According to the sheriff of Yuma County, Arizona, the Department of Justice is set to end a program called “Operation Streamline” which prosecutes first-time illegal border crossers, and U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain are wondering why.
Sheriff Leon Wilmot brought the DOJ’s plan to Flake’s attention in a letter last month. In it, Wilmot noted the success of a program called Operation Streamline, which implemented a zero-tolerance policy against illegal immigration.
But the DOJ is ending the successful program and bringing Yuma County’s policies in line with other sectors that have had trouble keeping keeping a lid on illegal immigration.
“I have been informed that the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona will no longer be prosecuting first time undocumented aliens (UDAs),” Wilmot wrote.
Only UDAs with “adverse immigration history” or “criminal conviction of any kind” or who pose a public threat would be prosecuted under the new guidelines.
“This new guidance is of great concern because it undermines the mission of local law enforcement agencies throughout Yuma County for 100% prosecution of those entering the United States illegally in order to curb reentries,” Wilmot wrote, explaining that Yuma County will be “scaled back” to be more in line with the Tuscon Sector, where first-time offenders are not prosecuted.
“I’m not sure why or how the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona came up with this idea,” wrote Wilmot, arguing that the DOJ’s move will force Yuma County to implement practices “that are not working in other sectors.”
“This practice undermines everything that we have worked hard to achieve over the years for the citizens of Yuma County,” Wilmot wrote.
Citing Wilmot’s concerns, Flake and McCain sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday pointing out Yuma County’s success in cutting illegal traffic and asking for more detail on the plan to end Operation Streamline.
“As you are aware, the Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector has long grappled with the crossing of undocumented aliens and has seen illegal traffic decline precipitously from the early 2000s to the present,” reads the joint letter.
McCain and Flake noted that apprehensions in Yuma County have fallen 95 percent, from 140,000 in 2005 to 6,000 last year. According to the senators, The Yuma Sun reported that “the Yuma Sector’s border with Mexico has gone from being one of the busiest and most dangerous in the nation to one of the most secure.”
“A key part has been the implementation of Operation Streamline, the program seeking to reduce recidivism by expeditiously prosecuting those entering or reentering illegally under a ‘zero tolerance’ approach,” Flake and McCain wrote.
“The recent conditions in the Yuma Sector represent one of the few instances approaching a success with respect to border security,” the letter reads.
“Has guidance been issued that would prevent prosecutions of first time illegal crossers under Operation Streamline in the Yuma Sector?” the senators ask.
“In addition, in considering revisions to prosecutorial guidance in southern Arizona, were current border security impacts considered as well as impacts to future illegal traffic levels and issues faced border-wide?”