Study Says Criminal Prosecution Does Not Conclusively Deter Illegal Immigration
Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) August 15, 2018 – The Vera Institute of Justice issued a report in June 2018 that said there is no evidence that prosecuting migrants for crossing the United States-Mexico border is an effective deterrent to illegal immigration.
“The report challenges the superficial notion that criminal prosecution results in lower apprehensions as if the threat of prison time causes the reduction in the number of illegal entrants,” said Stewart Rabinowitz of the Dallas and Frisco law firm of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. “As the study shows, the predecessor to the Attorney General’s current program of criminally prosecuting illegal entrants called Operation Streamline, addressed a multitude of reasons why apprehensions dropped after 2005, some of which have nothing to do with the threat of prison time. But a simple solution with a short sound bite sounds good.”
The findings were released as the Trump administration stepped up criminal prosecutions of individuals who enter the country illegally as part of its zero tolerance approach to immigration. Children have been forcibly separated from parents and held at shelters. The federal government’s justification for the policy is based on its belief that Operation Streamline, an earlier immigration program, was successful in reducing the number of apprehensions of illegal border entrants.
Operation Streamline attempted to control immigration by prosecuting and incarcerating all individuals who crossed the southwestern border illegally. The program was launched in 2005 in Texas under the George W. Bush administration and was used until 2014. In April 2018, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo referring to various statistics as conclusive evidence of the program’s effectiveness.
Vera researchers conducted an in-depth analysis of Operation Streamline. They found that there was no evidence of a causal link between the program’s implementation and a decrease in apprehensions. They attributed the drop in apprehensions after 2005 to a long-term decline and a combination of complex push and pull factors rather than the deterrent effects of the program itself. Unrest in home countries, violence and economics were among the factors thought to have played a role.
The report concluded that prosecutions have proved ineffective in deterring immigration. Instead, they have overwhelmed the criminal court system, interfered with due process, and sidelined more serious cases such as those of asylum seekers.
The Institute referred to Operation Streamline and similar programs as “detention or security theaters” that provide illusions of enhanced security and better immigration control but are actually ineffective at deterring illegal immigration. The report suggested that the negative outcomes of the Trump administration’s policy “may well end up being even greater than those of Operation Streamline” and that “it will fail in its stated goal of deterring future immigration, at tremendous cost to immigrants, the court system, and due process.”