On 10th anniversary of Operation Streamline, communities rise up to end migrant prosecutions

December 16th marked the 10th anniversary of Operation Streamline, a policy whose implementation greatly increased the mass prosecution of migrants for what the government calls “illegal entry” and “illegal reentry.”  These immigration prosecutions have become the most prosecuted crimes in the entire federal court system and have send tens of thousands of migrants to federal jails and prison every year, contributing to mass incarceration that only benefits private prison corporations.

Beginning last Wednesday December 9, a coalition of organizations kicked off the national days of action to end these prosecutions, which included actions in Austin, Tucson, and McAllen as well as an online petition and social media campaign. Here’s  what happened!

On Friday, December 11, in Austin during the U.S. Human Rights Network Conference, Grassroots Leadership held a march to the federal courthouse where community members performed street theater and called on the Department of Justice to end Operation Streamline and the prosecution of migrants.

Protesters chant, "DOJ, don't lose sight, migration is a human right!" on the steps of the Federal Courthouse in Austin.

On Monday, December 14, a group of twelve Arizona clergy were present to witness the Operation Streamline hearing at the Federal Courthouse in Tucson. One-by-one, eight of them stood up, offered prayers, read scripture and disrupted the proceedings. The court sentenced 59 individuals to between 30 and 180 days in federal prison. Several of the migrants spoke about their desperation to reunite with family in the United States, explaining to the judge that unlawful entry was their only means of doing so. After the judge issued the sentence on behalf of the court, condemning the migrants to serve prison sentences, the clergymen shouted out, "You (the shackled migrant workers) are not guilty -this court is guilty of injustice to the migrant poor and their families,"  in English, then in Spanish "Tu no eres culpable, esta corte es culpable!"

Here is an excerpt of the statement the 12 clergy members prepared:

“When we first observed these proceedings a few years ago, we were greatly concerned by what we witnessed in a courtroom in our community. Since then we have felt it to be our duty to bring other people of faith and conscience to the courtroom to be a quiet presence of solidarity for the migrants. But we feel that we can be silent observers no more. Each time we sat there silently, we felt as if, in some way, we were betraying the vows that we took as pastors to comfort those in sorrow. Each time we sat there witnessing the condemnation of migrants, we wanted to condemn the system that criminalized them. Each time we sat there, we wanted to reach out to those who wept, those who begged for mercy, the father pleading to be allowed to return to his US citizen children. Each time we sat there silently watching these proceedings, dozens of scripture readings ran through our minds: “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3). “Woe to you who deprive the poor of justice in the courts” (Amos 5:12).
Finally, we could sit silent no more and so today we have sought to speak truth to power, and to remind the magistrates, the lawyers, the marshals, and other officers of the court of the oaths that they took to uphold justice and the constitution and to turn away from practices that so undermine both the administration of justice and fundamental rights that are guaranteed to all under our constitution.
We have disrupted the courts and we do not do so lightly, for the courtroom is in its own way a sacred place. But we disrupted the proceedings today because they have already been disrupted in a much more troubling way by Operation Streamline.
It is clear to us that Operation Streamline is immoral, unjust, and a sin against the poor and their families, and as pastors in this community we have an obligation to speak.”

Click here to read more statements from clergy members.

On Wednesday, December 16, Tucson community members gathered at the Federal Courthouse in Tucson for street theater with puppets followed by a press conference. Speakers included advocates from the American Friends Service Committee, Coalicion de Derechos Humanos, the End Streamline Coalition, Southside Presbyterian Church and Norlan Flores of the Southside Worker's Center, who was placed in Operation Streamline following a traffic stop in Tucson.

                    Puppets act out Operation Streamline hearing in front of Federal Courthouse in Tucson.

Also on Wednesday, 136 of these messages went out at once on social media at 12 noon CT through the Thunderclap to End Operation Streamline!

The message links to the petition to end Operation Streamline and the prosecution of migrants. The petition, initiated during the days of action has received more than 100 signatures in the past week. It will remain open to educate others about Operation Streamline and continue to pressure the Department of Justice to end the prosecutions.

Sign now!

For some of the media coverage of these actions and the 10th Anniversary, see Univision, Free Speech Radio News, the Tucson Weekly, and Tucson News Now.