US judges have been operating mass trials, which dozens of defendants are charged and sentenced in one go, for border immigration cases since 2005 as part of "Operation Streamline." Such scenes have increased lately because of the rolling out of Trump's ""zero-tolerance" policy on immigration.
A leaked photograph shows 37 defendants in orange prison jumpsuits shackled at the hands and feet to be processed en masse as part of the ongoing US clampdown on illegal immigration.
The image, leaked to the media, gives an unfamiliar glimpse into "Operation Streamline," a prosecution system in which up to 70 defendants in immigration cases can be charged and sentenced at once.
The photo, taken in the ceremonial courtroom at the Lucius D. Bunton Federal Courthouse in Pecos, Texas, was first sent to Debbie Nathan, a journalist in Texas covering the US-Mexico border, and published in The Intercept last week.
Taking and broadcasting photos in courtrooms is illegal under US law. The image has nonetheless been circulating among attorneys and legal workers in Texas since April, Nathan told Business Insider.
Such mass trials are not confined to Pecos: Similar scenes have been taking place in magistrates courts in the Texan cities of Brownsville, Laredo, and El Paso as recently as last week, Nathan told Business Insider. Defendants in Laredo and El Paso wore orange jumpsuits, while those in Brownsville were in street clothing, she said.
In Brownsville, a judge questioned and sentenced as many 40 defendants in one go, Nathan described in The Intercept. In unison, defendants answered questions such as "Are each of you satisfied with the help of the lawyer?" and "Has anyone offered you anything or threatened you?" In one case, public defendants had less than two hours to speak with a total of 41 defendants, working out to just a few minutes per person.
Mass trials like this have been happening on and off since Operation Streamline came into force in 2005, Nathan said. But officials have been cracking down even harder on cases along the US-Mexico border immigration since last month, when the the Trump administration instituted a "zero-tolerance" policy in which even those crossing the border fleeing violence would be prosecuted.
People fleeing violence or seeking asylum would be tried, and children would also be separated from their parents, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last month.