Proposed Immigration Bill Calls For Enforcement Expansions

April 16, 2013

TUCSON, Ariz. -- One of the immigration reform measures being pushed by the Senate’s Gang of Eight would triple the number of immigrant prosecutions in Southern Arizona.

It’s called Operation Streamline. Every day about 70 people caught crossing the border illegally are prosecuted in federal court. It was supposed to create a zero-tolerance policy.

But federal prosecutors have used it to target people facing re-entry charges, which is a felony. So Streamline defendants serve anywhere from 30 days to six months in prison. Under the proposed legislation, the federal court in Tucson would receive $50 million to triple the number of prosecutions from 70 to 210 per day.

Heather Williams is the chief federal public defender in Tucson. She says her office will feel the impact.

"It’s not just the court who has to absorb the impact of 210 people coming into the court in addition to everybody else who’s coming into the court every day," Williams said.

The bill’s outline doesn’t say Streamline enforcement would be spread across the entire border. But Williams suspects that provision could make its way into the final bill.