What is Operation Streamline?
Operation Streamline is an initiative of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice launched in 2005 under a “zero-tolerance” policy to prosecute unauthorized immigrants as criminals. Streamline courts were created to deliver en masse fast-track criminal court proceedings. Streamline began in Del Rio, Texas, on December 16, 2005 and expanded to every border district except California. In 2018 new Trump administration zero-tolerance prosecution policies resulted in a new Streamline court in San Diego.
What happened prior to Streamline?
Being in the United States without proper documentation is a violation of immigration law, which is a civil not a criminal matter. Prior to Operation Streamline, U.S. attorneys were able to exercise prosecutorial discretion, initiating civil deportation proceedings against most undocumented immigrants while reserving criminal charges for repeat entrants or those with criminal records.
What Happens in Streamline courts?
- First-time border crossers are charged with illegal entry which is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in prison.
- Those with prior removals are charged with illegal re-entry, which is a criminal felony punishable by up to two years in prison.
Pleas and Sentences
When an individual is prosecuted as a criminal, the court must provide a defense attorney, and this applies to immigrants. Streamline defendants are represented by public defenders and court-appointed contract lawyers who may represent dozens of clients at a time, meeting with each one for only a few minutes before their court appearance.
Do Streamline defendants have lawyers?
Are Asylum Seekers Prosecuted in Streamline?
Yes. Immigrants who are fleeting violence and enter the U.S. without authorization are treated as lawbreakers and prosecuted for illegal entry or illegal re-entry.[Readmore– link to this website’s page on Asylum]
How Much Does This Cost the U.S Taxpayers?
- The total costs for courtrooms, prosecutors, defense attorneys, U.S. Marshals, court interpreters, transportation, and detention center beds are unknown. The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security faulted the DHS in 2015 for not tracking the full costs of Streamline, but DHS has not responded. Link:
- One Federal Public Defender estimated in 2013 that Tucson costs for attorneys, interpreters, and incarceration totaled $96 million per year, but this did not include unknown costs such as court facilities, or U.S. Marshals.
- A 2016 report estimated that incarceration costs alone for all Streamline convictions between 2005 – 2015 totaled $7 billion.[Linkto report ]
- Today there are approximately 43,000 people in detention beds each night. On an annual basis, at an estimated $161 per person/per night, detention alone costs over $2.5 billion annually.
- Less costly and inhumane alternatives to detention such as the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program(ISAP)and the Electronic Monitoring Device,(EMD)Programcould be used more widely.
Are There Other Costs?
- According to ICE, in 2016 three quarters of immigration prisoners were detained in private prisons.
- According to the Migration Policy Institute, between 2007 and 2014, CoreCivic’s overall annual profits increased by 47% to $195 million. In the same time period, GEO Group’s annual profits grew from about $42 million to $144 million – an increase of 243%.
Is Immigrant Criminal Prosecution an Effective Deterrent?
End Streamline meets regularly and welcomes visitors and new participants.
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