Eight at a time in a Tucson federal courtroom, migrants mostly from Mexico and Central America stand in front of judge to utter “culpable,” declaring themselves guilty of entering the U.S. illegally, primarily through the Arizona desert. The Operation Streamline hearing ends in just about two hours, but some have lasted as little as a half hour. The convicted migrants file out of the courtroom with dejected looks, says the Christian Science Monitor. In U.S. attempts to address illegal immigration, Operation Streamline is a stark front line. Started in 2005, when arrests for illegal border crossings were peaking, its goal is to get tough on undocumented immigrants. Once simply shuffled back to their homelands, undocumented immigrants now face criminal charges under Operation Streamline in an attempt to discourage them from coming.
In Washington, support seems to be increasing. The comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013, which was seen as a moderate, bipartisan effort, would have tripled Operation Streamline's budget . Among immigration activists, opposition has grown fiercer. In October 2013, activists chained themselves to two buses carrying migrants to the courthouse. The program shut down that day. Operation Streamline represents the worst fears of immigration activists: humans herded and jailed for crossing the border to find jobs and visit loved ones. It is also an example of the sort of practical approach to enforcement that conservatives demand for immigrants who break the law. Operation Streamline gives a glimpse at precisely the sorts of compromises that will have to struck if a deal on comprehensive immigration reform is to be struck.