Many enforcement hawks in Congress are counting on border walls to discourage illegal immigration and drug smuggling. In Del Rio, Tx., authorities are using prison walls instead, says the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. The ever-expanding Val Verde County Jail is filled with illegal immigrants ranging from would-be yard workers and maids to hardened gang members. They’ve been caught in a law enforcement dragnet known as Operation Streamline, a zero-tolerance program that has spread east and west along the border.
The lock-’em-up approach has its share of critics. They question the skyrocketing costs, complain of poor conditions in the detention facilities and predict that it ultimately won’t stop immigrants and drugs from making their way north. Two prisons specializing in federal detainees are going up along the Texas-Mexico border — a 654-bed unit in Eagle Pass and a 1,500-bed jail nearing completion in Laredo. Like the Val Verde lockup, these facilities are run by the Geo Group, formerly Wackenhut, which last year posted its best financial results ever. The detention boom hasn’t been done on the cheap. It costs $88 a day to house a prisoner in privately run jails.