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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Operation Streamline

My experience of walking the trails and being a witness to those who have to cross the Mexico-US border was only one aspect of my trip. The other part was being witness to an unjust system that tries people for just trying to live the life their ancestors were able to live. Migrants are trying to reach the resources of the neighboring land. If migrants are caught crossing the border, they have a couple of different possibilities.

Option one, Border Patrol asks them to voluntarily remove themselves and they will be dropped off in Mexico once there are enough migrants to fill the bus. Option two, is expedited deportation. Option three is Operation Streamline.

At the end of the week, we went back into town to witness Operation Streamline. Operation Streamline is part of our federal court system where the government charges migrants with a formal deportation and therefore creating a criminal record. When the Bush Administration proposed Operation Streamline, it was set up as an “anti-terrorist” and “zero tolerance” system that would create criminals out of everyone who ever crossed the imaginary line we call a border. The system is unjust and does not listen to the stories of those who are processed.

In Tucson, a day of Operation Streamline is a series of traumas. From the Border Patrol detention center close to where migrants were first detained, they are bused to Tucson to start meeting with their lawyers at 9 a.m.

Every lawyer has to meet with four to six clients in three hours so the lawyer only has 30 minutes to find out the migrant’s story, to make sure that they are not a minor, that their information is correct, and that they sort of understand what is going on.

Next at 1:30 p.m., all 70 migrants being tried in the case enter the court room and are tried in about an hour and half. They are called up five at a time, and each asked normal trial questions about whether they understand the U.S. justice system and how their ten minutes is going to work. The only part they are asked individually is if they believe they are guilty or not; during the rest of the questions, the translator is listening and translating five simultaneous responses.

Once everyone says that are guilty, they are escorted out of the room by Border Patrol. At the end of the day they are taken back to the same border patrol office and hopefully reunited with their belongings.

In the early morning, they will arrive just across the border in Mexico and will be dumped on the street. Almost none of these people will be from the border town and are long separated from anyone who they were traveling with.

The truth is that Operation Streamline does not affect everyone. In Tucson, only 70 of 600-1000 migrants who cross everyday are ever processed through Streamline, therefore creating a disparity and allowing some people to cross multiple times, while creating a criminal system for those who are charged through Streamline.

For me, witnessing Operation Streamline showed me some of the implications of trying to cross into a country that does not respect the struggles migrants are trying to escape. For some of the migrants, their home country would be considered the United States, but they do not have residency so they have to reenter illegally after visiting a parent or other family.

The system is unfair and creates a culture of fear here in the United States. We think of the people crossing the border as “bad” people, but they are just trying to make a living the best they are able. They are not bad people, it is the system that criminalizes them and allows us to believe they are breaking human law.

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