And At The End of the Day I Go Home

Operation Streamline feeds in a grand building with pillars and neck-craning ceilings, and I am reminded of a medieval courtroom with a monarch sitting high above, surveying his property. Pictures are prohibited so although this Tucson Tyrant wears no curled wig my mind’s a fool and I remember a king. Or does he resemble a forefather, face emblazoned in stone in the Sioux Nation’s land in South Dakota.

Like a black hole hope drains. The room is Despair, this is despotism, and whatever naïve conviction of General Human Decency held dear in my activist group is hacked apart as one brown man after another choruses “si” to mechanical questioning in erudite English translated to erudite Spanish that rots in the ears of those who speak native dialects. The judge’s words are stale. Isn’t he a good actor? We are scarecrows, juiced vegetables, beings fighting against and for sentience, blocking out for numbness, for self-protection while searching eagerly for mercy. My brain repeats, “there is no justice,” like elevator music to the proceedings, my own cyclical soliloquy. I’m surprised at this statement and my surprise is why I am permitted to leave at the end of the proceedings while others shuffle out, still in chains.

I check Yahoo News over the shoulder of a Federal marshal on his phone. “There is no justice.”

United States Law requires the judge to confirm that each man accepted the plea bargain “without coercion.” Another chorus of “si,” another row of crisp crisp crisp suited-up lawyers bending down to whisper in the ears of the blue-jeaned hombres, que bajan son ellos. One man fingers his hat and once again my mind’s a fool because his hat is a pageboy cap and he’s a Newsie in Newsies and there’s a strike and Labor Wins and The System Changes For The Better because of teamwork and the Pursuit of Happiness and because they’re pulling up at each other’s bootstraps. This strike is supposed to happen, the Newsies are supposed to redeem and create anew because “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”

A compañera says that the Government of the Free World pays $161 per day per prisoner. 2,910 total days sold this Thursday and my jaw drops because that’s $468,510. The machine – and what a marvelously efficient machine it is, with its click-clacking parts all in line, starting promptly at 1:30, no time to waste – spurts out $500,000 today and then gobbles it up again quickly. No one can realize that it is just one beast, his singular meal going in and out, swallowing and shitting and eating and shitting the money again.

Arizona is an “open carry” state so anyone can have a gun in public without permits but if you want to live here you must have papers on you.

The parade ends with a man in a government issued army-green shirt and no shoelaces telling the courtroom, in English, that his wife and children are being held hostage at “gunpoint.” They’re being “forced.” He uses the words “gunpoint” and “forced.” He got caught and they too are still in danger. The grand finale, he receives 180 days in prison, the maximum sentence given. The machine chugs on with haste. It has been re-oiled with this sentence and can carry on another day.

I expect a climax, an epilogue, a triple dismount stick it, a sense of weight, of remorse, of acknowledgement, anything for closure. I’m frantic for something in the grand room – I think in English they call that pulling at strings, is there a Spanish idiom too? I rise for the King when they tell me to but don’t I already do that every day? and I walk out, truncated, monotonous, cut.

Operation Streamline functions in seven United States border cities with the intent of efficiently convicting multiple migrants of “illegal entry” at once. While each migrant is given the option of a trial, he or she almost always opts out in favor of the “assembly line justice.” Essentially, each migrant meets with a court appointed lawyer for a few in order to accept the ‘deal’ put forward by the U.S. government by pleading guilty to “illegal reentry” and therefore avoiding going to court. It is important to note that Operation Streamline is considered a ‘proceeding’ not a trial. The purpose is to expedite the process of placing migrants into detention centers before they are eventually repatriated into their home countries. Streamline has created a new economic niche with jobs such as public defenders, court marshals, judges, interpreters, Border Patrol agents, clerks, and other legal staff now necessary to fill the courts. However, it has also cost the United States millions of dollars in fees and payments to personnel and corporations. Most importantly, it is a humanitarian disservice that provides a ‘one-size-fits-all’ type of (in)justice to many whose only crime was a desire for ‘a better life.’

 

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–IF

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