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Is Operation Streamline a billion dollar give-away to the private prison industry?

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A new "green paper" released Monday entitled Operation Streamline: Drowning Justice and Draining Dollars along the Rio Grande takes a look at the impact of Operation Streamline on the private prison industry.  I co-authored the report for Grassroots Leadership, a sponsor of this blog. 

Operation Streamline, initiated in 2005 in Del Rio and expanded to much of the Texas and Arizona border, mandates that immigrants apprehended at the border are detained, prosecuted, and incarcerated in the criminal system in addition to the civil immigration system.  This is a departure from previous policy in which most immigrants were only dealt with in the civil immigration system.

The result has been a mess.  In Texas alone, 135,000 immigrants now have criminal records and many have done real prison time under the Streamline before being deported (far from streamlining the process, the policy adds another layer of incarceration on top of the existing civil detention system). 

While most researchers believe that the program hasn't deterred unauthorized immigration, the program has affected the judicial system in serious ways.  The federal court system is horrendously over-booked.  54% of 2009's federal prosecutions across the country were for immigration violations.  In the Southern District of Texas, a district that includes Houston, a full 84% of April prosecutions were for two immigration violations - unauthorized entry (1325) and unauthorized re-entry (1326).  With a mandated focus on prosecution of immigration violations, diligence to other prosecutions has fallen off dramatically.

So, who wins in this scenario?  Our research indicates that, since 2005, more than $1.2 billion in federal money has been spent on the detention and incarceration for unauthorized entry and re-entry in Texas alone.  Nearly all of that  prison beds - contracted by the US Marshals and Federal Bureau of Prisons - are operated by private prison corporations.  Prisons like the GEO Group's Laredo Superjail, Emerald's LaSalle County Detention Center, and LCS's Coastal Bend Detention Center have sprung up around south and west Texas to win US Marshals contracts, largely driven by increased immigration prosecutions.  Could it be that Operation Streamline is a billion dollar give-away  to the private prison industry?

Check out the full report and a new blog on Operation Streamline at


There are large numbers of immigrants in Texas who have criminal records. This information is according to the registered records, so I think there are many other records as well which are not registered.