During my trip to the border, I spent one afternoon viewing an Operation Streamline court hearing. This program was started in 2005 by the Bish Administration to process migrants crossing the boarder illegally through the criminal justice system. The National Immigration Forum describes the program as follows:
Operation Streamline forces undocumented migrants through the federal criminal justice system and into U.S. prisons. Those who are caught making a first entry are prosecuted for misdemeanors punishable by up to 6 months in prison, and those who reenter after deportation may be prosecuted for felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Under this fast-track program, a federal criminal case with prison and deportation consequences is resolved in 2 days or less.
So, when people are detained, many times in the Arizona desert, they are held for only a few days. Then, they are persuaded to plead guilty to the misdemeanor, to avoid going through an official court proceeding. Once they plead guilty, they are sentenced to serve time in a detention center from 30 to 180 days, before being deported. The cost of detaining one person is roughly $165 per day. The purpose of Operation Streamline is to have an efficient system to punish and then deport immigrants.
As I sat in the courtroom during the Operation streamline proceedings, over 100 individuals were sentenced to time in detention centers within one hour. They all stood in front of the judge with their hands and feet in chains. They were not treated like humans. And I, the onlooker, could only sit there and watch these immigrants be treated like lesser people. Though the intent for Operation Streamline was created to maximize efficiency, instead it is a money making machine for the private prison industry. Those who finance detention centers profit off of taxpayer dollars every time an immigrant is detained for crossing the border.
To expose the injustices occurring in detention centers, three DREAMers infiltrated these institutions in various parts of the country. What they found was that there are many low-priority immigrants that should not be detained under the Immigration and Customs Enforcement laws. While in the detention centers, the DREAMers got media exposure to raise awareness of this issue, while educating and organizing the immigrants within the respective detention center. The DREAMers exposed the truth about the private prison system resulting in the unjust treatment and detention of low-priority immigrant cases for the sake of profit.
We, as the body of Christ, cherish every human life, no matter their race, legal status, or any other division that separates us. We need to educate others about the private prison system, and promote justice for all of God’s children.
1. Imagine you have immigrated to another country not knowing the language, how would you be more vulnerable to abuse or injustice?
2. What stories in the Bible or Scripture come to mind when thinking about the issue of detention centers and private prisons?
3. How can you help support justice for wrongfully detained immigrants through your church or in you community?