She Was An American Girl Raised On Promises (Of Due Process)
Jakadrian Turner was 14 years old in November of 2010 when, despondent over her parents’ divorce and the recent death of her grandfather, she ran away from her home in Dallas, Texas. Somehow, she made her way to Houston, where she was arrested on suspicion of theft, and gave a fake name to the police.
Only she was fantastically unlucky in her choice of fake names.
The name she gave showed up as a woman who had outstanding warrants and was on a list for referral to immigration authorities as an illegal alien. So Jakadrian was transferred from the Houston Police Department to Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who took her fingerprints. Armed with its own list of names and identities, the information given it by the Houston cops, and the fingerprints they took of their detainee, ICE determined that indeed the young woman in their custody was the person she had claimed to be upon her arrest by the Houston Police.
So, in April of 2011, ICE proceeded to deport a 14-year-old American citizen, who spoke no Spanish but apparently spoke excellent colloquial English, to Colombia. It took her grandmother and the Dallas Police nearly a year of searching to find her. Jakadrian was issued a work card by the Colombian government, and has been working as a house cleaner ever since her arrival in (I assume) Bogota. There is some issue in Colombia, which is holding on to the now 16-year-old American citizen; perhaps she has been accused of a crime there. But she’s not home yet, more than a year after she ran away and not quite a year since she was deported out of her own nation.
Young Ms. Turner’s horrifying story is not unique, although her case stands out for an astonishing obliviousness on the part of ICE — a Black girl who spoke excellent English and no Spanish was somehow mistaken for a Colombian national, after her fingerprints didn’t match up with the suspect they were looking for and (presumably) she denied her identity. About 2,000 U.S. citizens a year get deported, and about 4,000, or 1%, of the people in ICE detention are United States citizens.
We have due process of law in our Constitution to prevent exactly this sort of thing from happening. So what happened here? Was there no hearing? Did the hearing officer, the case worker, the jailers, even the cops who arrested this girl, all willfully blind himself to the fact that this was clearly and obviously an American girl and not a Colombian national? Maybe she was no angel — she got arrested for suspected theft, after all; but the fact that this was a young Black girl who seemed to be heading towards a life of petty crime is no excuse — that troubled young Black girl is a U.S. citizen. That fact ought to matter but apparently didn’t
This adds an extra level of perniciousness to state-level “anti-illegal immigrant” laws with mandatory referral provisions, like those recently adopted in Arizona and Alabama.
Mistakes will be made sometimes, I know. But 2,000 citizens wrongfully deported every year seems like more than we ought to be willing to tolerate. How much easier would it be to make a similar sort of mistake when the detainee is Latino, and does have good Spanish, maybe even better Spanish than English? I see lots of people I presume to be U.S. citizens who match that description, nearly every time I go to court.
I’ve got a simple word to describe what I think of the government deporting a citizen — that’s bullshit. Let this story serve as a caution to all those eager to conscript local law enforcement to be deputy ICE agents, and let this story serve as a caution to those who would urge stiffer enforcement of immigration laws. It’s not enough to “enforce the laws we have.” When we do that, we do terrible things to our own people — we do terrible things to ourselves.
Best of luck to the young Ms. Turner for a safe return and hopefully an opportunity to get her life back, back in her home country where she belongs.