Last month, we had missed this blog article by Amy Frykholm in the Christian Century (“Assembly Line Justice,” June 30th)
Since it began in 2005, Operation Streamline has turned deportation cases previously handled exclusively by ICE into federal criminal cases that introduce thousands of people to our prisons every year. The ACLU has raised concerns about the program’s criminalization of impoverished people whose crime is crossing a border and seeking work. The group has called for the suspension of Operation Streamline until its costs, both financial and human, can be better calculated and understood. The chief federal judge of Arizona has asked that her caseload be called a “judicial emergency” so that she can bring in more resources. The 9th District Court agreed.
The program’s defenders say that it sends a strong message to people who cross the U.S. border illegally, and that it therefore is helpful to them–as well as to the border patrol agents who regularly arrest people in Arizona’s treacherous deserts. Other observers find both the spectacle of justice and the pain of individuals troubling. An organization called “Operation Streamline Watch” argues that if federal policy met its stated goal of “zero tolerance” for people who cross the border illegally, the caseload in the Tucson federal courthouse would go from the roughly 200 a day to more than 1,000.
If this happened, prisoners would need to be “processed” in groups of 40 instead of eight. We need to address the fundamental puzzle and colossal mess that is U.S. immigration policy. In the meantime, this ongoing assembly-line justice does little good.
We’ll keep you posted on continued opposition to Streamline amongst faith groups and of critical coverage in the religious press.