Magistrate: Bruce MacDonald, Federal Prosecutor: Mr. Lewis, Samaritans Attending: Sara Busey, Visitors: None
At the beginning of court, Magistrate MacDonald called the 15 criminal justice lawyers up front to explain his procedure: 15 shackled migrants would be brought in at a time to hear their rights, but only 5 at a time would come forward before the bench to personally answer questions.
After this, CJA Diana Costillo-Reina spoke at length about the difficulty of explaining to her cients the court procedure, the legal implications of signing a plea agreement, and pleading guilty to crossing illegally. She requested that the lawyers be allowed to give them the brochure produced by the Florence Project, written in Spanish. MacDonald said he would discuss this with the other magistrates. (I spoke with Diana after court and she said it is the Marshalls who object to the brochure on security grounds.)
There were more first time crossers among the 75 migrants (45) than re-entry ones (30). Three were excused and sent back to their home countries, probably because OS didn’t have interpreters in their language. All first time crossers received time served and the others a total of 1605 days in prison.
Most were apprehended within 1-2 days of crossing, although 10 were out in the desert from 5-7 days and one man for 10 days. None attempted illegal entry at a port.
No one reported a credible fear, but two lawyers said their clients expressed such but declined to pursue an asylum claim. One said he had never been asked about it by the Border Patrol.
MacDonald is very careful that defendants’ earphones are working. Strangely, not one migrant seemed confused or unable to understand the magistrate’s questions. Although MacDonald speaks clearly, at times I could not hear the lawyers. When I asked for earphones, the interpreter/earphone employee said, “No.” As long as I could hear the magistrate, that was enough. Diana Coseillo-Reina suggested I file a complaint with the Clerk of the Court as this is a public access issue.