exclusively from increased prosecution and detention of border-crossers. The new report shows a staggering 2,722 percent increase in prosecutions for entry, and a 267 percent increase in prosecutions for re-entry, compared to corresponding data for 2002.
“The criminalization of immigration did not begin Arizona’s SB1070,” said Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership’s Texas Campaigns Coordinator and a report co-author. “Operation Streamline has subjected undocumented immigrants crossing the southern border to unprecedented rates of prosecution and detention. It has also overburdened the federal judiciary. It’s time to end this Bush-era policy.”
The “green paper” is intended to stimulate debate and launch a dialogue on Operation Streamline. Grassroots Leadership is also launching a blog to accompany the report at Grassroots Leadership. A final white paper will be released as more data is collected.
Meanwhile, according to the most recent figures released by the Department of Justice, in recent months U.S. federal criminal immigration prosecutions by the two largest investigative agencies within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have increased to levels seen during the last months of the Bush administration says the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of Syracuse University.
“The total of 14,912 prosecutions referred in March and April 2010 by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the highest two-month total since September and October of 2008, when the combined figure briefly spiked to 16,127,” says a TRAC summary by co-directors David Burnham and Susan B. Long. “The 4,145 prosecutions referred by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the same two months is the highest recorded since the creation of the agency in 2005.”