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On the first day of Operation Streamline – the program to expedite misdemeanor trials in federal court for those accused of crossing the border illegally – Magistrate Judge Jill Burkhardt heard 41 cases. That’s a lot of misdemeanor arraignments, but it’s lower than some of the worst days the court has seen since the start of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “zero tolerance” policy. Two weeks ago, one Monday court went until 10 p.m. because there were roughly 100 cases to be heard, most of them immigration-related.
Operation Streamline has existed in other states along the U.S.-Mexico border for years, but only landed in San Diego this week. The Southern District of California, the federal court that covers San Diego, has been struggling to deal with the massive influx of cases under zero tolerance. The few cases under the policy that have gone to trial so far have not gone well for the government.
Here’s what VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan saw at the courthouse as the program got underway: On Monday at the downtown federal court building, defendants met with their assigned attorneys in the morning and appeared before the judge in the early afternoon. Defense attorneys juggled up to three clients each, and they’ve been told to expect as many as four a day.
They were handled in two channels – those who planned to plead guilty, and those who did not. Defendants who planned to fight their cases will have more hearings later this week.
The defendants appeared in groups – up to 11 at a time – unshackled and dressed in the clothes in which they were arrested. This is one of the big differences with the streamlined program – if defendants plead guilty, most are sentenced to time served and will be immediately released from criminal custody, back to Border Patrol, without needing to use up the scarce local detention space and resources. Only those who choose to fight their cases are transferred to criminal custody.
Defense attorneys told the court their clients hadn’t showered in days, spent nights in cells with 30 people sleeping on the ground, with only aluminum blankets and little food. Attorneys also said that when they met with their clients in the morning, they were shackled at the ankles and many cried throughout the meetings.
That’s not the only big immigration news happening this week in the federal courthouse.
Tuesday is the deadline for the U.S. government to reunite parents with very young children from whom they were separated at the border. The government is on track to miss the Tuesday deadline San Diego-based District Judge Dana Sabraw set for children under age 5 to be returned to their parents.
“The judge is holding the government to the deadline while acknowledging that it will be impossible to reunite every child under 5 within the next day,” the Union-Tribune reported.
Both sides are due back in court Tuesday for a status update and to discuss plans for reuniting families with children older than 5.
Meanwhile, at least six migrant girls are being held at a home in Lemon Grove, KPBS has confirmed.
The campaign behind a hotel-tax hike to fund a Convention Center expansion, homelessness programs and road repairs on Monday submitted more than 114,000 signatures in hopes of getting on the November ballot.
The labor and business coalition delivered the signatures to the registrar of voters office, triggering a detailed review that could take up to 30 days. The registrar’s office must conduct a random sample to project whether the group will have between 95 percent and 110 percent of the number needed.
A secondary count would likely kill the measure since the City Council must vote to place it on the ballot by Aug. 10.
Campaign manager Chris Wahl estimated on Twitter Monday that the campaign needed about 7,100 more than the required 71,646 signatures to avoid a full count. He did not comment on the percentage of signatures he believed were valid.
But former City Councilman Carl DeMaio was already trolling the campaign as it made its announcement, suggesting on Twitter there should be a hand count.
Another local bookstore is going to that big literary salon in the sky: The Adams Avenue Book Store, a Normal Heights landmark since 1965, will shut its doors next weekend.
What’s the story with Bartleby, the bookstore cat? He looks like a sturdy if occasionally cross character, judging from how his tail is twitching.
His name comes from Bartleby, the Scrivener [the name of a short story by Herman “Moby Dick” Melville]. He’s pushing 17 years old.
How does he compare to the other cats who have lived here?
Felixia used to get up on the top of the bookcases and walk around the store. For Bart, that sounds like a lot of work. [Felixia, who liked to sleep in the front bookstore window’s folio copy of the 1611 King James Bible, died last year.]
What does Bartleby do instead of romping?
He gets plenty of sleep and plenty of attention, nothing but affirmation from open to closing. It’s an ideal existence for an animal like that.
Good gig! Now what?
The cat is going home with me. He’ll be the sole [feline] occupant of the house and have free rein.
What are some your most memorable finds?
We negotiated a price for a collection and found a 1549 second edition of the Matthew Bible, a very unusual piece, which sold for $16,000-$18,000. The book was published by John Rogers, who was subsequently martyred for his involvement. [The book was an outlawed English translation of the Bible.]
The book business didn’t go well for Rogers. Things are hard – if not nearly that tough – in the 21st century. What do you think about how the bookselling landscape has changed?
I’m not bitter about this at all. I’ve had a wonderful experience. I love Normal Heights. It’s a great place. And I love the building and the staff. And I love books. But I enjoy people more. To do something where you get to enjoy both of those things is a pretty good deal. I’ve loved this, and I don’t regret anything.
The Cardiff Kook has either made a new friend, or is in imminent danger.
The Morning Report was written and compiled by Sara Libby and Kinsee Morlan.