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Leaked Photo Reveals 'Mass Trial' Of Immigrants In Texas

A leaked photo showing a federal courtroom packed with dozens of immigrants in orange jumpsuits undergoing a "mass trial" in Texas has shed a light on an increasingly common practice. 

While it is unclear who took the image, journalist Debbie Nathan, who first came across it while covering mass trials in Texas, believes it was taken in Pecos, a small town around 70 miles southwest of Odessa by someone who did not feel comfortable with the effects of the Trump administration's new "zero tolerance" policy on people caught crossing into the U.S. illegally.

Nathan told Newsweek a number of members of the legal community had told her about the photo before she found it on social media. 

The journalist said that, in recent months, she has seen similar mass trials in Brownsville and El Paso and added they were some of the most upsetting things she has witnessed in her three decades of covering border and immigration issues.

"I've seen as many as 40, 41, 42 people all let in, men and women, all shackled at the waist, shackled at the feet, their hands shackled to their waist chains," Nathan said. "It's a very dehumanizing process," the journalist said. "You're just like, how could this possibly be considered American due process?"

In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that federal prosecutors would be adopting a "zero tolerance" policy on undocumented immigrants, warning that "This is not business as usual...This is the Trump era." 

Sessions also announced the Trump administration's new policy of separating families caught crossing into the U.S. illegally, with parents being sent to federal jails, while their young ones are kept in shelters overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

As a result, Nathan said mass trials for immigrants have become increasingly common, despite having taken place since 2005, when Operation Streamline was first rolled out to increase the consequences for illegal border crossings with criminal prosecutions.

Read more: Shelter Staff Call Police on Democrat Senator As He Tries to Visit Detained Immigrant Children

"There are a lot of courts where it used to exist, but nobody there remembers it," Nathan said. "I knew that this wasn't new but what people tell me is that streamlined [trials] went from one district or one court to another court and then they'd sort of die out."

Now, Nathan said it seems the streamlined mass trials have returned, with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol seeing as many as 50,924 people detained in April alone, including 9,647 family units and 4,314 unaccompanied children.

The journalist said public defenders are only given a handful of minutes with each defendant and that defendants are sometimes forced to answer a judge's question in unison, rather than being able to make their case on an individual basis. 

"You get this giant shout of 'si' or 'no'," Nathan said. "Especially when they are asked to make a guilty plea and it goes very quickly. You just hear women's voices, men's voices, loud voices, ashamed voices, defiant voices...It's upsetting," she added.

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