Operation Streamline

Jul 29, 2015
Texas Observer

Groups Urge DOJ to Stop Prosecuting Immigrants for Illegal Entry

"A national bipartisan movement to reduce the United States’ outsized prison population is gaining momentum, but immigration reform advocates say an important piece is still missing from the reform conversation: Thousands of men and women are being incarcerated every year because they entered the U.S. without documents.


On Tuesday, more than 170 organizations representing criminal justice, immigration reform and faith-based groups sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, urging the Department of Justice to end prosecutions for illegal entry and re-entry.

Bob Libal, director of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin immigrant advocacy group, said it’s time for the DOJ to reconsider its overzealous prosecution of undocumented immigrants. 'There’s a conversation going on about how to reduce mass incarceration, but at the same time you have leaders talking about mandatory minimums for people coming back into the country for basically petty immigration offenses,' he told the Observer." [node:read-more:link]

Jul 28, 2015

171 organizations call on Loretta Lynch to stop locking up deportees

"While Bill O’Reilly uses the tragic shooting of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinleto call for harsher sentences for deportees who have returned U.S., 171 groups are calling for the Department of Justice to stop prosecuting the charge of “illegal reentry” altogether.

In a letter sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Tuesday, organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, and National Council of La Raza argued that “these prosecutions further none of DOJ’s own prosecutorial priorities—national security, violent crime, financial fraud, and cases that protect our most vulnerable communities.”

Fusion investigation found that more than 23,000 immigrants a night are locked up in an immigrant prison system which has funneled billions of taxpayer dollars into the private prison industry. Fusion found that many government officials who were in charge when the shadow prison system was built now have lucrative posts within the private prison industry. The ACLU says the immigrant prisons are squalid, rife with abuse, and use solitary confinement in excess.

“There’s broad consensus that this is the worst thing you could do. It’s a huge step backwards,” said Bob Libal, the Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership, one of the 171 organizations to sign the letter to the DOJ in reference to the Kate’s Law proposal.

'Prosecuting these cases has been enormously wasteful in terms of taxpayer dollars and people’s lives.'" [node:read-more:link]

Feb 8, 2015

"Operation Streamline": The New Prison Boom

"'The war on immigrants is surpassing efforts to reform the war on drugs,' said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a criminal justice advocacy group. 'We will not be able to reduce the federal prison population unless we stop prosecuting so many people for immigration violations.'

Things are looking grim for immigrants due to provisions in immigration legislation passed by the Senate in June, and more stringent measures being considered by the House that would increase arrests and prosecutions of those crossing the border. A Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Senate immigration legislation estimated that increased funding for enforcement and prosecution of undocumented immigrants in the bill would result in an additional 14,000 inmates per year in the federal prison system, at a cost of $1.6 billion over the next decade." [node:read-more:link]

Bob Libal to testify before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

The policies of criminally prosecuting migrants have built a shadow detention system on top of our nation’s already vast and troubled system of civil detention...Individuals in our nation’s civil detention system include asylum-seekers, women with children, parents of U.S. citizen children, long-time legal permanent residents, and recently arriving migrants. -Bob Libal

Grassroots Leadership's Executive Director Bob Libal will testify before the U.S. Comission on Civil Rights at the State of Civil Rights in Detention Facilities hearing at 2:30pm (EST). Bob's testimony will include evidence that creating and expanding an unaccountable for-profit detention system ineheretly violates the civil rights of immigrants. There are countless examples of civil rights violations in the vast network of immigrant detention facilities that are mandatorily filled due to the 34,000 bed quota set by Congress in a 2007 appropriations bill. Operation Streamline, as Bob describes in his testimony, has criminalized the act of immigration and is another means to expand the reach of the private prison industry in the federal prison system. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is unable to maintain enough facilities, so it contracts with private prison corporations—namely Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group—which have a vested interest in maintaining and expanding detention for immigrants because it provides them with a wider income stream.<--break->


Humpday Hall of Shame: Get with the program, feds.

Yesterday, Grassroots Leadership board member Megan Quattlebaum’s piece in the Huffington Post called out the federal government, and specifically the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), for seriously slacking on criminal justice reform. Her post, “States Lead - Will the Feds Follow?”, shines a light on the fact that while states across the country are taking steps toward progress, the federal government is shamefully lagging behind.  

One way they have fallen behind is in the treatment of women prisoners. While states like Iowa and Washington are putting the concept of “gender responsive” prison programming into practice, the BOP has closed the only minimum security facility for women in the Northeast, converting it to a prison for men only. As a result, some women were transferred far from their families and communities, making it particularly difficult for children to maintain connections to their incarcerated mothers.


Felony prosecutions of migrants at the border are on the rise and Arizona is behind it

According to researchers at Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), the first six months of FY 2014 have seen substantial changes in the criminal enforcement of immigration laws among those districts along the border with Mexico.

There has been a drop in the number of criminal prosecutions for "illegal entry" under 8 USC 1325, but a continued rise in prosecutions for "illegal re-entry" (8 USC 1326). 

Crossing the border was once a matter for civil immigration courts but is now handled in federal criminal courts along the border. Under this program, known as Operation Streamline, people caught crossing the border are criminally charged with either unauthorized entry (a misdemeanor) or unauthorized re-entry (a felony). 


GEO Group Bankrolls Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar

Principle number four of the Public Safety and Justice Campaign, a national coalition for which Grassroots Leadership provides coordination, reads:

Public safety and justice can only be achieved when criminal justice policy is free of corporate influence and expressly intends to enhance the public good.


Congressman Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat representing a large chunk of Texas’ border with Mexico, provides a prime and disappointing example of the consequences of allowing the for-profit private prison industry to lobby and financially contribute to political campaigns.  


Cuellar’s 28th district is literally on the front lines of the national debate on “comprehensive immigration reform” and “border security”. In our report Operation Streamline: Costs and Consequences, the Southern District of Texas' federal court system, which includes part of the 28th Congressional district, topped the list of prosecutions for entering the country without authorization. The Southern Districted trailed only Arizona for felony prosecutions of re-entering the country, with more than 4,800 felony convictions for the crime. Needless to say, the conclusion of these debates and subsequent policies will have a significant impact on the residents of Cuellar’s district, both documented and undocumented, and on the Congressman’s own reputation.   


At first glance, Cuellar’s reputation appears to be a mixed bag.  He voted against building a fence along the U.S./Mexico border, and he does not support the Minutemen Project, a volunteer-based movement of civilians taking on surveillance of the border region, claiming to do what they believe ought to be the duty of the Federal Government.  He was also a champion of the aforementioned Operation Streamline, the 2005 policy that funnels immigrants into the federal criminal justice system to be prosecuted for entry or re-entry without authorization which will be expanded under the immigration bill currently in play.  Grassroots Leadership has critiqued Operation Streamline heavily, in large part because when the number of prosecutions of these two crimes increases, such as they have in the Southern District, for-profit private prison companies benefit substantially.  



Secret's Out: McAllen, TX Seeking New Private Prison

UPDATE:  There will be a public forum at McAllen City Hall on WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 11th at 5:30 PM for the residents of McAllen, TX to voice their views on the construction of a new private prison!  Click here to see details, sign the petition, and find out what you can do to make your voice heard.

This week, we learned that McAllen, TX has been keeping a dirty secret.  Located at the southern tip of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley, the city plans to publish a formal request for qualifications this week from private prison operators willing to build a new 1,000-bed lock-up.  The new prison would house federal prisoners for the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) under an existing agreement with the city. 

McAllen police Chief Victor Rodriguez said, “There’s a great need to have their prisoners held in a facility that’s local.” Currently, the federal government pays McAllen $52 a day per prisoner housed at the Public Safety Building, located blocks from the courthouse, but only capable of housing 30 prisoners. USMS transports prisoners from private prisons in Laredo and La Villa to McAllen for court hearings, described as the cause of “logistical headaches” for the Marshals Service.  Under the new deal, the private prison operator would pay the city of McAllen to house prisoners, but that amount is still being negotiated.  The location of the new prison is also yet to be determined.



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