Arizona could become the first state to prosecute every adult caught at the border crossing illegally from Mexico, reports the Arizona Republic. Authorities in the in the western part of the state have been prosecuting people caught at the border since December. The Del Rio sector of Texas introduced the policy a year earlier. Both areas phased in the crackdown over six months and saw dramatic drops in the number of border arrests. Now, federal agencies are discussing expanding the policy, known as Operation Streamline, in January to include the Tucson area, the busiest human-smuggling route in the country. Last week, the Laredo sector in Texas introduced the policy.
To make it happen, the Department of Homeland Security would lend acting Arizona U.S. Attorney Dan Knauss four lawyers to work exclusively on Streamline cases. “These are serious discussions. You need to get cooperation of a number of parties,” Knauss said. “We still need judges, defense counsel and prison space.” Prosecutions are normally reserved for foreigners with criminal records or people who had been repeatedly caught sneaking into the country. Knauss’s office prosecutes about 2,000 such cases a year in Arizona. Operation Streamline marks a significant departure from the Border Patrol’s historical methods, which let sector chiefs develop their own guidelines for when to refer cases to the immigration courts and when to return illegal immigrants to Mexico quickly, voluntarily and without legal process.