Immigrants, allies seek end of ‘Operation Streamline’
In Tucson on Feb. 19, AFSC joined a coalition protesting at the federal courthouse seeking an end to the federal program "Operation Streamline." Under the Bush-era policy, in certain sectors of the border, every immigrant who crosses the illegally is charged in the criminal courts instead of the civil immigration system. Under Streamline, courts hear dozens of cases at one time, which has raised concerns that the program robs immigrants of their rights, including the right to due process.
"What it does, is it herds large groups of migrants through the criminal justice process," said Caroline Isaacs, Arizona program director for AFSC.
Dozens of protesters in front of the Federal Courthouse on Tuesday acted out a dramatic courtroom scene, portraying immigrants shackled and tied together, demonstrating the streamlined process. Most of the migrants sentenced under Streamline are sent to private prisons where companies profit from their incarceration. In 2011, contracts with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency accounted for 20 and 14 percent of revenue for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, respectively.
In February 2012, AFSC released an extensive report reviewing the safety, quality, and cost of private prisons in Arizona, including six prisons operated by CCA but not under contract with the state. The report reveals widespread and persistent problems in private facilities around safety, lack of accountability, and cost. Many of the issues likely apply to private prisons nationwide.
The End Streamline Coalition joined together to speak out now as a new fear lingers that "Operation Streamline" will expand as part of immigration reform as it takes shape in Washington.
"The immigration system is intended as a civil system. Using the federal government to criminally prosecute and incarcerate people for just the act of border crossing is just a huge misplacement of our justice priorities nationally," Caroline said.
“Federal spending on immigration enforcement now surpasses all other federal law enforcement activities combined including the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.”
The End Streamline Coalition said in a release, “For many who have witnessed a Streamline hearing, the mere image of men and women shackled at the wrist, belly, and ankles being collectively herded through the legal process is enough to shock the conscience. Streamline raises serious and troubling questions about constitutionally protected due process, the growth of private prisons, the deepening criminalization of migrants and the exploding costs of contemporary immigration enforcement.”
Similar events were held in Brownsville and Austin, as well as online petitions and letter-writing campaigns as part of three National Days of Action Against Operation Streamline.