Eleven years ago, people caught entering the country illegally wouldn't even be criminally prosecuted. Instead, their cases went through a civil removal process. However, in 2005, the Department of Homeland Security instituted Operation Streamline, which moved immigration into the federal criminal courts.
The result? A dumbfounding amount of taxpayer dollars have been spent prosecuting what used to be civil cases, has clogged federal court systems along the border and has not stopped people from trying to cross the border illegally into the United States, according to research published
by the Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies in a new book called Indefensible
"Operation Streamline is known for the disturbing spectacle of mass courtroom proceedings in which up to 80 shackled migrants are arraigned, convicted and sentenced for misdemeanor improper entry charges," study author Bethany N. Carson writes.
In 2015, nearly half of all federal prosecutions were of people accused of improper entry or re-entry.
Last year, nearly 70,000 immigrants, including some with asylum claims, were criminally prosecuted. Since 2005, nearly 750,000 people were prosecuted in federal court. And non-citizens make up 23 percent of the total federal prison population, but just 7 percent of the total U.S. population, according to the research.
Grassroots Leadership, Justice Strategies and the American Civil Liberties Union plan to brief House and Senate Congressional staff on the book's findings early next week.
Since 2005, the United States has spent at least $7 billion jailing people caught entering the country illegally, but the staggering expenditures have done little to stop people from trying to get north of the Rio Grande.