The roughly 70 immigrant detainees traveling in the two buses blocked by immigration activists in Tucson on Friday have been deported, the Arizona Daily Star reports.
Citing attorney Margo Cowan, who also represents the DREAM 9 for their asylum cases, the paper reports that the detainees were deported through Calexico, Calif. and Del Rio, Texas. But there was a silver lining for activists -- none of the detainees received jail time because their protest disrupted Friday's court proceedings.
Two dozen protesters stopped two buses carrying detainees on Friday to protest a federal immigration program designed to slap undocumented immigrants with a criminal offense before deporting them. Launched in 2005, the George W. Bush administration argued that Operation Streamline would reduce illegal immigration by charging offenders with a criminal count of illegal entry and making them serve jail time before deporting them.
Activists livestreamed images of themselves chained around the wheels of the buses and linked into a human fence in front of the Tucson courthouse parking to lot to keep the buses from moving. The detainees were headed to the courthouse to face charges of illegal entry, according to the Arizona Daily Star.
But the protest delayed the detainees' arrival, making it impossible for them to meet with an attorney before facing court proceedings, KTIC Radio reports. By Saturday they had been deported, without trial.
Tucson police arrested 16 of the demonstrators and charged them with hindering prosecution in the first degree, a felony, according to the Phoenix New Times. They were released on their own recognizance within hours.
Immigrant rights activists have protested the Operation Streamline repeatedly over the years, arguing that the practice of convicting people en masse raises due process questions and criminalizes undocumented immigrants that are normally detained and deported under civil law.
Courts in Tucson convict up to 74 people in two hours under Operation Streamline, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Opponents of Operation Streamline also argue that the program siphons off resources better used to prosecute violent criminals.
This post has been updated to add reports that detainees did not receive jail time before being deported.