On Fox News yesterday, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) again stated his support for an expansion of Operation Streamline, a Bush-era program that requires federal criminal prosecution of all illegal border crossers in certain regions. Kyl downplayed its costs:
Then the thing that — well, it cost some money, but the operation streamline where you catch them crossing the border, you put them in jail for a short period of time as a deterrent. The only thing that costs is renting the jail space from one of the local counties or the state so you have a place to incarcerate these people. And you have to hire a judge. You have to have temporary courtroom space and so on. In the overall scheme of things it is not that expensive.
The “overall scheme of things” is relative, but critics of Operation Streamline argue it *is *expensive — and runs counter to stated Department of Homeland Security strategies about targeting dangerous illegal immigrants.
Aarti Kholi, immigration policy director at Berkeley Law’s Warren Institute, told me Operation Streamline should be reevaluated, not expanded. “It’s being used to spend large amounts [to criminally prosecute] the lowest level of offender,” she said. “The big question about Operation Streamline is whether it’s really effective.”
The Warren Institute has argued that it isn’t — the institute released a report in January on findings that Operation Streamline leads to large numbers of prosecutions (including mass hearings where up to 80 defendants pleaded guilty at one time) but not necessarily safer border regions. The study’s author, Joanna Lydgate, said the program clogs courtrooms and detracts from fighting violent crime:
“Our study found that Operation Streamline has unacceptable consequences for the agencies forced to implement the program, for the migrants it targets, and for the rule of law in this country,” she said. “It diverts crucial law enforcement resources away from fighting violent crime along the border, fails to effectively reduce undocumented immigration, and violates the U.S. Constitution.”