A photo taken from inside a Pecos, Texas immigration court shows dozens of illegal immigrants in orange jumpsuits, standing as they await their fate in a "mass trial" designed to expedite their deportation.
The proceedings, covered by reporter Debbie Nathan of The Intercept, have sparked controversy over the Trump administration's new "zero tolerance" policy which has led to separated families amid a report that the Department of Health and Human Services has lost track of 1,475 unaccompanied migrant children who had been placed with sponsors.
“You’re going to be deported,” she remembers them telling her. “And your child will stay here.” The next morning, the child was taken. Delia fell on her knees during the removal, wailing and begging not to be separated. Officials looked on indifferently,” https://t.co/my3htM79m6
— Trenni Kusnierek (@trenni) June 3, 2018
In short, prospective migrants who choose to circumvent America's immigration laws have to weigh the risk of losing their children against the dangers of remaining in their country of origin.
Each day was the same. The courtroom was filled with exhausted immigrants, with hands cuffed and shackled to their waists, their legs in chains — dozens of defendants stumbling, shuffling, clanking, and clanging in tandem. “Raise your right hand,” Morgan commanded as a translator spoke Spanish into their headphones. The shackled defendants struggled to comply.
The judge’s job is to determine if defendants understand the criminal charges against them and whether they feel they have had adequate legal representation. If they say they want to plead guilty, he asks whether they are doing so of their own free will. After that, they can make a statement — an “allocution” — and then the judge sentences them. -The Intercept
Last month Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a "zero tolerance" policy in which federal prosecutors are to criminally charge every single immigrant who enters the country illegally - expanding a program called Operation Streamline introduced in 2005 under the Obama administration, and facilitated the aforementioned mass trials currently in use.
'Today, we are here to send a message to the world: we are not going to let this country be overwhelmed... If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you,' said Sessions.
50,924 illegal border crossers were detained in April alone, which included 4,314 unaccompanied minors and 9,647 family units, according to data from the US Customs and Border Patrol.
Reporting on the migrants has taken a toll on The Intercept's Nathan, who told Chron.com "It's horrible, I've been pretty broken by all of this," and that witnessing mass trials in Brownsville and El Paso were "some of the most upsetting things she's witnessed during her career."