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Trump Pushing to Expand Operation Streamline and Migrant Incarceration in Private Prisons

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President Trump is pushing to expand Operation Streamline, a federal procedure to prosecute immigrants en masse with the federal crime of improper entry, reports the Houston Chronicle. While the first entry is charged as a misdemeanor, improper re-entry is charged as a felony with up to 20 years in prison. The Trump administration plans to expand the existence of this court procedure to California. Immigrants convicted in Operation Streamline and other federal court proceedings for immigration accounted for over half of federal criminal convictions in 2016. According to the Houston Chronicle, “By 2013, misdemeanor and felony prosecutions for crossing the border had skyrocketed to more than 91,200 cases, a 500 percent increase from 2003.” Those convicted are incarcerated in privately-operated Bureau of Prison facilities, most of which are located in Texas.

The government renamed Operation Streamline as Criminal Consequence Initiative last year. Since its inception in 2005, it has cost an estimated $7 billion according to Indefensible, the book published by Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies on the topic.

The criminal conviction of a prison sentence is intended to deter migrants from crossing the border, which ICE claims has lessened border crossings. According to the article by the Houston Chronicle, “The Government Accountability Office, however, has found problems with the agency's methodology, suggesting return rates basically remained unchanged when measuring over a more realistic time frame of three years and excluding immigrants who stayed in the United States in that period.”

The article further cites advocates’ denouncing of the program as a violation of immigrants’ due process rights, particularly for those seeking to claim asylum. “Both the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and Human Rights First, a national non-profit, have documented dozens of instances in which Customs and Border Protection officers wrongly didn't refer migrants for asylum interviews or pressured them into withdrawing their requests,” the article reports.

The push to expand Operation Streamline would likely lead to the construction of more private prisons under the Trump administration. Operation Streamline and associated felony prosecutions have driven contracts for 13 new privately operated “Criminal Alien Requirement” prisons from 2000-2013, according to Grassroots Leadership.

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