First time offenders are no longer being prosecuted.
The federal government is silent when asked whether prosecutors in Yuma, Arizona, are enforcing a long-standing program that assures jail time for the majority of those crossing the border illegally, according to the Associated Press in a report Friday.
Reports that federal prosecutors have stopped some prosecutions under Operation Streamline surfaced nearly two weeks ago when Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder seeking information on the status of the zero-tolerance program, that circumvents the civil immigration system and lumps together months’ worth of criminal proceedings into one day for immigrants caught crossing the border illegally.
Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot wrote a letter to Sen. Flake telling him that he was informed that prosecutors were not going after first offenders.
The federal government is not answering any questions about this. The Department of Homeland Security, Justice Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have all refused to comment.
Operation Streamline is used to deter illegal border crossings. Brett Worsencroft, president of the Border Patrol union for Yuma Sector border agents, said that getting rid of prosecutions for first-time offenders is a “free ticket into the U.S.” for those who crossing the border illegally.
That may be the case with one man who has been caught and released 44 times.
On Friday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) spoke at the annual Eagle Forum in St. Louis, Missouri. Chaffetz told the audience about the open US border with Mexico:
If you’re a Mexican they’re going to take a picture, take your fingerprints, give you a drink of water, and then get you in a van, or whatever it is and send you back across. Now, is there any consequence for coming across multiple times? In fact, I asked these officers and one officer told me, he said, “I caught the same guy 44 times.” Do you know how expensive it is for you and I to pay for that? 44 times. There’s no consequence for coming across. So, you might as well keep trying.
Some of those apprehended will claim they are in fear for their lives and that if they return to their country, they’ll face persecution. With Obama’s new standards for what persecution is, claiming asylum is easier than it has ever been.
Law enforcement officials say that the enforcement of Operation Streamline is crucial to public safety. In spite of this, there is still no word from Eric Holder or any federal agency.