Tucson, Ariz. -- Each day at the Evo A. DeConcini U.S. Courthouse here, 70 undocumented migrants are seated in orderly rows, hushed like a quiet congregation in long pews in the low light of a modern courtroom.
On this day Judge Bernardo P. Velasco took little more than a half hour to call rank after rank of migrants to a line of microphones in front of the bench. The script was simple -- questions delivered through an interpreter established that the defendants are citizens of other countries, mostly Mexico with a few from Guatemala, and that they knew they could have an individual trial, subpoena and cross-examine witnesses and refuse to testify.
The choreography was precise and efficient. From the benches to the microphones to an exit the defendants shuffled, handcuffed and shackled, attorneys in tow. They disappeared, most of them to be processed, sent to prison for periods ranging from the few days already served to 185 days and then returned to their country of origin. Such is the dance of Operation Streamline, one component of the federal government’s attempt to clamp down on illegal immigration. The intent of the program, which began in Texas in 2005 and in Tucson in 2008, is to add quick consequences for those illegally crossing the border from Mexico to the United States.