I've tried to make sense of it. I've realized there is little to none to be found, so instead I'll copy my journal from that experience. I think my random, sporadic, initial reactions as a witness in that room will better illustrate the experience than if I were to labour days over this post to really hone in on an explanation of it altogether.
Brief explanation of what is Operation Streamline:
It's a federal program to deter people from immigrating illegally to the states by putting them on a mass trial (about 70 people on trial at once) and giving the person a jailstay and a criminal record. The intention behind it is that the person entering illegally would be so distraught after his 30-90 day jail stay and criminal record he's now received, and the threat of a felony and impossibility to ever enter the US legally if he were to do it again, that he would go and tell all of his peers not to do it as to deter them as well.----
There is a smell in this courtroom. It's a mix between blatant hypocrisy and total paralytic fear. It's a hanging reminder of the overall "rotten" idea of the "Operation."
It's a wierd feeling, flood of emotion being in this court room watching these precedings. The actual set up of the room- the wooden witness benches, the leather seats for the jury, the sides for both sets of lawyers, resembles what I learned about in the textbooks in school, and my one and only prior experience in a courtroom. I was so priveleged growing up that my initial experience of a courtroom was playing- participating in Mock Trial. But the real mockery here is what's going on in front of me. "A fair and speedy trial," my ass. The defendants, yes- you read that right- defendants (usually between 40-70), fill the twelve leather seats off to the side for the jury, and the first few rows of the witness benches. Today there are around 50 people sitting in front of me, all on trial at once.
The judge asks the lawyers- "Have you each had sufficient time to meet with your client?"
One of the lawyers didn't even have time to be in the courtroom with his client right now, nevertheless to have spent the appropriate time preparing for the trial. (note- I later learned that as a part of this "operation," the lawyers are given 30 minutes to meet with their client the morning before his/her case.)
Some of the lawyers surrounding me sit shuffling papers, looking important and driven. The lawyer right in front of me, however, is playing a game on his iPhone.
The judge says "I want to make it clear to you the rights you individually have" to the group of 50 on trial, at once.
"Has anyone forced you to plead guilty?" This question got to me every time I heard it. Those on trial had been taught to answer "si" and "no" accordingly- making the precedings seem more like a play, where they're performing some memorized and practiced actions, rather than an actual trial. No one may have forced the hand of any of these men and women to plead guilty, but, coming from three-five days in the desert, being reprimanded, threatened that he will be separated from his family, one is not left with another real option.
The first wave of 6 men completed their "fair and speedy trial," and preceded out of the courtroom- in handcuffs and with chains around their ankles, passing right past my line of sight as they exited the door to the right. The first "offender" to walk out of the courtroom was laughing hysterically. It's like he understood the joke that this process makes of our judicial system.
Another question asked by the judge to each group of 6 as they stood their "individual" trials- "Any legal reasoning why the court shouldn't accept these please of guilty?"- Yes. This isn't how our system is supposed to operate. This isn't a fair trial. I see no jury of peers.
This is disgusting. Me da asco. Right now, I regret my citizenship. I regret that my government is playing this role, and putting on this trial. I don't even understand why this system is in place at all- it is masquerading as something that follows the US court systems and procedures.
It's as far of a cry from the system I learned about in school, and how it's supposed to work, as if the 50 individuals "on trial" here today had been tazed, tortured, ripped of their dignity, and kicked over the border.