Operation Streamline: An American Obscenity

I am not sure I can even begin to describe this obscene method of handling border crossings.  Understand the militarization of the border was to prevent the crossing of terrorists into the USA.  Since 9/11 there have been zero terrorists apprehended through the border.  But the process of closing the border has increased militarization, spawned the development of the drug Cartels and Mexican mafia that have made the border dangerous. 17.9 Billion dollars is spent on immigration in this country, more than any other law enforcement budget combined in this country.

Operation Streamline is a tribunal under the Department of homeland Security and not the Department of Justice. It is used in 6 of the 9 sectors that border the Mexican border.  Currently, California is the only state that does not utilize Operation Streamline.   But the name Operation Streamline itself is a misnomer.  There  is nothing streamlined in the process. Each sector does the process differently.  We visited the Tucson tribunal where up to seventy undocumented individuals are processed in a mass manner.  There is one public defender for these individuals.  So to handle the caseload, the federal government contracts attorneys at $125 an hour.  The tribunal we witnessed processed 65 people, with a total of 1 public defender and 12 contracted attorneys.

As of January 1st all of the people being processed were being charged with illegal entry (code 1325) and illegal reentry (code 1326) Illegal entry is a misdemeanor with a maximum of 6 months sentence, $5,000 fine, and a ten dollars court fee.  Illegal reentry is a felony charge with a maximum sentence of 10 years. Both of these codes have been on the books since 1952 but only in recent years have they been enforced.  In Tucson, 70,000 people have been processed since Operation Streamline’s beginning in July 2008.  This number represents 13% of the 120K in FY 2012 apprehended in the Tucson Sector.  In 2008, 70% of people were deported with time served.  Today, 80% receive a sentence.  It is the decision of Border Patrol agents who goes to Operation Streamline.  First time crossers are simply deported after receiving their vital information.  Borderwide about 1/3rd of all apprehensions are streamlined.

Streamline has overwhelmed the federal courts.  Over half of all cases heard since 2008 are immigration cases for immigration violations.  80% of these are for petty immigration violations. This means the federal courts are not pursuing serious crimes such as drug prosecutions, human sex trafficking.  These cases are no longer being tried because petty immigrtion violations have become the priority.

THere is a violation of due process rights of migrants.  A study by the University of Arizona revealed that most lawyers in part because of the overwhelming case load of up to 70 defendents in one tribunal, that 40% of the lawyers stated to just sign form and not fight charge; 7% said they did notunderstand the charge, 2% were told t report abuse and less than 1% had their legal status checked.  There have been cases of US citizens deported because they did not speak English and no one asked them if they were citizen or here legally.

There is no apparent rhyme or reason for the sentences. THe Border Patrol Agents determine the sentence based on some formula but it is apparent that it is inconsistently applied.  So some people are sentenced to 30 days, some 75 days, some 105 days, and some the full 180 days.  All of those seen through Operation Streamline are charged on two counts, 1325 and 1326.  They are read their rights and asked if they plead guilty to illegal entry then the felony charge of 1326 will be dropped.  Many choose, without fully understanding what is happening.

There is tremendous cost in these proceedings.  The tribunal that we saw the average sentence was 92 days.  In the 2.5 hours in which 65 people were processed, the estimated cost was $987,000.  THis average cost occurs every day, Monday through Friday. This does not include the private lawyers that are contracted.  It begins in the morning with the attorneys meeting for the first time the defendents, a maximum of ten minutes because of the number of cases. Each private attorney receives about $800 ad day for their services.

We spoke with Juan Rocha, a public defender after the tribunal who explained to us there are 30 public defenders at the federal court.  Currently one public defender is assigned to Streamline daily and the rest are privately contracted by the federal government.  Because of Sequester, beginning July 1, the public defenders wil be on a rotation of only serving Streamline twice a year instead of once a week. This means the Federal government because of federal law that everyone is entitled to an attorney to represent them, that more money will be spent on the privately contracted attorneys.  It is a money maker.  One lawyer or Criminal Justice Act Attorneys as they are called bragged that his work with Operation Streamline yielded him a salary of $100,000.  He did not need to any other form of law.

It is estimated that the Tucson sector spends 96 million annually tho the exact cost has not been determined.

Does Operation Streamline work?  The intended purpose is to make the migrants experience of entering illegally so horrendous that he or she will not attempt this again.  A University of Arizona study revealed however, that while there was a short term deterance in crossing, the long term deterance was not evident.  Interviews showed that 50% of those individuals would be returning.  THe report concluded that ” If dying in the desert is not a deterant, it’s hard to imagine why spending no or little time in a federal prison and being returned to your home country is a deterant– Miller”

Next, stories of abuse …

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One Comment

  1. OMG! Don’t think I can deal with any more of this….it is so vicious, dispiriting…makes one lose faith in such a broken system! Who besides the lawyers and cartels and “coyotes” profit from it?


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