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).Grits has described previously the dropoff in white-collar and drug prosecutions resulting from Operation Streamline, but Libal adds to that critique the observation that the policy amounts to a massive subsidy of the private prison industry. Says the report:
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.
Operation Streamline has funneled more than $1.2 billion into the largely for-profit detention system in Texas, driving the expansion of private prisons along the border. Operation Streamline has significantly increased the caseload of public defenders and federal judges while radically increasing the number of individuals incarcerated for petty immigration violations in for-profit private prisons and county jails throughout Texas.The paper also documents the growth in US Marshalls and federal Bureau of Prison's leased detention beds in Texas, which together expanded by 17,249 between 2000 and 2009, according to an appendix.
Two takeaways from this paper: 1) Larding criminal prosecution onto deportation proceedings makes us less safe by reducing federal prosecutors' focus on more serious crimes, especially in Texas' Southern and Western Districts. And 2) If the feds were to rescind that policy, which seems not just wise but necessary, the bottom will drop out of the private prison market in Texas. When that happens, all the counties who overbuilt their jails imagining they'd fill them with immigrants are going to find themselves SOL.