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.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


    • It looks like ICE is saying she deceived her attorney, as part of her prolonged campaign of deception in which ICE was one of many victims. So according to ICE’s publicity flack, she was clever enough to fool ICE, clever enough to fool her own lawyer, and clever enough to fool Colombian officials, who gave her Colombian citizenship documents.

      If I were ICE’s lawyer, I wouldn’t be saying anything right about now, and I would seriously question the wisdom of floating this story to the national media. If it’s true, okay, but it doesn’t seem particularly credible.

    • Bryan Johnson I bet you’re in a better position than most of us to offer an opinion on when, if ever, Ms. Turner would have been given any kind of a hearing before someone purportedly responsible to independently assess whether she should be deported or not. Would you educate us?

      • Problem with a story like this is that the smallest error by the media, such as what you will see below, is able to misdirect the whole public.

        Read below:

        “When she went before an immigration lawyer, Turner continued to say she was a Colombia woman. She was interviewed at the Colombian consulate, where she also kept up the false identity.

        Turner was ultimately ordered removed from the United States by a Department of Justice immigration judge last year.”

        It’s pretty clear that she never had an immigration attorney. She had a CRIMINAL defense attorney, who she may have deceived, but never an attorney to represent her before the immigration judge that ultimately deported her.

        Remember, immigration court is an adversarial proceeding. Jakadrien was alone before a judge and up against an attorney from ICE. And she was on the detained docket, which is expedited and vulnerable to more coercion from ICE officials.

        She may have been able to deceive her immigration attorney, too, but I still see it as the most significant missing piece that could have prevented her deportation.

      • The error by WAPO is that she “went” before an immigration lawyer. Doesn’t make any sense because respondents in immigration court are not entitled to an immigration lawyer. Unless she had money and family contacts, she likely never saw an immigration attorney.

        Most respondents in detained immigration court are not represented.

        • I wrote last two in haste. To your question: “if ever, Ms. Turner would have been given any kind of a hearing before someone purportedly responsible to independently assess whether she should be deported or not. Would you educate us?”

          According to ICE, she did have a hearing before a neutral arbiter–the immigration judge. Unfortunately, there are numerous examples of immigration judge negligence in similar contexts i.e. deportation of U.S. Citizens.

          To get the most thorough illustration of how serious this problem is, you must read this professor’s blog and journal article:

          It is almost laughable when the most respected papers–nytimes, la times–start out their articles with “it seems like U.S. citizen deportations are increasing.” even though there is no evidence of an increase. This has been persistently occurring. There is no empirical data, however, because ICE does not record when it deports a U.S. citizen (why would they?)

          What evidence there is should make one furious. Thus far, most deportations of US citizens have been ignored, left to this lone professor.

          Bottom line: the facts of Jakadrien’s deportation are incredible but the end result is routine.

  1. clever enough to fool Colombian officials, who gave her Colombian citizenship documents.

    That is HILARIOUS. When she comes back, the CIA should give her a job and send her to North Korea to spy on them.

    “No, really, I born here in North Korea! Praise our Dear Leader, who is a perfect incarnation of the appearance that a leader should have and Highest Incarnation of the Revolutionary Comradely Love!”

  2. I am moved by the courage and endurance of this 16-year old. Could someone help put me in touch with her parents?

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