When former President George W. Bush’s administration saw a spike in arrests at America’s southern border, he spearheaded Operation Streamline and opened a handful of fast-paced courts to clear a backlog of immigration trials.
The program still exists today, and can crank out eight deportation verdicts in as little as four minutes. That’s about one verdict every 30 seconds — a rapid-fire pace that lawyers, and even one judge, say is probably too fast for defendants to understand, BuzzFeed News reports.
Operation Streamline kicked off in 2005 with a few courts in Texas. It’s since expanded to New Mexico, Arizona, and, just this week, California. Under the program, migrants are given public attorneys who are often juggling multiple cases in a day, BuzzFeed News says. The defendants get 20 to 40 minutes with a lawyer before they’re shuffled into a courtroom with a handful of other migrants, where they’re given headsets that translate English proceedings to Spanish — even if that’s not their native language.
Attorneys and activists say the system results in most migrants pleading guilty and being deported, likely without a clue what’s happening. Lawyers who spoke to BuzzFeed News acknowledge how problematic this can seem — and so did one immigration judge. “I am aware that a person could probably make it through the proceedings without a thorough understanding of their rights and the court proceedings,” U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Bowman said during one case.
But some defense attorneys say the quick pace is actually better than proceedings before Operation Streamline. Under the previous process, migrants often waited in detention for weeks or months before getting a trial; now, they’re detained for less than 72 hours and sent on the first bus home. Read more at BuzzFeed News. Kathryn Krawczyk