|The central tenant of U.S. border security is deterrence, and beginning in the 1990’s U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) began the implementation of enhanced consequence delivery systems to increase deterrence. Specifically, the primary border enforcement strategy in the majority of jurisdictions in the southwestern U.S. shifted from civil deportation to criminal prosecution. CBP maintains that the strategy—named Operation Streamline—effectively reduced unauthorized entry by deterring would-be immigrants. Given that research on deterrence theory generally demonstrates that harsher penalties are ineffective at deterring behavior, CBP’s claim is dubious.
In conjunction with researchers at Vera’s Center on Immigration and Justice, Dr. Jonathan Allen Kringen and research assistants from the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of New Haven studied the issue in detail. The research team conducted an empirical assessment and determined quantitatively that Operation Streamline did not deter unauthorized entry. Given this finding, the research team explored the systemic impacts of Operation Streamline, discovering evidence that the strategy fundamentally altered the nature of immigration prosecutions.