Operation Streamline Shut Down for Day, Tucson Activists Block Buses Filled with Migrants in Custody
***Please see updates at the bottom of this post***
Pro-immigrant activists chaining themselves to buses and a courthouse entrance today in Tucson forced a halt to Operation Streamline, a controversial federal program that prosecutes migrants arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol after they've entered the country illegally.
According to U.S. Marshal David Gonzales, early this morning two buses filled with migrants were en route to downtown Tucson's Evo A. DeConcini U.S. Courthouse when they were blocked by about a dozen activists.
The activists then chained themselves to bus wheels, using PVC pipe to form what's known as a "sleeping dragon," thus making it difficult for law enforcement to break through.
A second group of six demonstrators blocked a gated entrance to the rear of the courthouse, also by chaining themselves and employing PVC pipe. The activists issued a press release announcing the action with a link to livestreaming video from both locations at NotOneMoreDeportation.com, a site sponsored by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
As a result, Gonzales said he made the decision to cancel Streamline court for the day.
Demonstrators halting a bus filled with migrants, headed to Operation Streamline
"We didn't know how long they'd be tied up," Gonzales said. "So it was more the logistics of processing these persons for court. It takes deputy marshals several hours to do that."
The marshal said the hearing for the detainees would be postponed till the next business day, which will be Tuesday, after the federal Columbus Day holiday.
"They're in custody," Gonzales stated of the migrants. "They're not going anywhere till they see a judge."
According to our colleagues at the Tucson Weekly, police detached the demonstrators from the buses and arrested them around 12:30 p.m. A few minutes later, the protesters at the court's back entrance, "decided to unchain themselves, save the PVC pipe for the next action and end the protest."
Gonzales said those blocking the buses may be hit with state felony charges, possibly obstructing a criminal prosecution. The six at the gate were taken into custody by Federal Protective Service, the force that guards federal buildings, and will likely be charged with misdemeanors, according to the marshal.
Operation Streamline processes 70 recently-arrested migrants a day in Tucson during a mass hearing before one magistrate. Men and women who haven't showered for days are led into court, handcuffed to their waists, with shackles on their feet.