Final in NPR Op. Streamline Series Addresses Costs

In the third and last of NPR’s stellar series on Operation Streamline, Ted Robbins addresses lawmakers wanting to expand the program when nobody knows how much it costs, except that those costs are staggering (“Border Convictions: High Stakes, Unknown Price” September 14, 2010).

A great, direct message in five minutes, though I think the piece could have made an even greater impact had Robbins pointed out that there are three people in the country who could each singlehandedly end this policy in practice – Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of DHS Janet Napolitano, or President Obama. (For more on that, see recommendations in the Operation Streamline Green Paper).

That being said, the investigation is a five minute parade of evidence affirming that nobody really understands the huge costs of OS. However, “huge” is a relative term, and many government programs are costly, so I appreciate that Robbins took the time to make it clear that OS is different. It’s financially infeasible. U.S. Federal Judge John Roll, District of Arizona:

“[If they implemented OS fully, the Tucson district] would have more cases than the rest of the entire country. You would take the resources now, for the entire country, and just double it, and put that in Arizona.”

Other illustrations of Streamline’s infeasibility? If the program met its stated goal of zero tolerance, Tuscon would have 1,000 immigration cases every weekday, totaling a quarter million prosecutions a year and $1 billion in annual costs to taxpayers. Clearly worse than the roughly 200 a day processed now . . . in a court designed to hold 100 cases a day.

When compared to the multiple, concrete costs listed in the story, the vague statements of those supporting expansion fall flat. Most shameless, however, was Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl. I couldn’t help but cringe at how lightly he takes his responsibilities as a legislator: “We have to guess at it. We’ll give $50 million [to fund OS in Arizona]. How much will that do?”

That $50 million won’t ensure a fair judicial process for the immigrants ensnared in this program. It won’t deter most of them from re-entering, just as it didn’t deter them from entering in the first place. It won’t even free resources to worry about other crimes the federal courts should be prosecuting. And that $50 million most certainly won’t be enough, whatever one can mean by “enough” when this program shouldn’t even be continued in the first place.

To hear more details about OS costs, and more empty excuses for expanding it, hear the full story here: “Border Convictions: High Stakes, Unknown Price