Crossing the border was once a matter for civil immigration courts. Now, every day in federal criminal courts along the Southwest border, hundreds of mostly destitute Latino and indigenous Latin American migrants are shackled, charged, convicted and sentenced en masse under the policy called “Operation Streamline.” The program has proven to be a boon for private prisons by funneling tens of thousands of immigrants into federal prisons every year. Through research and advocacy, Grassroots Leadership is fighting for and end to this program.
Roughly 35 years ago mass incarceration was born in the United States. It began with draconian drug laws which disproportionately targeted the poor and communities of color. It then spread to other social ills, like mental illness and homelessness, which -- like drug addiction -- were punished rather than treated.
As the U.S. has become the prison capital of the world, many now recognize that mass incarceration is a moral failure. In 2014, 30 states passed laws aimed to reduce their prison populations. In November of last year, 6,000 drug offenders were released early from federal prison because of a retroactive reduction in drug sentences. An additional 8,550 individuals could be eligible for release this November.
Yet while bipartisan support to end mass incarceration has grown, the drive to criminalize and incarcerate immigrants has intensified. A new book released today by Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies, “Indefensible: A Decade of Mass Incarceration of Migrants Prosecuted for Crossing the Border,” demonstrates the inhumanity, futility, and exorbitant costs of criminalizing immigration. Read more about Op-Ed: Prosecuting Migrants Is An Indefensible Failure
The 10-year-old, controversial "Operation Streamline," through which immigrants who cross the border are targeted for criminal prosecution, is wasting taxpayer dollars, tearing apart families, and driving mass incarceration, according to a new report.
The analysis from nonprofit groups Justice Strategies and Grassroots Leadership, released Wednesday in the form of a book (pdf), is based on interviews with judges, public defenders, advocates, activists, former prosecutors, and individuals who have been prosecuted as well as their families. "It was clear from talking to actors throughout this system that it is broken in every way," the report reads. Read more about End 'Operation Streamline': How One Human Rights Disaster is Driving Several More
The report, titled "Indefensible: A decade of mass incarceration of migrants prosecuted for crossing the border" was a written by Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies, two research and advocacy groups focused on reducing incarceration and lobbying against private prisons.
After 10 years, nearly three-quarters of a million people have been prosecuted through Operation Streamline, said Judy A. Greene, director of Justice Strategies and one of the report's co-authors. "This gobbles up half of the federal court docket, where nearly half of federal prosecutions are for essentially trespassing," she said.
"This policy has resulted in a human rights disaster. It’s ineffective, it’s wasteful and it’s failed by every measure," Greene said. Read more about Advocates: Fast-track immigration courts costly, ineffective
The Obama administration’s prosecution of immigrants who cross the border into the US is a driving force in mass incarceration, according to a new report.
Cases against immigrants for having illegally entered the country, known as illegal entry and re-entry, accounted for half of all criminal cases in the US federal court system last year, a report from Justice Strategies and Grassroots Leadership found. Non-citizens currently make up nearly a quarter of the total federal prison population, with Mexican nationals alone accounting for 15%.
Now several US judges who sentenced thousands of immigrants say the zero-tolerance policy for such cases they helped enforce was ineffective and should end.
“The only thing we have done is destroyed the lives of many people whose only crime is a desire to exercise their human rights to feed and care for themselves and their families,” said retired judge Felix Recio, who served as a federal magistrate from 1999 to 2013 in Brownsville, Texas, across the border from Matamoros, Mexico. Read more about Prosecutions of illegal entry a driving force in mass incarceration in US – report
Ten years ago, a new policy was named “Operation Streamline.” It is known for mass hearings in which up to 80 migrants are arraigned, found guilty, convicted and sentenced simultaneously for “improper entry,” a misdemeanor. The policy has long been decried by immigrant rights advocates. But the mass hearings, as shocking as they are, are only the tip of the iceberg. Lesser known is the widespread expansion of felony “re-entry” prosecutions and the mass incarceration of migrants that that came with the Streamline program.
Indefensible is an in-depth investigation into the costs and failures of a decade-old bad idea that has wasted millions of dollars and inflicted an incalculable amount of human suffering. Read more about The mass prosecution of migrants at the border, like mass incarceration, is an #Indefensible failure
“Indefensible: A Decade of Mass Incarceration of Migrants Prosecuted for Crossing the Border,” documents the history and failures of migrant criminalization through the voices of those most impacted—including migrants and their families; and those with a firsthand view into the system— including judges, defenders, and human rights advocates. In 2015, improper entry and re-entry accounted for nearly half (49%) of all federal prosecutions. Read more about MEDIA TELECONFERENCE: New Book Examines the Impacts and Costs of a Decade of Mass Criminalization and Incarceration of Migrants Since Operation Streamline
(AUSTIN, Texas) — An exposé published today exposes that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) was aware of grave health deficiencies in CAR facilities for years, but failed to force compliance. Read more about Prison deaths exposed: BOP knew of abuse in federal prisons for immigrants
(AUSTIN, Texas) — Last week, an exposé in the The Nation Magazine exposed medical neglect and deaths in controversial “Criminal Alien Requirement” (CAR) facilities, a network of for-profit prisons operated for the Federal Bureau of Prisons where immigrants are segregated during their incarceration. The article, investigated by Seth Freed Wessler, found that dozens of cases where men have died in CAR prisons under disturbing circumstances. Read more about Grassroots Leadership responds to exposé in The Nation highlighting abuse in federal prisons for immigrants
As we finish up 2015, we thought we’d reflect on the year at Grassroots Leadership. We’ve had a terrific year of work and it couldn’t have been possible without the hard work and support of our staff, board, volunteers, allies, and donors. Please consider making a donation to help our work continue in 2016. Thank you, we couldn’t do it without you! Read more about The year in review: 15 highlights of 2015 at Grassroots Leadership!