Streamlined Through the Justice System

Operation Streamline. Every thing  you need to know about this state sanctioned program is in the name. It’s all about efficiency. Essentially Operation Streamline works to efficiently process and convict undocumented migrants. It requires that states utilizing Streamline charge undocumented workers with a federal crime in order to deter others from crossing the border.

At its worst Streamline is a massive violation of human rights, at its best it’s a drain on the federal system and a waste of taxpayer money. After watching a Streamline court session I feel like it’s closer to a violation of human rights than anything else.

As our group sits in the courtroom, we look at the 50 or more people sitting in front of us waiting for their chance plead guilty. They’re shackled at the waist, arms, and feet despite committing a non-violent offense. The judge reads off their rights as a group while a translator quietly communicates the judge’s words in Spanish through a headset given to each charged person. Then they are called up in groups of five, with their lawyers, to plead guilty to a misdemeanor so that the federal court will drop the felony charge. It’s systematic. The judge doesn’t ask anyone why they chose to cross and no one provides an answer. Before you know it the group of five has been sentenced and are walking out in their shackles.

Photo courtesy of We weren't allowed to take pictures during the court session but the chain in the picture seems accurate as a representation of the removal of due process.
Photo courtesy of We weren’t allowed to take pictures during the court session but the chain in the picture seems to be an accurate representation of the removal of due process.

The idea that something so quick and concise counts as due process is ludicrous. A truly just system would recognize that prosecuting people for trying to make a better life for themselves is a surface level response. It doesn’t deal with the question of why. Why are people migrating? Why are people claiming asylum? Why is there such systemic violence in these countries?

There is no simple answer to any one of these questions. If it were really as simple as the left or right make it, then immigration issues would have been solved years ago. The problem with issues like immigration is that they’re multifaceted. They contain dimensions far more complex than what Streamline addresses, which is why it’s such an ineffective practice. Leaving large groups of people with criminal records for the crime of pursuing a better life is a failure of the U.S. justice system.

The good news is that several states have already eliminated Streamline and the remaining states will follow suit with enough pressure. It is therefore our duty to raise our voices in protest of unjust laws and operations like Streamline.

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