Roughly two dozen activists stopped two buses in Tucson carrying detained undocumented immigrants Friday as a protest against the federal immigration enforcement program Operation Streamline.
Immigrant rights groups in Arizona and elsewhere have long condemned Operation Streamline. The George W. Bush-era program convicts dozens of people at a time of illegal entry, a charge carrying a six-month sentence, before deporting them.
Protesters formed human chains around the wheels of one bus and placed a banner over the front reading “End Streamline.” Others blocked the gateway from the courthouse driveway, according to the Arizona Daily Star.
Fronteras desk reporter Michel Marizco posted an image from the scene to Twitter:
Proterers blocking operation Streamline now in Tucson pic.twitter.com/DUOGPfwxa4
— Michel Marizco (@borderreporter) October 11, 2013
The protesters livestreamed the event, chanting “CCA, go away,” a comment directed at the private prison company that operates three immigrant detention facilities in Arizona -- Central Arizona Detention Center, Eloy Detention Center and Florence Correctional Center.
“These buses represent Obama’s deportation policy,” a woman said during a livestream of the protest. “It is not his words, it is his actions.”
The Bush administration argued that jail time would act as a deterrent against illegal immigration when it launched Operation Streamline in 2005. But critics accuse the program of criminalizing migrants and trampling over due process.
“Anyone who witnesses Operation Streamline will come away convinced that it is both unconstitutional and immoral,” Roberto Cintli Rodriguez, a university professor and longtime writer on Latino and border issues, said in a press release. “There is no justice in that courtroom.”
As many as 74 detainees can be convicted in two hours under Operation Streamline, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Others have opposed Operation Streamline because they say it siphons off resources better used to combat violent crime.
“Rather than spend time prosecuting serious crimes including gun and drug trafficking and organized crime, federal lawyers now spend much of their time on misdemeanor illegal entry cases,” Astrid Dominguez, a border rights fellow with the Texas ACLU, told the Brownsville Herald in February. “This means we’re chasing immigrants instead of focusing on chasing serious crimes.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Public Affairs office could not be reached immediately for comment.
The budget for Operation Streamline would triple under the immigration reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate in July, according to NPR.
Friday’s protest was organized by the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, Puente Arizona, and other activist groups.
For more information about Operation Streamline, check out the HuffPost Live segment below