Grinding Justice

Operation Streamline costs millions, tramples the Constitution, treats migrants like cattle and doesn't work.

On one hot Saturday afternoon at the Grupos Beta station, a slight young man on the verge of tears comes forward to relate his Streamline experience.

The man had been crossing with his wife, five months pregnant, when they were both arrested by the Border Patrol. They'd been heading for Salinas, where they'd hoped to find work in the fields.

He saw her after their capture, but they were separated when he went to court before Judge Velasco, who gave him time served after he pleaded guilty to illegal entry. He had no idea where his wife was, whether she was safe, or whether their first child together was still well in her womb.

A bus for private prisons giant Corrections Corporation of America picks up migrants
sentenced to time in custody by a Tucson magistrate.
Stephen Lemons
A bus for private prisons giant Corrections Corporation of America picks up migrants sentenced to time in custody by a Tucson magistrate.
Outside Grupos Beta in Nogales, Sonora, both Jose (left) and Elena (right) describe going
through Streamline court in Tucson.
Dennis Gillman
Outside Grupos Beta in Nogales, Sonora, both Jose (left) and Elena (right) describe going through Streamline court in Tucson.

After court, the man asked Border Patrol agents what happened to his wife. All they would tell him was that she already had left.

He has a photo of his wife, a pretty woman with indigenous features. No one at Grupos Beta has seen her yet. He says they're both from Oaxaca. He seems utterly helpless, distraught.

Complicating matters was the fact that his wife gave the Border Patrol a different name. The Tucson-based human-rights group Derechos Humanos later attempted to locate her, with no luck.

And by that time, they had lost contact with the husband, as well.

Chalk up two more lives upended in the pitiless mechanism known as Streamline.

Operation Streamline's a mega-expensive quagmire that fattens the U.S. Border Patrol's budget and enriches private corporations. It diverts resources from pursuing serious crimes, such as human smuggling and drug and gun trafficking.

Streamline's critics complain that the program's arbitrary and inhumane, violating due-process and effective-use-of-counsel requirements of the U.S. Constitution.

Anti-migrant zealots want every apprehended undocumented alien processed and removed through Streamline's en masse court proceedings. It's estimated that this would cost a billion dollars a year in the Border Patrol's Tucson sector alone.

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