By Alan Bean
The Gang of Eight senators took a photo-op tour of the border fence in Arizona yesterday and, what-d’ya-know, they witnessed a desperate young woman successfully scale an eighteen-foot border fence. We have just their word for it since no media people were allowed to accompany the tour and hence we have no video or pictures. I’m not questioning the legitimacy of the report; I’m sure the senators saw what they say they saw. But how convenient that a young woman made her move at precisely the moment the senators made their appearance?
Coincidence, or crafty staging?
If the incident was staged, it might not have had the desired effect. Arizona senator John McCain had an appropriate response to the drama he had just witnessed:
“One of the sad things about all of this is that most of those people who jump over the fence are doing that because they want a better life, and I understand that. So we separate the drug cartels from individuals or somebody trying to cross over so they improve their lives.”
It is likely that the young woman, who was immediately apprehended by Border Patrol agents, is now sitting in a federal courtroom with a few dozen other unsuccessful border-crossers. These “Operation Streamline” operations are designed to criminalize everyone who crosses the border illegally. It isn’t enough to send them back to their native country, we have to turn them into felons so they can never return legally. Of course, this simply ensures that they will return as undocumented aliens. Hardly any of these people have a legal path to citizenship, so they either cross without documents or they don’t cross at all.
Post 9-11 border security is designed, ostensibly, to ensure that terrorists and narcotics traffickers don’t make it into the country. In reality, the flow of narcotics has not slowed appreciatively and not a single bona fide terrorist has been apprehended at the border in the past decade.
An in-depth study of border issues by the University of Arizona released today is highly critical of Operation Streamline. Here are a few of their conclusions:
- Court records show that Operation Streamline has not resulted in more prosecution of human smugglers and drug traffickers, only undocumented migrants
- It overburdens caseloads in federal courts and fails to provide due process to many who may have legal right to residence
- Represents a violation of the U.S. Constitution by trying people in masse rather than as individuals
- People convicted through Operation Streamline have a criminal record that will carry jail time if they are apprehended again for unauthorized entry
Moreover, interviews with men and women who have endured the humiliation of an Operation Streamline proceeding report that the immigration attorneys appointed to them had little to say apart from “you must plead guilty”. If Operation Streamline charges were routinely challenged the court system would quickly be unable to handle the case load. According to the report this is what the defendants experienced:
• 92% reported being shackled during Operation Streamline
• Median time of six hours spent in shackles, cuffed at the wrists, waist and ankles
Asked “What did your lawyer tell you about your rights?”
• 40% Sign the form and do not ﬁght the charges
• 40% Some mention of basic legal rights
• 7% Nothing or could not understand
• 2% asked to report abuses
• 1% Check for legal status of defendant
• No one mentioned the prospect of being paroled while waiting for resolution of an immigration case.