Repeated border crossers from Mexico face the prospect of longer stretches behind bars as President Donald Trump presses for mass incarceration.
Typically, border crossers face a short prison sentence followed by swift deportation for entering the United States illegally, a federal crime.
In the Del Rio area of Texas, frustrated Border Patrol agents developed a program called Operation Streamline in 2005, noted the Houston Chronicle.
The idea was to prosecute all of the migrants caught within a stretch of the border en masse. They could be channeled into the federal justice system because the Bureau of Prisons has greater resources to hold them for longer before deportation.
The Chronicle reported Trump’s administration is expanding the program of fast mass convictions to other parts of Texas and the border in Arizona and California.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered U.S. attorneys across America to prioritize such immigration prosecutions. Sessions issued some tough rhetoric over the summer. He said:
“For those that continue to seek improper and illegal entry into this country, be forewarned: This is a new era. This is the Trump era.”
In April, the Attorney General issued a memorandum emphasizing the importance of the enforcement of immigration crimes. He ordered federal prosecutors to pursue the most serious criminal charges available for those who cross the US/Mexican border unlawfully.
It goes beyond the deportations of the past. The Attorney General said he wants more migrants caught unlawfully crossing the border to be charged criminally with misdemeanors for first offenses. Repeat offenders would be prosecuted as felonies punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.
There will also be immigration consequences. A criminal conviction can prevent anyone from ever legally returning to the United States again, even if they qualify on paper.
Last year, the government renamed Operation Streamline to the Criminal Consequence Initiative.
It remains to be seen if this immigration crackdown will spur a spike in other types of offenses in the border areas. There is evidence that the cartels are turning to drug trafficking as the Trump administration cracks down on human trafficking.
César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, a University of Denver professor, said:
“Every other type of federal crime on the books – drugs, financial crimes – is getting pushed aside in favor of throwing more resources into going after people violating immigration laws. We’ll have to see whether the (Texas) Southern and Western District becomes the canary in the coal mine if they become the model for the rest of the country.”
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