Category: operation streamline

The moral dilemma at the heart of Operation Streamline

By Alan Bean

We talk a lot about Operation Streamline at Friends of Justice because it highlights the human cost of mass deportation.  This recent article from the Washington Post presents both sides of the debate.

Supporters of Operation Streamline appeal to the obvious: people who enter the United States illegally are criminals by definition and must live the consequences.  If we are to continue as a sovereign nation we must defend our borders.

But anyone who has sat through one of these humiliating “cattle call” hearings knows it isn’t that simple.  Most of the men and women who cross the border illegally are driven by a desperation few Americans can fathom.  Placed in their shoes, we would do the same without reservation or remorse.

The Post piece ends with a poignant vignette from a recent deportation hearing in Tucson that illustrates the moral dilemma perfectly: (more…)

Tucson activists close down Operation Streamline

Protesters try keep deportation bus from leaving Tucson courthouse

By Alan Bean

Tucson immigration rights activists in Tucson successfully shut down Operation Streamline.  It’s only in one courthouse in one community, but it is just another indication that concern about Streamline is growing.  It takes courage, and a measure of desperation, to undertake this kind of protest.

Activists block Tucson courthouse, immigration hearings canceled for the day

October 11, 2013 8:12 am  •

Perla Trevizo Arizona Daily Star

A protest today by immigration rights activists continued in Tucson for more than four hours, prompting the federal court to shutdown a deportation process known as Operation Streamline for the day.

About 80 immigrant rights activists are protesting at the federal courthouse downtown, blocking entrances as well as buses carrying people to hearing that could result in their deportation. By noon police had used power saws to remove two of about 10 protesters who had used chains to attach themselves to the wheels of one of two buses. By 12:30 one of the buses was back on the road and officers worked on removing protesters from the second one. About 30 minutes later that bus was also able to leave.

The group stopped the buses on the Interstate 10 frontage road as they approached the courthouse, and some of the activists chained themselves to the wheels while others hung banners critical of the fast-track immigration deportation court process called Operation Streamline. (more…)

Expedited Indian Removal

By Alan Bean

I have written a number of posts about Operation Streamline, a dreadful and dehumanizing process of “expedited removal” that unfolds daily, primarily in border town courtrooms in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.  To be honest, these posts don’t get a lot of attention.  I’m hoping this opinion piece by Roberto Rodriguez, an assistant professor in Mexican-American studies at the University of Arizona, will be different.

Rodriguez draws attention to the stark racial undercurrents that most observers are too polite to notice.  On a dozen occasions, he has taken college classes to witness these “cattle call” proceedings and they always come away sickened:

When my students leave the courtroom, they say they feel defiled, dirty … as if they have just witnessed something abominable, something that should not be taking place, something contrary to the US Constitution, something amoral. And all of it takes place compliments of our tax dollars.

Then there’s this:

There was a time when being apprehended on the border simply meant returning the migrants across the border … until someone decided that criminalization and incarceration could be profitable – literally, a big business. The more bodies, the more beds, the more money for the private prison industry.

And this:

I remember the first time I went to this operation, President George W. Bush was in office. When Sen. Barack Obama ran for and won the presidency, we all thought that this kangaroo court procedure finally would be shut down, something akin to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Instead, as written into the current comprehensive immigration reform proposal, this Expedited Indian Removal program will become three times bigger than its current form.

Operation Streamline: Expedited Indian Removal

Wednesday, 09 October 2013

By Roberto Cintli RodriguezTruthout

On the left side of the courtroom, 60 to 70 short, dark-brown men and a few women are seated, handcuffed and shackled from the wrists, waist and ankles. All are silent. They take up about 20 rows, including the two corresponding to the jury box. The scene is surreal. Their chains, their color and height are very pronounced – yet in this courtroom, are hardly noticed by the lawyers and other court officials, including the judge.

This kangaroo court called Operation Streamline is America’s modern version of Expedited Indian Removal; chase, capture, pseudo-judicial proceeding, incarceration and deport. It convenes daily at 1:30 PM in Tucson, Arizona. (more…)

Is a war on the undocumented replacing the war on drugs?

By Alan Bean

It was refreshing to hear AG Eric Holder (and a swelling chorus of conservative critics) denouncing the folly of the war on drugs and the bloated prison population that followed in its wake.  Hopefully, the president’s use of the pardon will reflect this perspective.  But while the ranks of narcotics defendants have begun a slow but steady decline, America’s war on immigrants is quickly filling the void.

In uncluttered and accessible prose, Chris Kirkham reveals a disturbing world that is unfamiliar to most Americans.  It is just as foolhardy and counterproductive as the war on drugs, but the military-industrial complex (desperate for new sources of revenue) and the private prison industry (which would be ruined by a full-scale retreat from the war on drugs) are thrilled by recent federal policy decisions.  If the Senate immigration bill is adopted without major alteration, these folks will experience a windfall beyond their wildest imaginings.

War On Undocumented Immigrants Threatens To Swell U.S. Prison Population

Posted: 08/23/2013

undocumented immigrants prison
For decades, drug crimes contributed to an explosion in the size of the federal prison system, far outpacing any other charges brought by prosecutors.

Now, just as the federal government has pulled back the throttle on the drug war, it is embarking on an unprecedented campaign to criminally prosecute undocumented immigrants crossing the border. The result: A new wave of non-violent offenders are flooding the nation’s prisons.

“This is the crime du jour,” said Judith Greene, director of the nonprofit Justice Strategies, which has focused on the private prison industry’s growing reliance on incarcerating undocumented immigrants. “It’s the drug war all over again. It’s what’s driving the market in federal prisons.”

Immigration offenders represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the federal prison population, providing a lucrative market for private prison corporations that largely control these inmates in the system. Over the last decade, revenue from the federal prison system has more than tripled for the GEO Group and nearly doubled for Corrections Corp. of America — the two companies that dominate the private prison industry. (more…)

Senate bill triples support for notorious Operation Streamline

E. Bates Butler III

By Alan Bean

The Senate immigration bill triples the scope of Operation Streamline, one of the most expensive and unjust legal scams ever perpetrated on the American public.  Actually, the American public have nothing to fear from Operation Streamline, which is what makes it so dangerous–out of sight, out of mind.  But former US Attorney A. Bates Butler III has seen the process up close and personal and is appropriately appalled.  No one who has witnessed this legal travesty can feel good about it.  When you realize that the benefits of Operation Streamline benefits no one but the private prison industry, and that corporations like CCA and Geo Group bankroll the re-election campaigns of the Gang of Eight Senators responsible for the Senate bill, you detect an unpleasant odor in the air.

Guest Column: We need sensible immigration reform; Operation Streamline must end

A. Bates Butler III and Mo Goldman Special To The Arizona Daily Star

July 12, 2013

The Senate, under the leadership of the Gang of Eight, last month passed comprehensive immigration reform following years of hope for reform from the millions of undocumented residents in the United States.

Undoubtedly, our antiquated immigration system needs a dramatic overhaul. Yet the current immigration bill that passed the Senate includes enforcement components that would have us double down on failed policing strategies and expand an already bloated border enforcement budget that costs U.S. taxpayers $18 billion annually. (more…)

Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses–We Have Private Prisons to Fill

Immigrant female detainees inside their holding cell of the Willacy County Immigration Detention Center in Raymondville.

I have been researching Operation Streamline and the private prison industry for several years now.  This is by far the best researched, thorough, and devastating treatment of these issues I have found.  The Texas Observer deals with issues the mainstream media wouldn’t think of touching.  In 1999, a packet of information from Lili Ibara of Friends of Justice sparked a 16-page investigative piece on the Tulia drug sting.  Nate Blakeslee’s article did what the New York Times and the Washington Post can’t afford to do–it told the story from the perspective of the poor black folks who had been directly impacted by a bogus narcotics operation.  It told the truth as it can only be seen from the bottom looking up.  This piece is just as good.  

Ask people on the street about Operation Streamline and you get blank stares.  Admit it, dear reader, even you, as well informed as you are, have never heard of the program.  And since we’re being brutally honest, most of you won’t take the time to read this article either.  Of course you won’t.  But if you really want to know what’s driving America’s immigration system, invest half an hour in Forrest Wilder’s article on Streamline and private prisons.  It pretty much says it all.  AGB

Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses—We Have Private Prisons to Fill

The profits and losses of criminalizing immigrants.

by  Published on Wednesday, May 1, 2013, at 12:14 CST
Immigrant female detainees inside their holding cell of the Willacy County Immigration Detention Center in Raymondville.

Delcia Lopez/San Antonio Express-News/ZUMA Press
Immigrant female detainees inside their holding cell of the Willacy County Immigration Detention Center in Raymondville.

When Jose Rios walked into a Bank of America branch last year, he hoped to open an account for the car repair shop he owned. He didn’t expect to end up with a prison sentence.

Days after Rios provided the bank with a home address and Social Security number, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents showed up at his house looking for him. (Rios said ICE agents later told him that Bank of America, which has acknowledged a policy of reporting undocumented immigrants to immigration officials, turned him in.) Rios wasn’t home. His wife, a pretty, sad-eyed woman of 38, answered the door.

“They said, ‘if we don’t find [Jose], we come back for you,’” she said, sitting outside her daughters’ elementary school on a gorgeous California day while her smiling 2-year-old brought us handfuls of dainty red geraniums. Her daughters, the agents warned, could end up in foster care. (more…)

With Immigration Reform Looming, Private Prisons Lobby Work to Keep Migrants Behind Bars

Laura Carlsen

By Alan Bean

In this HuffPost piece, Laura Carlsen lays bare the idiot greed driving American immigration policy.  You will notice that most members of the eight-person bi-partisan team pushing the reform agenda in Congress (including all the Democrats) have received generous contributions from the private prison industry.  Why has a smart man like Barack Obama embraced a brain-dead immigration policy.  Well, consider this:

The inhumane and illogical step of pre-deportation detention was invented by the private prison industry. Last year, the Obama administration spent more money on immigration enforcement, including detention, than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined — a staggering $18 billion. The detention centers receive $166 per person, per day in government funds — an amount that would be a godsend to a homeless family or unemployed worker.

Please give this article the attention it deserves

With Immigration Reform Looming, Private Prisons Lobby to Keep Migrants Behind Bars

By Laura Carlsen

As the immigration reform debate heats up, an important argument has been surprisingly missing. By granting legal status to immigrants and ordering future flows, the government could save billions of dollars. A shift to focus border security on real crime, both local and cross-border, would increase public safety and render a huge dividend to cash-strapped public coffers. (more…)

Sequestration has an upside

By Alan Bean

Sequestration means the federal government will have to make $85 billion in across the board budget cuts.  While Americans like the idea of low taxes in the abstract, they won’t like the concrete consequences of this process.  On the other hand, if the government is spending obscene amounts of money to make America less safe and more unequal, a few cuts might encourage some long-overdue rethinking.

Sequestration will mean a 5% cut to the Department of Justice.  That’s 1.6 billion dollars, y’all.  Since the federal prison system has exploded by 800% since 1980 during a period of falling crime it might be time to close some prisons and find less expensive ways of promoting public safety.

This post on The Hill’s Congress blog makes precisely this argument. (more…)

Immigration debate draws attention to Operation Streamline

By Alan Bean

The immigration debate unfolding in the halls of Congress is directing increased attention to the nuts and bolts of American immigration policy.  Republicans insist on “securing the border”.  Democrats insist the border is already secure.  But what is the cash value of “border security” rhetoric and what price, in dollars and in human misery, are we willing to pay to achieve it.  As things presently stand, we are building border walls, establishing dozens of new immigration detention centers (half of them run by private prison companies), turning police officers into immigration agents and generally transforming the border region into a draconian police state.

It is very gratifying to see Operation Streamline getting a sliver of the publicity it deserves.  This program is highly controversial in federal legal circles because it is very costly, it deflects prosecutorial attention from serious crimes of violence, and it involves legal procedures that are tantamount to human rights abuse.  Until recently, Operation Streamline was rarely mentioned by the mainstream press.  If this ABC story is anything to go by, that might be changing.

ACLU: US Too Tough on Illegal Immigrants

By  (@JimAvilaABC) and  (@SerenaMarsh)

Feb. 22, 2013

The American Civil Liberties Union says United States border security treats people crossing the border illegally to look for work as criminals instead of as desperate people trying to feed their families.

Border security continues to be a central point of the ongoing immigration reform debate, with Republican saying they won’t move forward without it and Democrats arguing the borders are already secure. (more…)