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.
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!
Today marks the 10 years since Operation Streamline took effect. The policy significantly increased the caseloads in criminal courts along the southern U.S. border by criminalizing what used to be a civil offense: illegal re-entry into the United States. Operation Streamline started as a pilot program in the Del Rio sector of the Texas border, but later expanded to Yuma, Arizona; Laredo, Texas and eventually to all southern border sectors except those in California. To take a look at what the net effects of the policy have been a decade later, FSRN’s Shannon Young spoke with Bethany Carson, immigration policy researcher and organizer at Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas. Read more about Ten years after launch of Operation Streamline, criminal immigration charges dominate federal caseloads