DeConcini Federal Court, a criminal, not immigration, court
Magistrate: Leslie Bowman
U.S. Federal Prosecutor: Lewis
Samaritans/Visitors: Sara Busey, 11 Unitarian Universalist Ministers; 5 University of Colorado Students; Lois Martin leading No More Deaths volunteers, Nancy Myers
A small number of migrants (20) took Magistrate Bowman less than 30 minutes to charge, convict and sentence to 1700 days in prison for the cost to U.S. taxpayers of $273,700 dollars. All took the plea agreement. It eliminates a felony from their record and gives them less time in prison, but leaves them with a criminal misdemeanor that will make it almost impossible to enter the U.S. legally in the future.
Criminal Justice Attorney Wanda Day spoke with us after court. On Thursday she had represented a migrant who was apprehended by ICE while picking up his young daughter from school in Denver. Three of his older daughters were DACA recipients and Wanda assumed that ICE had found him through his daughters’ applications for DACA. He had a decades old conviction of drinking in public. He will be deported after serving his prison sentence.
Lois Martin told of a No More Deaths volunteer finding Border Patrol documents while walking in the desert. A form for a migrant apprehension was blank, except for the line, “He has a credible fear of returning to his country.” “No” was already checked.
Wanda agreed that Border Patrol often does not even ask migrants when they pick them up if they want to ask for asylum. When migrants tell her at Operation Streamline they want it, she puts that in their file and reports it to the magistrate. Very, very few will get asylum under the new administration, she said.
Questions asked: “Why do migrants spend years in detention?” Wanda said they were awaiting a hearing, possibly for asylum.
“Why do migrants come?” “They come for jobs to feed their families or to reunite with the U.S. families.”
“Are many from Central America?” “Last week there were, but not today.
“Why are there so few migrants today?” “Border Patrol may have been moved further inland to catch the undocumented at schools and courthouses where they have not apprehended them before, but have left the border unprotected,” Wanda said.
“Do you approve of the chains that restrict their hands and feet?” “Yes, I have been in dangerous situations with clients and appreciate their restraint.”
I told one of the ministers about the 8 clergy that stood up during Operation Streamline last year. When a migrant said, “guilty,” a minister replied, “You are not guilty. This court is.” The UU minister said how much he, too, wanted to do something today, not just witness.