Differential Criminalization under Operation Streamline: Challenges to Freedom of Movement and Humanitarian Aid Provision in the Mexico-US Borderlands

Andrew Burridge


On January 14, 2008, under the wider program of the Arizona Denial Prosecution Initiative, Operation Streamline was put into effect in the Tucson Sector of the Mexico-US borderlands. Initially implemented in Del Rio, Texas, this program—aimed at mass incarceration of undocumented persons to reduce repeated migration attempts—has been most rigorously applied in the Tucson Sector, known as both the busiest and deadliest corridor for migration. Every day approximately seventy migrants are apprehended by the US Border Patrol and then sentenced for up to 180 days imprisonment. I consider Operation Streamline and its impacts on undocumented migrants through the lens of local organizing, particularly by the humanitarian aid group No More Deaths, asserting that such policies—which further militarize the border and justify criminalization of migrants in the public eye—put bodies at greater risk, even before they are prosecuted, through practices of spatial containment that add to the rigours of crossing the Sonoran Desert. In this work I explore the methods in which grassroots humanitarian aid groups apply practices of direct action to challenge such policies and promote freedom of movement.

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