Shocking photo shows 37 accused illegal immigrants being processed at once

  • A leaked photo from a Texas courthouse shows 37 people accused of illegally entering the US being processed at once.
  • In these type of trials, defendants are often expected to answer questions in unison to save time.
  • It's illegal to take photos in federal court, but somebody broke the rules to get the image out.
  • The image has been circulating online in the legal community, and was published recently by The Intercept. 
  • Although it looks unfamiliar, trials like this have been going on in border courts for more than a decade.
  • The Trump's administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy is making such scenes more common.


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, taken illegally and 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 late last week.

Photo Credit: Federal Courthouse, Pecos, Tex. Courtesy of Debbie Nathan

Taking and broadcasting photos in courtrooms is illegal under US law. The image has nonetheless been circulating among attorneys and legal workers around Texas since April this year, 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 were in orange jumpsuits, while those in Brownsville were in street clothing, she said.

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Central American migrants traveling in 'caravan'
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Central American migrants traveling in 'caravan'

Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, gather at a makeshift centre of Mexico's National Institute of Migration to register, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 4, 2018.

(REUTERS/Henry Romero)

Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, are seen after spending the night at a sports centre in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Henry Romero)

Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, sleep at a sports centre in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, sleep underneath a blanket at a sports field in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, board a bus bound to Puebla, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, are seen on board a bus bound for Puebla, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, walk to the bus station to take a bus bound for Puebla, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, gather to board a bus bound for Puebla, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A man from Honduras, part of a caravan of Central American migrants moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, carries his belongings before taking a bus bound for Puebla, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, walk to the bus station to take a bus bound for Puebla, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, get ready to take a bus bound for Puebla, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A Central American migrant, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, looks at a mobile phone while resting at a sports field in Matias Romero, Mexico April 4, 2018. Picture taken April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A child, part of a caravan of Central American migrants moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, peeks from underneath a blanket after waking up at a sports field in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, sleep at a sports centre in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Children, part of a caravan of Central American migrants moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, sleep at a sports centre in Matias Romero, Mexico April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A Central American migrant, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, rest at a sports field, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A Central American migrant, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, plays with a child at a sports field, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A man stands near a boiling pot as Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, gather at a sports field, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, rest at a sports field, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, rest at a sports centre, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Central American migrants, part of a caravan moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, stand in line to register at a makeshift centre of Mexico's National Institute of Migration, in Matias Romero, Mexico April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero
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In Brownsville, a judge questioned and sentenced as many 40 defendants in one go, Nathan described in The Intercept.

Defendants answered questions like "Are each of you satisfied with the help of the lawyer? Has anyone offered you anything or threatened you?" in unison.

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.

However, 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.

Read the full story at The Intercept.

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SEE ALSO: What happens to immigrants who cross the border seeking asylum when we have a 'zero-tolerance' policy

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