To understand Operation Streamline, it helps to visit the Judge Roy Bean Saloon & Museum, 60 miles north of Del Rio. This corner of Texas needed a local justice of the peace in the 1880s and Roy Bean took the job. Bean deemed his saloon a courthouse and dispensed what the state’s tourism department now describes as “his own brand of justice … with strange, but expedient decisions.”
Efficiency was king. Judge Bean had a saloon to run, after all. When he needed a jury, he called one from among his customers. Whatever fines he imposed, he pocketed.
Once, when an Irishman killed a Chinese railroad worker and was sent to Judge Bean to be tried for manslaughter, a mob of 200 white people demanded the Irishman’s immediate release. Judge Bean set the Irishman free, holding that while homicide was the killing of a human being, there was no law against killing a Chinaman.