Warren Institute Report Criticizes U.S. Immigration Border Program

A new report by Berkeley Law’s Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity castigates a federal immigration enforcement program called “Operation Streamline” that targets migrant workers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

According to the report, Operation Streamline—which requires all individuals who cross the border unlawfully to be prosecuted and imprisoned—violates defendants’ civil rights and funnels key resources away from fighting drug smuggling and human trafficking. It has also put a heavy strain on court personnel, federal attorneys, U.S. Marshals, and judges—who must conduct mass hearings during which up to 80 defendants at a time plead guilty.

Joanna Lydgate '10, the report's author and a William K. Coblentz Civil Rights Fellow with the Warren Institute, says Operation Streamline has "unacceptable consequences for the agencies forced to implement the program, for the migrants it targets, and for the rule of law in this country." Entitled Assembly-Line Justice, the report found that misdemeanor immigration caseloads more than quadrupled for federal magistrate judges along the U.S.-Mexico border from 2002 to 2008—with minimal effect on crime or undocumented immigration.

Aarti Kohli, the Warren Institute’s Director of Immigration Policy, says Operation Streamline “channels law enforcement funding and attention toward the arrest and prosecution of low-level offenders, rather than focusing on the dangerous criminals involved in border violence.”

More information about the report, including the institute’s recommendations for more effective border enforcement, is available here.