Operation Streamline was shut down for the first time in seven years last Friday when protesters in Tucson successfully stopped buses from taking detained immigrants to court proceedings. As a result over 70 immigrants were deported without being criminally prosecuted – a major victory for immigrants rights supporters. Operation Streamline is a controversial program started by the Bush Administration in 2005 that punishes immigrants with jail time and a criminal offense before deporting them. It’s an unconstitutional and excessively punitive program that serves to worsen family separation and strains law enforcement resources.
Kung Li wrote about the program for Cambio in August:
Streamline took hold in the Del Rio sector and spread like a zombie attack. The Yuma Sector in Arizona got Streamline a year after Del Rio. It then spread to the Laredo Sector, the Tucson Sector, the El Paso Sector, and the Rio Grande Sector in south Texas. In each of these places, anywhere from 20 percent to 80 percent of the people apprehended by the Border Patrol are now inserted into the federal criminal justice system rather than handled in the traditional way, through voluntary departures and the civil immigration system.
It’s an enormous number of cases – immigration prosecutions now make up a third of the federal criminal docket. Where federal courts used to be reserved for the most serious criminal cases, it’s now being used to process the most trivial immigration violations.
Li also wrote that Operation Streamline is streamlining people right into private prisons. Not surprising considering the influence private-prison companies like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the Geo Group have over Southwest states. Back in 2010 Geo and CCA were exposed for their close ties to Arizona lawmakers – folks like former state senator Russell Pearce and Gov. Jan Brewer – the very people who passed SB 1070, Arizona’a infamously racist law. The private-prison industry has a clear stake in laws and programs that funnel people into their facilities. The more beds they fill, the more money they make – all at the expense of U.S. taxpayers and, more importantly, the immigrants who deserve freedom.
President Obama can halt Operation Streamline and he should. But that’s not all he should do. Overturn the convictions of those people who’ve been separated from their families and give them the opportunity to come home. It’s the right thing to do.