The New York Times profiles a part of the battle against illegal immigration that many Americans have never heard of: Operation Streamline, a federal program that operates in three border states, using fast-track prosecutions and imprisonment as a front-line deterrent to people who try to cross the border illegally. It is part of a broader strategy of increasing the consequences for people who break immigration laws.
Unlike the civil immigration courts spread throughout the country, where deportation cases are handled as violations of the nation's administrative code, the courts used for Operation Streamline treat unauthorized immigrants as criminals and the act of illegally crossing the border as a federal crime. Men and women arrested along the border, the chains around their ankles and wrists jingling as they move, are gathered to answer to the same charges — illegal entry, a misdemeanor, and illegal re-entry, a felony. The mass deportations have led to accusations of assembly-line justice.