Obama Has Bipartisan Support for Prosecuting Illegal Border Crossers, Texas Congressman Says

By Edwin Mora | May 10, 2011 | 5:28 PM EDT

Mexican federal police guard a U.S. Embassy vehicle after it came under attack by unknown gunmen on Highway 57 between Mexico City and Monterrey, near the town of Santa Maria Del Rio, on Tuesday Feb. 15, 2011. A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was killed and another wounded in the attack. (AP Photo/Pulso Diario de San Luis-Teodoro Blanco Vazquez)

(CNSNews.com) - Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) says President Barack Obama already has bipartisan support for arresting, prosecuting, and jailing for up to six months every illegal border crosser who is apprehended by federal authorities.

His comments came in response to the president's call for bipartisan support to fix the “broken” U.S. immigration system in advance of the speech he delivered on Tuesday in the border city of El Paso, Texas.  

“The president doesn’t often visit our state, so it is understandable that he would’ve missed the successful bipartisan work my colleagues and I have done to implement and fund Operation Streamline,” Culberson, recipient of the American Conservative Union 2010 Defender of Liberty Award, said in a statement Tuesday.

“Under this strict enforcement policy, everyone caught crossing the border illegally is arrested, prosecuted, and jailed for up to six months,” Culberson said.

“A bipartisan effort has been under way to enforce existing law and improve conditions along the border,” he added later. “My colleagues and I welcome the President’s support in this work.”

Before President Obama arrived in El Paso Tuesday, the White House stated, “President Obama believes Democrats and Republicans should come together to tackle an issue that is critical not only to our national security but also to the economy and our global competiveness.”

According to Culberson, Operation Streamline, which is administered by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has “had great success” in the CBP border sectors of Laredo and Del Rio in Texas.

The bipartisan supporters of the operation are working to “expand” the operation from across the southwest border – from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, Calif., said Culberson.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, a top Democrat from Texas that serves as ranking member of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism, has supported Operation Streamline and has acknowledged that illegal crossings have dropped in Texas as a result of that program.

Despite the touted operation’s success, critics of the initiative say that it forces prosecutors to needlessly dedicate their resources on illegal aliens that are seeking work and have nothing on their criminal history other than coming into the U.S. illegally.

Instead, resources should be directed to only focus on criminal aliens directly involved with the drug and human smuggling, according to critics of Operation Streamline. 

CBP has also said that given the different capabilities of the judicial districts across the southwest border, it would be hard to deploy Operation Streamline throughout the U.S.-Mexico international boundary.

During a March House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing, Culberson highlighted statistics from CBP and the Justice Department showing that an illegal border crosser caught by CBP in fiscal 2010 had an estimated 84 percent chance of never being prosecuted.

According to CBP, Operation Streamline, which was initiated under the Bush administration in 2005, “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.”

“I appreciate the President’s newfound focus on border security and would urge the rest of his Administration to do the same,” Culberson said on Tuesday.

More border security is needed despite the Obama DHS claims that the border is not out of control, the Texas Republican added.  

“The fact is that border violence is out of control,” he continued. “This is undisputed by anyone who works or lives along the border. It’s not about politics – it’s about public safety. The federal government is directly responsible for enforcing existing laws to secure our borders and ensure the safe and legal movement of people, goods, and commerce across our borders.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that has jurisdiction over immigration enforcement, also weighed in on the president’s expected immigration speech Tuesday saying it is “disappointing” that Obama only wishes to talk about immigration issues during his campaigning season.

“It’s disappointing that the only time border security and immigration reform get President Obama’s attention is when he is campaigning,” Cornyn said in a statement. “The bottom line is that nothing President Obama says, or where he says it, can change the fact that he failed to deliver on his promise to make immigration reform a priority during his first year in office.”