Border crossers get no justice in Operation Streamline’s kangaroo court.
By Nancy Fleck and Susan Nelson, In These Times
May 13, 2013
Five days a week, between 40 and 80 men and women in handcuffs and shackles are brought into Tucson’s DeConcini Courthouse, a high-rise that houses the U.S. District Court. The prisoners are dirty, hungry and sometimes injured from days spent walking across the desert before Border Patrol agents caught them entering the United States along the southern Arizona border without the proper documentation. Led into a second-floor courtroom, they sit quietly in neat rows on spectator benches and in the jury box. Across the courtroom sit two men in dark green shirts with “Border Patrol” across their backs.
Upon arriving, the judge advises the migrants en masse of the charges and their constitutional rights. In a few cases the charge is simply “illegal entry,” a misdemeanor. But for most of the defendants, this is not the first time they’ve been caught trying to enter the country, and they are charged with both the misdemeanor and felony “illegal entry.” The judge then offers those defendants a plea bargain: Plead guilty to the misdemeanor entry, and the felony entry charge (which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison) will be dismissed. The felony entry charge is “the easiest felony to prove and the fastest-growing felony in the country,” says Isabel Garcia, the co-chair of the Coalición de Derechos Humanos and Pima County Legal Defender.
All of the defendants take the deal. [...]
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