DeConcini Federal Court, a criminal, not immigration, court
Magistrate: Jacqueline Rateau
U.S. Federal Prosecutor: Lewis
Samaritans/Visitors: Kris Baldwin, Kayri Mealy, Gail Balden, Sara Busey, 2 No More Deaths young women volunteers
Of the 75 migrants today, 8 were women, 2 were dismissed due to language issues. Eduardo Perez-Luna (17-21206M)(Isabel Amsel, lawyer) refused the plea agreement, will be charged with the felony of re-entry and has a court date set to defend his innocence. If he fails, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
Rateau wasn’t satisfied that Gabino Arturo Luis-Hernandez from Guatemala understood court proceedings. She requested that he be held over for 2 weeks while a Mam language interpreter can be found to test his understanding. (Mam is a spoken by only 8,000 indigenous people in Mexico and Guatemala and one of 287 distinct minor languages spoken today in Mexico.)
Saul Guzman-Nolasco (17-21224M) respectfully asked the magistrate to reduce his sentence of 180 days. He came to work to earn money, he said, for his U.S. citizen daughter whose mother here is unable to earn enough to pay the rent or buy enough food. Rateau said she could not and that if he came back to the U.S. again he could be facing 20 years in prison. (Could Samaritans track down Saul, find out who and where his wife and daughter live and help them financially? one observer asked.)
Lawyer Isabel Amsel reported that her client Pedro Rueda-Aztorga (17-21223M) is in need of medical care. Rateau told him to be sure to ask to see a doctor when he arrives in prison. (Why didn’t she herself send this request to the prison? Other magistrates have requested that a lawyer give his phone # to the migrant who was told to call him if he did not get medical help.)
All told, migrants will spend 5490 days in mostly private prisons at a cost to taxpayers of $883,890. Think of the savings if those who crossed the border today without proper papers were just sent back, as they were 15-20 years ago, without facing prison time and a criminal history that prevents them from ever entering the U.S. legally.
END OPERATION STREAMLINE!
DeConcini Federal Court, a criminal, not immigration, court
Magistrate: Leslie Bowman
U.S. Federal Prosecutor: Lewis
Samaritans/Visitors: Randy Mayer, Dick & Flo Mayer, Kristy O’Hallearn
Of the 75 migrants today, 3 were dismissed due to language barriers, 1 rescheduled in order to find a Meine language interpreter. Most received 30 days in prison, but 7 were sentenced to 180 days. All together they will spend 4255 days in mostly private prisons at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of $685,055.
According to attorney Isabel Amsel, Juan Angel Ventura-Ventura, a migrant fro El Salvador (17-20965M), doesn’t want to be deported back to dangerous El Salvador and will claim asylum once he is released from prison in 75 days into the custody of ICE. He had not claimed asylum to the Border Patrol agent when he was apprehended.
No migrants spoke except Miguel Angel Toledo-Sebastian, who before the Magistrate, spoke respectfully in English. “I believe in the life of this county. My intention is to work for a little time and then go home. Could you reduce my sentence?” (180 days)
Bowman said if she doesn’t honor the plea agreement he had signed, the prosecutor would be free to renege on dismissal of the felony charge and Miguel would face up to 20 years in prison. She recognized that he only intended to work and not cause harm if he stayed in the U.S. (Magistrates have no authority to change sentences assigned by the federal prosecutor, but only to conduct the prescribed court procedure, making sure migrants understand what is happening.)
Operation Streamline February 1, 2017
Judge Bruce MacDonald 15 lawyers
Katrina Schumacher the only observer
54 were on the list including 2 women. 3 were continued—not for language. All were picked up in the last few days; 20 near Lukeville, 12 near Sasabe, 10 near Nogales, 5 near Naco and 4 near Douglas. Judge M. did not mention the country of origin. He called up 5 migrants at a time and spoke to each individually. The total sentence was 3,825. Taking $161 per day as the cost of incarceration—primarily in private prisons—makes $615,825 for one day out of 5 days OS operates in Tucson which represents one of the 9 sectors on our southern border.
Several requests were made for placement in a certain location and in two cases with a cousin. The judge made all recommendations but stated that there was no guarantee that they would be respected.
Marcelo Chavez-Vasquez, 20833, asked not to be jailed in or deported from California as he had credible fear. The judge made sure that was in the record and told Mr. Chavez to talk to immigration after serving his 75 day sentence.
Mauricio Orta-Vieyra, 20839, spoke English well. He has 4 children and someone ill in the household close to Detroit. He asked to serve his 180 days in Michigan so he could see his family.
I spoke to a man from the Mexican Consulate before the hearing. He said they had a representative there every day. He spoke to each Mexican on the list before the hearing to offer help with the following; making sure belongings were returned after deportation, contacting families, helping with medical care when needed, getting people home who lived far from the border after deportation. One of the lawyers suggested Samaritans talk to representatives from Central American consulates--I believe only Guatemala has a consulate here--to see if we might help in some way. Katrina Schumacher
DeConcini Federal Court - a criminal, not an immigration, court
Magistrate: Bruce MacDonald
U.S. Federal Prosecutor: Lewis
Samaritans: Sara Busey, Alan Koch
A full house of 75. The sheer number may have caused the prosecutor to be less than thorough as several migrants had hearings delayed while a further investigation was held. In one case, he took back a migrant’s misdemeanor charge and left the felony one, making him ineligible for Streamline. Another was held back in order to get a translator. Two migrants were dismissed to return to their country. Most were apprehended near Sasabe, then Nogales and Lukeville.
For the second time, one of the migrants sat through the hearing receiving English instead of Spanish through his earphones. MacDonald took time at the hearing’s end to, in detail and with compassion, go over what he had said to the other migrants.
No migrants spoke except to say, “SI,” “No,” and “guilty.”
All together, the 70 migrants remaining will spend 5105 days in prison for a cost to taxpayers of $821,905.
According to Simon Eduardo Loera-Lar’s (17-20744M) lawyer Juliana Ore-Giron, he was not asked when he was apprehended if he had a “credible fear of persecution” in his home country. She told this to the magistrate to get it on the court record, but also put a note to that effect in his file.
Cold Crossing: During a search in the vicinity of Ruby Road, Green Valley Samaritans discovered evidence of migrants who had recently passed through the area. This included a good quality quilted jacket, a water bottle in a cloth sack and unopened cans of food with markings in Spanish. The inescapable conclusion is that these items were brought over the border and across the harsh desert terrain where nighttime temperatures had been at or below freezing. Why this property was discarded at this location is open to speculation.
DeConcini Federal Court - a criminal, not immigration, court
Magistrate: Eric Markovich
U.S. Federal Prosecutor: Ausland
Samaritans: Sara Busey; Melody Semereaux, Tucson Samaritan
Visitors: Matt Lowe, AFS & 2 friends
Today’s Operation Streamline was a “window” on the rest of the criminal justice system. Hundreds of other criminal courtrooms across the U.S. try, convict, and sentence undocumented migrants to years in prison, but few people know about it. With Streamline, many citizens have easy access to witness the en masse trial and to see how our country has criminalized the act of entering the country without proper papers. Prior to the mid 80's, most such acts were processed as a civil offense resulting in a migrant’s return to their country.
Of the 48 migrants today, 2 were dismissed and 1 re-scheduled. Together they will spend 3200 days in prison at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of $515,200. No one asked for asylum, medicine, or missed belongings. No migrants spoke at all. No country of origin was stated. Sasebe, Lukeville, Douglas and Nogales were areas where most migrants crossed.
Prosecutor Ausland, when questioned, said the new U.S. Sentencing Commission Guidelines, which went into effect Nov. 1, probably will not change Operation Streamline’s sentencing procedure, but said that he couldn’t speak for the government.
Judge: Leslie Bowman
Two high school groups, one from Flagstaff with a leader who was with No More Deaths
A group from a Catholic school in Minnesota. Both groups were doing other border activities.
About 50 observers in all including adults with each group.
There were 29 people on the list including two women.
Two men, Raul Garcia Iturbide (20424) and Jacobo Baldomero-Garcia (20443) were dismissed for language concerns.
Another man, Reginio Esteban-Aguilar (20423) also needed an interpreter for Mixteco Bajo but he was continued on February 2. His lawyer objected to the delay.
Griselda Cano-De Acosta (20425) (lawyer Paul Beshears) had entered in November of 2012 and had recently been picked up at a traffic stop. She had adult children here. She was sentenced to 150 days. There is an immigration lawyer working with the family.
The combined sentences were 2115 days at $161/day is $340, 515 for Florence private prisons.
Judge Bowman does not say where migrants come from or where they enter the US. She later said it was to preserve as much privacy for people as she could—a concern that became very important to her during 20 years as a defense attorney.
Judge Bowman and lawyer Joel Parra answered questions from the school groups for about an hour. These were great questions ranging from questions on procedure to existential questions such as the proper role of a judge or lawyer in the face of an unjust system—what is the difference between justice and law.
Repetition: The standard questions that are asked can be extremely repetitive especially when there are 75 migrants. It can be dehumanizing and lead to less attention being paid. Judge B believes it important to ask questions and focus on each defendant. The lawyers explain the procedures carefully to their clients.
Due Process: OS does comply with due process and Judge B says, is just and fair. People going through OS get a much better deal than they would going through the courts with a felony charge. Is there a better way to deal with people entering this country? Judge B says ‘Yes’. As a deterrent OS does not work well but look at the rest of our court/justice system—it’s not working well either—backed up courts, unequal arrests, over crowded jails. Katrina Schumacher
Dejado Atrás: We arrived at the Arivaca Creek trailhead on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge where a pair of women emerged from their car and greeted us. They asked if we thought the refuge headquarters was open. Seemed likely, we thought, it being early afternoon on a weekday. They explained that the last time they visited, Border Patrol stopped them and told them that the headquarters were closed and that it wasn’t safe for them to leave their vehicle due to heavy migrant and drug traffic in the area. We tried to assure them that the migrants are no threat and that the drug runners have no desire to interact with them. They allowed that we may be right, but that they’d rather not lay eyes on any of them.
Leaving those folks to their imagined peril, we wandered down the trail and soon came across a campsite that more than one group of migrants had used. Food tins, beverage cans, well-worn shoes and other detritus of camp had accumulated in a trash barrel outside an old adobe ranch house that despite being burnt out, still provided some cover and sense of relative security. Circling the house, we discovered the real danger presented by migrants in the desert when we were ambushed emotionally by a teddy bear who had been left behind.
Magistrate: Lynnette Kimmins
Samaritans: Allyson Ball, Sara Busey
Visitors: Notre Dame students led by Lois Martin, No More Deaths; students from Boston University; Western Theological Seminary students.
Monday’s usual packed house with 76 migrants, including 5 women. Three cases were dismissed, one continued, before Kimmins called five at a time before the bench. Kimmins is the newest magistrate and spoke clearly and directly to each migrant she addressed. Two had difficulty understanding the complicated court procedure (one because her headphones were broadcasting both English and Spanish at the same time!) and she took an extraordinary amount of time and patience to be sure they did understand.
One migrant expressed a “credible fear.” Her lawyer put a note to that effect in his file, according to Kimmins, but we only learned about it later as the audience, as usual, couldn’t hear the lawyer at the time.
Migrants today will spend a total of 4650 days in prison, mostly private prisons, at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of ¾ of a million ($743,820).
The magistrate briefly answered questions after court:
(Lois and I distributed literature to most of the students that argued against the en mass trial of migrants because of the lack of due process (1 minute each before the magistrate), resulting criminal records that make it almost impossible to enter the US legally in the future, and huge cost to the taxpayers.)
Magistrate Bernardo Velasco
Samaritans: Alan Koch & 2 Portland friends; Kathy Zweig and Lyn Norwakowski and friends; Sara Busey
Visitors: John Turnbull, English Professor from Northern Illinois University; Father Cory Brost leading 10 Catholic Viatorian college students; and 12 Ignatius College Program students.
Only 23 migrants today. Velasco sentenced them 8 at a time within 15 minutes for a total of 1375 days in prison at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of $224,595. Five were from Guatemala, one from Honduras and the rest from Mexico. Most crossed near Sasebe and Nogales. Two were dismissed to return to their countries because no translator was available for their language and one dismissed due to low comprehension.
Velasco responded at length after court to some excellent questions posed by the students. Several focused on asylum, possibly because Brost works with asylum seekers in Chicago and Turnbull at NIU and previously Atlanta. Velasco defended prison time for those who arrive without papers between ports of entry because “they committed a crime,” but said their criminal conviction doesn’t negatively affect their later asylum request. He stressed asylum seekers need to present themselves at a port of entry.
According to the magistrate, prosecutorial discretion is utilized in the immigration process. In the field, the Border Patrol decides whether to deport, offer a voluntary return, or send a migrant to criminal court. And prior to an OS court session, the migrant’s lawyer and the federal prosecutor decide together the length of sentence to assign.
“OS is a good deal: six months in OS versus 24 to 120 months in a regular court room. And they have court appointed lawyers, which Americans do not have, “ Velasco said.
When asked about private prisons, Velasco mentioned that private prison employees can lobby Congress; public employees like him cannot.
“You may not like what you see at OS, but it is what our representatives gave us. It is legal.” He said the students should lobby their Congressional representatives for comprehensive immigration reform if they have problems with OS.
After the court session, OS lawyer Parris also spoke at length to some students. When asked if he was aware of a form that indicates a migrant’s request for asylum that can be included in their file, he dodged the question. He did say he has contacted the Florence Project to follow up on such migrants or has given them names of pro bono immigration lawyers to contact. He himself can’t afford to be one. He also said he had personally been threatened by anti-OS activists, which shouldn’t happen in a civil society.