The U.S. Border Patrol will start a a “zero tolerance” operation to prosecute, jail, and deport all illegal immigrants caught in the bustling Laredo, Tx., area, marking a significant tightening of immigration enforcement along a key U.S. border corridor, the Houston Chronicle reports. This stepped-up effort is an expansion of the Border Patrol’s “Operation Streamline” project in the Del Rio and Yuma, Ariz., sectors, which sharply reduced illegal entries.
Extending the operation to a large, populous sector such as Laredo – the nation’s largest inland port and a growing commercial center – signals a major expansion of a strategy officials plan along the entire Southwest border. It is a key facet of a Bush administration crackdown not only on the border – where National Guard troops now work with Border Patrol agents – but in the interior, where immigration agents have raided work sites and are targeting fraudulent work documents. “This program is sending the message we’re not letting illegal border-crossers have a free ride,” Border Patrol assistant chief Ramon Rivera said. “We’re hoping it goes nationwide.” Reactions range from strong support to doubts about clogging already overloaded federal courts. More arrests mean more prosecutions, more court dates. “The idea of doing in Laredo what they do in Del Rio is really terrifying for us,” said Marjorie Meyers of the federal public defenders office in Houston. “There is no way we can handle it.”