The second day opened with presentation by Raquel Rubio-Goldsmith from the University of Arizona, Binational Migration Institute, explained further how border has become land of impunity. She spoke of the Tohono O’odham nation and the migration history of the people who live on this land. The Tohono O’odham nation spans across the Arizona and Mexico Border, and indigenous people find themselves subject to harassment, arrest and detention. For generations, the harvest has driven people to migrate across the border. For the harvest, people have always migrated across this “border”.
We saw first-hand, the impact of border policy when we visited the Office of the Medical Examiner for Pima County, where the remains of nearly roughly 200 migrants are processed each year. People commonly die from exposure, heat stroke, drowning, and injury. Nothing hit you more once you see these bodies. What happened and ends up of people’s mother, father, brother, sister, child. I commend Pima County for being the only county on the broader willing to process the remains of migrants and work with relevant consulate to identify them and notify family members.
The day continued with a visit to the Federal Courthouse to see Operation Streamline in action:
Operation Streamline is a Bush Administration program implemented in 2005 ordering federal criminal charges for every person who crosses the border illegally. In other words, it is a “zero tolerance” border enforcement program that targets even first time undocumented border-crossers. Instead of routing non-violent individuals caught crossing the border into civil deportation proceedings, Operation Streamline forces undocumented migrants through the federal criminal justice executed for misdemeanors punishable by up to 6 months in prison, and those who reenter after deportation may be prosecuted for felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Under this fast-track program, a federal criminal case with prison and deportation consequences is resolved in 2 Operation Streamline is a Buys or less. “OPERATION STREAMLINE FACT SHEET July 21, 2009” ACLU and National Immigration Forum.
As fellow delegates mentioned, it is easy to look in this courtroom and think of slave auctions. 48 men and 2 women were shackled from wrist, to waist, to ankle. They were called by name and number and asked a series of arbitrary questions to look like justice was being served.
Beside the process being more theatrical than judicial, I was heartbroken to know that these
people endured desert heat, starvation, dehydration and border patrol, to then be put in chains, jailed and deported.