Magistrate: Bernardo Velasco
Federal Prosecutor: Mr. Lewis
No Border Patrol
13 CJA Lawyers, 2 Public Defenders
Mexican Consul Representative
Samaritans Attending: Sara Busey, Rev. Catherine Balk, Chicago
Visitors: St. Louis University High School class, St. Louis, MO
Velasco swiftly charged and sentenced 72 migrants in 50 minutes to 2940 days in mostly private prisons. (That is approximately 42 seconds per migrant.) Three were dismissed due to lack of translators for their indigenous languages. Eight first time crossers were given misdemeanor criminal records and dispatched to their home countries without prison time. Mexicans will be sent back across the border that night, but those from other countries will wait in detention facilities until a plane is full enough to fly them back to their countries.
Forty-one of the defendants were Mexican, 15 from Guatemala, 8 from Honduras and 1 from El Salvador.
Twenty crossed near Nogales, 15 near Sasabe, and 12 each near Douglas and Lukeville. Three attempted entry at a port, probably using false documents. (Velasco is one of the few magistrates that gives nationality and crossings.)
Marcos Escobar-Sanchez (19-24666MP) may have stated a credible fear in his record, as Velasco briefly mentioned this to his lawyer Natalie Haywood, who agreed he had, but that was the end of the discussion.
Lawyer Raul Miranda told Velasco that his client’s first language was not Spanish, but he believed he understood his instructions in Spanish. (Most magistrates would then quiz the migrant in question to be satisfied he could comprehend Spanish, but Velasco did not pursue this.)
After court, Velasco talked with the high school students. One wanted to know what other cases the magistrate heard and what was the difference in his feelings toward each type. Velasco said there was no difference. I asked where and by whom credible fear interviews are held, but his answer was vague. He urged the students to register and vote as soon as they came of age to make positive changes to the immigration laws. This is the last week for him as magistrate in Operation Streamline. After presiding in it since its beginning in 2008, he is retiring in 11 days.
Catherine and I, at the student’s leader’s invitation, talked briefly after Velasco. We asked, “Why did these migrants come to the US?” “Why didn’t they come legally?” They knew.
We thanked them for their concern and for coming to Operation Streamline.