Vicki is a community member of Casa Mariposa in Tucson and a volunteer with the Restoration Project visiting, writing, and offering hospitality to detained immigrants. This article by her was published on the National Catholic Reporter blog.
Tougher immigration enforcement ignores the humanitarian needs of migrantsJun. 13, 2011
TUCSON, ARIZ. — Every day, the courtroom in the De Concini Federal Courthouse which hosts Operation Streamline is typically full of 70 men and women from various parts of Mexico and Central America. Processed in groups, they are divided up into groups of people who will receive the same sentence. Each group, listening to the proceedings through interpretation headphones, waits its turn to be called in front of the Magistrate. Each person is given a plea bargain that has been created in advance between prosecutors for the U.S. Government, and defense attorneys who have met with each defendant for a few minutes that morning.
Operation Streamline was created in Del Rio, Texas, in 2005 to place criminal penalties on illegal entry into the various jurisdictions along the border. These criminal charges were to act as a deterrent to people; the idea was that the threat of jail time would prevent people from attempting to enter the United States without authorization.
I'd been there before, and this was all I expected to see when I walked into the courtroom recently. But it was not all: I walked into the courtroom and was greeted by a friend, a young man named Jaime*, with whom I had been visiting over the course of several weeks in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.
Jaime turned his head toward the door, expressed his surprise to see me, flashed a smile, and lifted his hands, shackled together and to his waist, to wave. I smiled and waved in return, with some worry mixed in, and found a seat.