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Right to Appointment of Counsel Would Have Prevented Deportation of 15-year-old U.S. citizen

The news broke yesterday with a report by a Houston TV station that Jakadrien Turner, a U.S. citizen teen who spoke no Spanish, was deported to Colombia in April of 2011.

Although the full set of facts that led to this teen’s deportation are far from certain, one conclusion can be drawn: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) screwed up.

This story is perplexing, and points to serious misdeeds committed by ICE. The latter is all the more apparent in how ICE is commenting on this case in an uncharacteristically detailed manner.

Specifically, ICE is attempting to do whatever it can to shift responsibility of this “erroneous” deportation onto the victim, Jakadrien.

In the initial story by WFAA news in dallas, ICE said it:

“takes these allegations very seriously,…At the direction of [the Department of Homeland Security], ICE is fully and immediately investigating this matter in order to expeditiously determine the facts of this case.”

ICE then planted the seed that they hope will quell the coming fire:

“ICE officials also noted there have been instances where ICE has seen cases of individuals providing inaccurate information regarding who they are and their immigration status for ulterior motives.”

When responding to the Daily News, ICE upped the ante and in effect said it did nothing wrong:

“But an ICE official told the Daily News that Jakadrien maintained the false identity throughout the deportation procedure. The official said Jakadrien fabricated the identity and that there wasn’t another young woman with the fabricated name who was wanted on outstanding warrants.”

ICE’s explanation does not add up.

NOTHING SHORT OF A RIGHT TO COUNSEL IN DEPORTATION PROCEEDINGS IS SUFFICIENT TO PREVENT SIMILAR ERRORS

Even assuming ICE’s version of the facts, there are problems. If Jakadrien did maintain that she was a 22-year-old undocumented Colombian woman, ICE did not perform sufficient due diligence to confirm this fact. If they had, they would have noted it odd that Jakadrien did not speak Spanish, or that her English was superb. Moreover, if there was no warrant out for the 22-year-old Colombian woman, how then did ICE manage to dupe the Colombian consulate into issuing a travel document?

Did ICE even arrange a consular interview for Jakadrien, which is the normal procedure? If there was a consular interview, it defies reality that a Colombian consular officer would have confirmed her as a Colombian citizen. Or did ICE deceive Colombia’s government as well?

Are we really to believe that a 15-year-old was able to outwit both the local police (someone had to have contacted ICE) and then ICE. If so, there is a serious flaw in the immigration enforcement procedure: troubled runaway minors will be able to self-deport, even though U.S. law widely recognizes the fact that minors are not able to make decisions for themselves.

The questions in this case will keep on coming. Errors on several levels needed to have been made for this deportation to have occurred, and we will not see an adequate explanation from ICE, who are infamous for covering their deportation tracks.

The way that ICE is spinning this it makes you think that Jakadrien was Frank Abagnale Jr., the famous teenage con artist whose life story was the subject of the blockbuster movie “Catch me if you Can.”  One look at Jakadrien’s facebook page  reveals the words of what I believe show a confused and troubled teenager, not a mastermind bent on thwarting ICE into deporting her to Colombia.

Even assuming she was an Abagnale, JR, ICE should not be able to wipe their hands clean.

Following ICE’s logic to the enforcement of criminal law, any troubled person, teen or otherwise, would be able to convict themselves of a crime they did not commit. We do not see the latter example as much because of a very important constitutional safeguard: the 6th amendment right to counsel.

If Jakadrien was afforded counsel, it would have been possible for her rights as a U.S. citizen (and minor) to be fully protected. Without a right to counsel in the deportation context, we will continue to see similarly bizarre deportations of U.S. citizens. ICE is a police force with no check on its power. Thus, abuse is inevitable, and ICE is allowed to do what it pleases, even if it amounts to the commission of a serious crime.

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