While we’d speculated that additional funds allocated in the $600 million border security bill passed last month may fund an expansion to Operation Streamline, I hadn’t seen it explicitly laid out by the administration. But, buried in an article (“Arizona National Guard soldiers start surveillance at the border,” East Valley Tribune, August 30) about a debate between Pinal County’s tough-on-immigration sheriff Paul Babeau and DHS Secretary Janet Napalitano about border security, was this information:
And it’s being played out in the Yuma sector of the border. There, Operation Streamline results in all border crossers being detained for up to three weeks and then appearing before a judge before being deported. That criminal conviction,
Babeau said, means someone caught reentering illegally faces up to two years in prison. Napolitano said some of that $600 million would be used to expand Operation Streamline in the Tucson sector. With the current number of judges and prosecutors, courts can handle only about 70 cases a day; the remainder who do not have criminal records are simply deported.
Babeau conceded the cost, saying it would take $3.5 billion to fully implement what Kyl and McCain want to do. But he said it would enable federal agents to achieve “operational control” of the border.
It’s unclear where Babeau’s $3.5 billion number comes from, if it includes all Streamline-related costs, and if it’s an annual number or covers a number of years. Regardless, it’s an incredible cost for a program that essentially funnels folks into the criminal justice system before deporting them.