Archive for December, 2017

Operation Streamline: Fast Tracking Deportation

In November, I traveled to the School of the Americas’ (SOA) Encuentro Watch to learn more about immigration and the demilitarization of the US-Mexico border. Upon arrival, I was picked up from the Tucson airport and driven to US District Court Pro SE Office in Tucson, Arizona. This courthouse is noteworthy, because it is one of the three courts in the country that utilizes Operation Streamline.

Before arriving in Tucson I knew nothing about Operation Streamline, but assumed it was some system to speed-up immigration. Well, I was kind of right, but it is much more about deportation and far worse than I had imagined.

Quick Overview

Operation Streamline is a joint effort by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice initiated in 2005 in an effort to impose zero-tolerance immigration enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border. Prior to Operation Streamline, most apprehended undocumented immigrants faced civil deportation proceedings in court while criminal charges were typically reserved for undocumented immigrants with prior criminal records or repeat entrants. Under Operation Streamline, all unauthorized immigrants are charged with criminal violations of the federal law and face prosecution for ‘illegal entry’ or ‘illegal re-entry’.

En Masse Hearings

Under Operation Streamline, defendants are tried in en masse hearings, meaning that up to 80 individuals can be tried simultaneously. Upon apprehension, undocumented immigrants are detained for 1-12 days before their hearing. Typically, defendants receive court-appointed attorneys or public defenders, who represent dozens of defendants at once (sometimes during the same trial).  Defendants are not given time prior to their hearing to meet with their attorney. As a result, the defendants have little or no time to understand the charges against them, consider plea offers, or discuss legal relief options. This hinders legitimate claims for immigration relief, such as asylum. Most en masse hearings are condensed into one day.

Due to the rapid and dehumanizing nature of en masse hearings, due process is not observed, and important distinctions are lost or ignored. For example, public defenders have reported being appointed to represent U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, as a result of Operation Streamline.

Once convicted of illegal entry or re-entry, the defendant is sent to a detention center or private prison to serve their jail time, and upon completion of the sentence is deported. With a criminal record, it is extremely difficult to pursue legal entry or immigration options to the United States.

Prison Time

Private prisons have greatly profited from Operation Streamline due to the constant flow of new prisoners. Repeat offenders typically receive a sentence of 30-180 days, with a maximum of 20 years. In Tucson alone, incarceration costs are estimated at $63 billion annually, in addition to the legal costs.

Operation Streamline was created to further deter unauthorized entry into the United States through Mexico. However, there is no statistical evidence indicating that Operation Streamline is correlated with such a decrease. Instead, it has become more dangerous to cross into the U.S., resulting in the loss of many lives.

Many Americans are unaware of Operation Streamline and how it has been used to create a whole new class of people labeled as “criminals,” even though they have not violated any criminal law. While standing outside of the Federal Court in the searing Tucson sun, I listened to the stories of those directly affected by Operation Streamline. These stories had much in common, insofar as they were told by upstanding members of society attempting to take hold of the American Dream, but forcibly removed from the place they call home.

The first step to combat Operation Streamline is knowledge. Americans need to know that their tax dollars are being used to fund the criminalization and deportation of thousands of children, women, and men seeking a better life. We have developed a fact sheet to boil down this issue.

Various faith groups and humanitarian organizations urged former Attorney General Loretta Lynch to shutdown Operation Streamline and continue to pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Join their efforts by calling your legislator or Jeff Sessions to let them know you do not condone Operation Streamline and would like to see it ended.

Here is how you can find and contact your elected officials.

You can contact Jeff Sessions through the DOJ.

If you’d like a more condensed version, we also have a one-page Operation Streamline Factsheet you can share. 

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Adventures in the “Land of Lakes and Volcanoes”

It has been a little over a month since we got back from the “land of lakes and volcanoes,” ‘aka’ Nicaragua, a delegation of six individuals from different lives who willfully spent a week together in another country where language was a barrier for some. It was like a social justice version of MTV’s The Real-World. And, unlike the 90s tv show, it was both a positive and eye-opening experience.

Oftentimes when people from the States go to other countries in the Americas, like Nicaragua, in which not everything is manicured, they talk about a “humbling” experience. But “humbling” seems very pompous and arrogant and overall comes off as if to say, “Oh, look how the poor live. I’m glad I’m not poor.” When humbling is a description of an experience that stems from viewing poverty, it just doesn’t seem appropriate to me.

So Nicaragua, to me, wasn’t humbling; it was different yet familiar. Nicaragua, in particular, Managua, represents a simpler time when people weren’t ruled by technology or social media. Yes, there are phones, internet and all those things related to the technology age but the Nicaraguan people had limits. They enjoy each other’s presence; they converse. And so, naturally, did our delegation. Being the youngest in the group and an admitted Instagram addict, talking to strangers, using my phone to actually make phone calls instead of using it like a computer, going on long car rides to rural areas and simply enjoying the beauty of nature were all a little odd, but refreshing. Being in Nicaragua, I felt like I could breathe freely without being (or watching) a screen. It was great!

The purpose of our trip to Nicaragua was to catch up, face-to-face, with our local partners: the Institute of John XXIII (the Institute) and FEDICAMP. Although we’re in contact via email and Skype from our home office in Maryland, being able to see the work being done and directly talking (in Spanish) to the families affected by such work was fantastic.

We got to see homes being built and spoke to multiple families about the experience of having a safe place to live and raise their family. I was excited for the families  but also because I saw strong community connections developing due to the way our Homes of Hope program responds to the different needs and conditions of the communities in which it is carried out.

The journey to Esteli provided another opportunity to bond with other members of the delegation as we travelled the open road. Once in Esteli, we were able to visit a number of families impacted by FEDICAMP’s work with the community. We spoke to students, families, and women entrepreneurs who are very active in addressing sustainable agricultural needs (such as access to water) for the greater community.

The Institute and FEDICAMP, along with the communities they serve, think like a team and move like a team, because they are one. So, too, was the Quixote Center and our delegation. We looked out for each other’s well-being. Seeing that theme present throughout the trip made me really proud to be a part of the delegation, to be a staff member at the Quixote Center, and to be associated with great partners such as the Institute and FEDICAMP.

I definitely saw some beautiful lakes (not so much the volcanoes) but surrounding those natural elements were the beautiful people and their fight for social change. Nicaragua made me realize even more that I have a responsibility to take care of the planet. On top of that, I have a responsibility to work alongside different communities because, although we may look different, at the end of the day we all want a safe place to sleep, good food in our bellies, and an opportunity to have a positive impact. Overall my trip was great. I highly recommend Nicaragua as your next adventure. Come join us on the next delegation!


**Photo: Fertility statue common in Nicaragua.**

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Country Highlights: Yemen & Syria

Part VII of a series on TPS

Missed the last blog?

There is a renewed hope for those in the United States under Temporary Protected Status. There are three acts proposed in congress, the Dream Act, the SECURE Act of 2017, and the Temporary Protected Status Reform Act of 2017, all of which aim to create a more stable permanent solution to TPS.

Yemen and Syria are the most recent countries granted TPS, and receive it due to armed conflict in both regions. Though TPS for Yemen and Syria are not set to expire soon, it is nevertheless important to understand why they continue to receive TPS and recognize the intricacies and uniqueness of the man-made crises each country faces.



2016 Statistics*

  • 24 million Yemenis are food insecure
  • 8 million live in areas directly affected by conflict
  • 1 million are in need of humanitarian assistance
  • 8 million are forcibly internally displaced


The Yemen Civil War stems from popular anti-government uprisings during the Arab Spring in 2011. Amid the uprisings President Saleh was forced to sign his powers over to Vice President Hadi, due to mounting pressure from the US, UK, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to step down after he led violent crackdowns on the demonstrations. The transition of leadership was meant to bring stability to Yemen. However, this was hindered due to government corruption, high unemployment, food insecurity, military officers remaining loyal to Saleh, and attacks by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Houthi Movement took advantage of the Hadi government’s weakness, and seized large portion of Yemen, forcing Hadi to flee the country in March of 2015.

Foreign powers led by Saudi Arabia launched offensive interventions to support the Hadi government against the Houthi Rebel Movement, who aligned with Saleh’s loyalists. In the midst of infighting, the Islamic State (ISIS) entered Yemen and fought for control over regions. The civilian population has suffered immensely from direct violence carried out by all sides.

Since the violence broke out in 2015, several UN-led peace talked and cease fires have failed to halt the civil war. The war has resulted in one of the largest man-made humanitarian crises in the world.



2016 Statistics*

  • 470,000 dead from conflict
  • 1 million internally displaced
  • 8 million seeing refuge abroad
  • 1 million people living in besieged areas without access to humanitarian aid


Like Yemen, Syria’s conflict stems from the Arab Spring when school children were arrested for drawing anti-government graffiti on a school in Daraa. The arrests resulted in huge anti-government demonstrations. The Assad government used deadly force to crackdown on the demonstrations, resulting in the death of dozens and triggering nationwide protests.

As the uprising continued, Assad’s crackdown intensified, resulting in flagrant human rights violations. The mounting opposition began to take up arms throughout the country to both defend themselves, and to expel government security forces from their region. The violence quickly escalated, resulting in a civil war, which left a power vacuum allowing the ISIS to gain territory and power in Syria.

Assad government forces, ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other non-state armed groups are responsible for systematic and wide-spread violations of human rights, including targeting civilian with artillery, kidnapping, executions, use of child soldiers, torture, rape, and unlawful blocking of humanitarian aid. This war has created the largest refugee crisis since World War II and has torn apart the region.

Humanitarian aid is increasingly inaccessible in both Syria and Yemen, due to the volatility in the region as conditions continue to worsen. It is vital to continue to provide an escape from the violence for Yemenis and Syrians here under TPS. Please call your legislators to encourage them to sign on to an act to create a permanent solution for TPS.


*Most recent statistics available, likely to change

Up Next:

Country Highlight: Nepal – coming January 12th 


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Take Action in Defense of Democracy in Honduras

The crisis in Honduras in the wake of the November 26 election continues.  As documented here by Rick Sterling the evidence suggests strongly that the ruling National Party tampered with the voting process to ensure victory for Juan Orlando Hernandez:

After midnight on election night, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) stopped posting updates and effectively shut down for the next 36 hours. The TSE’s president, David Matamoros Batson, said the TSE had received 13,000 tally sheets but was missing 6,000 from the total. With just over 18,000 total, this does not quite add up. Then two hours later, Matamoros increased the number of missing tally sheets to 7,500.

When updates resumed, mid-day last Tuesday, the results consistently favored the incumbent right-wing President Juan Orlando Hernandez. The opposition lead steadily diminished then disappeared.

The leader of the Opposition Coalition against the Dictatorship, Salvador Nasralla, denounced the apparent malfeasance and protests commenced across the country. Police and military have sometimes responded violently. Numerous unarmed Hondurans have been killed over the past five days.

On Monday, more than a week after the election, the TSE announced results giving a narrow victory to the incumbent National Party President Juan Orlando Hernandez. As mass protests continue, the opposition has demanded a recount of all the tally sheets received after the TSE shutdown.

The situation continues to evolve. Protests have continued. The police, remarkably, announced that they would no longer enforce a curfew or prevent peaceful protests. A welcome respite after 10 days of state violence that left at least 13 people dead and hundreds detained.

The United States has some responsibility for events. It has provided military and police assistance to Honduran forces, despite years of evidence of complicity with human rights violations since the coup in June of 2009. Just this week it was announced that the Trump administration had certified Honduras as making sufficient strides in the protection of human rights to continue to receive aid – close to $55 million in the upcoming fiscal year. The Obama administration made a similar certification last year, claiming that Honduras had made significant progress to “protect the right of political opposition parties, journalists, trade unionists, human rights defenders, and other civil society activists to operate without interference.” A description sorely at odds with events on the ground.

As events continue to unfold we join with other human rights and solidarity organizations to demand that the U.S. government respect the democratic process. We invite all of you to contact your members of congress and demand that the U.S. respect the democratic process in Honduras.

You can call the U.S. Capital Switchboard to directly contact your Senators and Representatives: (202) 224-3121.  Get their phone numbers and email addresses; send them copies of this and other information; politely insist that they agree to any and all of the following demands; share your efforts with the media, family, friends and networks.

In the short term, the U.S. government and politicians must:

  • Publicly condemn the multiple acts of documented electoral fraud being carried out by the corrupt, military-backed government of Juan Orlando Hernandez and the National party;
  • Publicly condemn the suspension of constitutional rights, the imposition of a curfew and the acts of police and military repression happening across Honduras against anti-electoral fraud protesters and other citizens;
  • State unequivocally that the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez and the National Party will be held fully accountable for any and all electoral fraud and repression taking place;
  • Immediately suspend all economic, military, police and other “security” related relations with the corrupt, repressive government in power;
  • Advocate for a complete recount of ALL votes, carried out under full national and international supervision, or a new run-off election is held under full national and international supervision.
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Country Highlights: Somalia & South Sudan

Part VI of a series on TPS

Missed the last blog?

The Trump Administration is proving ruthless in their mission to limit immigration to the United States. Within the last two months, the Department of Homeland Security has ended TPS for two out of the 10 TPS-designated countries. However, there is a glimmer of hope for the remaining countries; DHS extended TPS for Sudan in September, showing some leniency and willingness to continue the program.

Between Somalia and South Sudan, 320 individuals are in the U.S. under the protection of TPS due to civil war and extreme violence in both countries. Though there are few TPS recipients from Somalia and South Sudan, compared to other TPS designated countries, we must remember they had a long and likely treacherous journey to reach the United States, and the number of recipients is no measure of their relative importance or the gravity of the conditions they left behind.


South Sudan

South Sudan received a freedom in the world score of 5/100 from Freedom House due to a lack of political rights, an inoperative government, an absence of civil liberties, and ineffective rule of law. South Sudan gained independence in 2011, and it has been at civil war since 2013, after President Salva Kiir (a Dinka) fired Vice President Riek Machar (a Nuer), deepening the division between the ethnic groups.

Violence was centered in Juba, the capital, but has since spread throughout the country. The UN and the African Union have reported government forces and armed ethnic militias directly targeting civilians, for murder, rape and torture. As of 2016, 1.9 million South Sudanese were internally displaced; there were 1.5 million refugees in neighboring countries; death toll estimates were in the tens of thousands; and ethnic cleansing was underway in parts of the country.



This year Somalia received a 5/100 freedom in the world score from Freedom House due to grave human rights abuses, a lack of a free or stable government, and judiciary rife with impunity, among other things. The country is divided between three major actors: the internationally-supported national government, the separatist government, and al-Shabaab – all of which are fighting for legitimacy, power, and territory. This infighting has resulted in the loss of thousands of civilian lives, internally displaced persons, and loss of infrastructure.

According to reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as of 2016, 1.1 million Somalis were internally displaced; an additional 1.1 million Somalis refugees were in other countries; and over 50,000 civilians had been killed. Al-Shabaab routinely carries out guerilla-style assaults, public beheadings, bombings, and targeted attacks against civilians and civilian structures, such as schools and hotels. Al-Shabaab is not the only group responsible for violence against civilians. Reports from the UN confirm that both the Somali Federal Government (SFG) and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) are responsible for human rights and international law violations, including rape and indiscriminately killing citizens.

It is feared that the return of Somalis and South Sudanese from abroad will further exacerbate the crisis in both countries. The sheer amount of violence alone has made the return of citizens from abroad impossible. Coupled with the lack of economic opportunity and sustainable infrastructure, the return of South Sudanese and Somalis migrants appears unfathomable.

Please continue to call and write your legislators to fight for the renewal of TPS and to support the SECURE Act, which would create a pathway to permanent residency for TPS holders.


Up Next:

Country Highlights: Yemen and Syria – coming December 15th

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)