Immigration reform is once again stalled, despite the fact that politicians on both sides of the aisle acknowledge that our immigration system is broken. There are a number of signs that the current immigration system is failing. Case in point: the backlog in immigration courts across the nation with over 350,000 ongoing deportation cases each year in a country where an estimated 11.7 million people are undocumented. You don’t have to be a mathematician to realize that the U.S. government doesn’t have the resources to simply deport everyone who is here without status or whose status is now expired.
Yet another example of this system failure is “Operation Streamline” a federal program focused on prosecuting immigrants who illegally enter the U.S. or reenter after prior immigration violations. Operation Streamline is intended to deter immigrants from illegally entering the United States by swiftly detaining these immigrants at the border and placing them in federal criminal proceedings. In a recent New York Times article, a federal judge bragged about his record of deciding the fates of 70 such desperate immigrants in 30 minutes. With sentences for illegally entering the United States range from 30 days to 6 months in a federal penitentiary or jail, that hardly seems sufficient to determine an individual’s fate, or that of their families. With the majority of immigrants crossing the border illegally out of desperation to find a better life for their families, due to stark economic conditions or fleeing from violence, or both, this border enforcement measure does not appear to be deterring repeat offenders. The rate of immigrants illegally reentering the United States after being prosecuted under Operation Streamline was 27% for 2012. At best, Operation Streamline is a band aid on a gaping wound. In order to meaningfully increase border security and deter intending immigrants from illegally entering the country, there must be a comprehensive immigration reform which provides a path to lawful status based on U.S. need for skilled and unskilled workers, providing a path to lawful status for the roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. and increased sanctions for businesses who hire illegals.