An illegal alien apprehended by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency during the last fiscal year had an estimated 84 percent chance of never being prosecuted, according to figures compiled by the office of Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas).
Culberson submitted the figures for the record during a hearing Wednesday of the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security.
Of 447,731 illegal aliens apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol during fiscal year 2010 (which ended last September), only 73,263 (16.4 percent) were prosecuted, according to the submitted data. That means that 374,468 illegal aliens that were taken into custody (83.6 percent) were never prosecuted.
Border Patrol is a component of the Customs and Border Protection agency at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Describing the situation during the hearing, Culberson said that those who were not prosecuted “had a chance of being home in time for dinner,” after being in custody for a few hours.
He asserted that criminal consequences for those involved in illegal cross-border activity was “the key” to securing the nation’s border with Mexico.
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The Texas Republican suggested that Operation Streamline, a program that fast-tracks prosecution and deportations of illegal immigrants crossing the border, should be applied to the entire southwest border.
According to CBP, the operation “targets illegal immigrants apprehended in specific enforcement zones for immediate prosecution for illegal entry. Violators face punishment of up to 180 days in jail. Additionally, deportation procedures are initiated to formally remove the individual once they complete their jail sentence.”
“This is the key,” said Culberson. “If we enforce existing law, impose real consequences and existing laws – up to six months in jail criminal prosecution depending on the circumstances.”
But CBP chief Michael Fisher, who testified during the hearing, disagreed that Operation Streamline was the sole key to securing the border.
There were “a lot of other variables” at play, he said, citing “different judicial districts” with varying capacities to handle the prosecution load.
Culberson maintained, however, that the only consequence “that really has an impact is the criminal prosecution.”
CBP divides the almost 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border into nine sectors. Running from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf Coast they are, in order, San Diego, El Centro, Yuma, Tucson, El Paso, Marfa, Del Rio, Laredo, and Rio Grande.
According to Culberson’s figures, of the 212,202 apprehensions along Arizona’s Tucson sector – which is where most of the apprehensions took place in FY2010 – only 30,748 (14.5 percent) led to prosecutions.
Testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee on Feb. 9, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano told lawmakers that her “top priority in terms of effective control is the Tucson sector of the southwest border.”