I spent two days observing firsthand many of the existing southern-border issues dealing mostly with migrants who were claiming asylum, whether at a port of entry or after illegally crossing the border.  However, I did get to spend half-a-day in Federal Court

It was an eye-opening experience.  The court docket was devoted to “1325” cases, improper entry into the United State. There were about 50 defendants who all pleaded guilty to the offense and used the same pro-bono attorney. All had been arrested over the weekend.  

The trial consisted of the judge asking the same five questions four times — three in group responses and once individually:

• Can you understand me through the Spanish interpreter’s headphone?

• Has your crime been read to you in Spanish?

• Have you spoken with your court appointed lawyer in Spanish?

• Do you know that you can say anything you want, but you don’t have to say anything?

• Have you been coerced into or promised anything for pleading guilty? 

I saw this as the judge’s attempt to prevent some ACLU lawyer coming back later and requesting a mistrial. But the repetition wasn’t the big waste.  

The big waste was the men being here in the first place. This “crime” is a felony punishable by 10 days in jail and a $10 fine.  There was absolutely no indication that these offenders had any nefarious intentions in their crossing.  It really appeared that they were in Brownsville for a weekend visit to — girlfriend, grandmother; or Thanksgiving dinner.  With the current immigration code, the process to get such a weekend pass takes 6-18 months to obtain. Prior to the terrorist-driven border security, visits like this were commonplace. Now they’ve been replaced with dedicated, expensive border patrol officers to apprehend these criminals, federal and public lawyers to prosecute them, and an expensive judge and court room to assess a $10 fine or time served!  

The most disappointing venue I observed was — Southwest Key — Casa Padre. I had to observe it from a distance because it is a “secured” building.  It is a converted Walmart. 

The latest internet information indicated it houses about 1,200 children — average age is 14-15 years old.  Although there are some children here who were “separated” from their parents after they crossed, by far the majority crossed the border unaccompanied.  All accounts from the few visitors that have been allowed inside are the facilities are clean, well-managed and reasonably suitable for that age group.  

The disappointing part came from the unexplained, but obvious secrecy of the detention center. Our group was observing the facility from an adjoining parking lot.  We noticed a security guard had come from a guard shack and was taking our picture. Two of our members quickly went over to talk to her with their phones out, ready to take pictures. With a tight mouth she told them they weren’t allowed to take pictures, but she couldn’t say anything else.  She turned and went back inside the shack.

Although I didn’t get all the information I wanted from the other venues on our program, I at least got a willingness to talk and share their perspective of the problem.  The security guard only served to verify that the federal government is not being transparent.  I wanted to believe that although these children are in an unfortunate circumstance, this facility is taking good care of them.  Sadly, Casa Padre’s secrecy did not give me a warm feeling that minor privacy rights were the only reason for an attitude like that.

My overall observation is that the federal government has overreacted to the southern border terrorist threat at the expense of and without regard for the overall border culture that has been in place for centuries.

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