In the first in a three-part series, NPR examines Operation Streamline, an initiative that takes immigrants caught entering the U.S. illegally and pushes them through the federal courts at unheard of speeds. They are often arraigned, counseled, and convicted in a matter of hours. These illegal immigrants are coming for jobs or to reunite with family – and have no criminal background. Immigrants in these circumstances used to be returned voluntarily or they went through the normal administrative deportation process. Now, they leave as convicted federal criminals.
The government says Operation Streamline is a success – it’s a deterrent and a needed change from a “catch and release” policy. Its measures of success don’t always hold up. And no one can tell how much it costs. There are serious questions about defendants’ rights. At least 130,000 people have been convicted of illegal entry since the program began.