Saturday, January 7, 2012

14-year-old deported by mistake

ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) deported a 14-year-old American girl - who doesn't speak Spanish - to Columbia! Think about that!

But it's the last part of this that really struck me. Poor people just expect this kind of thing. Spend the weekend in jail because no one gives a crap? Well, poor people don't expect anyone to give a crap.

"If it happened to me, I would lose it! If I spent the weekend in jail for nothing, I'd go crazy." Yeah, no kidding! But we expect to be treated like human beings, don't we?

I remember in college being stopped by the police a couple of times, when a group of us college kids were walking around Lincoln in the middle of the night (for no particular reason - after all, we were college kids).

We were highly indignant at being stopped and questioned. We weren't doing anything! We were just walking down a public sidewalk! Admittedly, it was in the wee hours of the morning. But what business did the police have in stopping us?

Of course, we were white, middle-class college kids. We expected to be treated like citizens. And the cops knew that. I'm not blaming them for doing their job, and I wasn't then, either. (Frankly, it's a tough job that you couldn't pay me enough to do.)

But the fact is, both sides knew what we expected from the police. And we would have been furious if we hadn't been treated well. We knew that and they knew that. But poor people? And especially, poor black people? I suspect that they don't expect to be treated particularly well.

And that's a tragedy.

I know that I would have hit the ceiling if the government had tried to deport me when I was 14 - or at any age - even if I had stolen something. And if they'd sent me to Columbia anyway, I'd have been demanding to see the U.S. ambassador the very next day. I just don't expect to be treated like that.

And if people do expect that kind of treatment, well, there's something wrong here. This isn't the America I know and love. You need to think of government officials as working for you. And if they don't behave that way, there had better be a damn good reason why.


Anonymous said...

The difference is, she wasn't some sweet innocent blamelessly walking down the sidewalk. She was arrested for shoplifting and gave the cops a fake name and told them that she was a citizen of Columbia.

She's just a dumb kid making dumb decisions. They do that. Mine is smarter (her ability to communicate with the written word is appalling) but when he was that same age, he ran away from home to show me that he is grown up and can handle the adult world. He figured out real quick that he had no money for food, none of his friends would take him in, and he had no were to go. Yes child. Thank you for making my point for me, LOL.
As bad as the government is, this is not on them, this is on her.

WCG said...

No, I have to disagree, Anonymous. This was definitely her fault, but it was also the government's.

Kids do dumb things. (Your own son is apparently an example of that.) Theft is wrong. Lying to the police is wrong. No one is denying that. No one is claiming that she's "a sweet innocent blamelessly walking down the sidewalk."

But our government has a responsibility, too, especially when dealing with kids. Maybe she wanted to go to Columbia. (Before posting this, I did check it out, but unlike the CNN article you reference, that one didn't say anything about this.)

But that's not an excuse. Sure, if it's true, this mistake is definitely easier to understand. But she's a minor. And if our government is going to be deporting kids, they'd better be damned sure they get it right.

Did they care? They care now, certainly. It's a mess now, and CYA is the order of the day. But at the time, did they see a human being, a person, a kid, or just an illegal immigrant (i.e. nobody)?

No, I have no problem blaming the girl. But that doesn't absolve others here.

(Admittedly, if she wanted to go to Columbia, that would explain why she didn't raise hell about it. In that case, this would be less about poor people expecting bad treatment, certainly. I do agree with that.)

Toby said...

Here's the issue... how would the government had known she was a "kid"? She maintained that she was a 22 year old Colombian woman and bamboozled the police, ICE as well as the Colombian Consul into believing her story.

It can be very hard to tell the age of a teen woman. A girl I went out with in high school, despite being 15 could easily pass for 23 and had no problem getting into bars, casinos, clubs, etc.

I think the reason why she didn't protest being deported was because she wanted to get away from her family in the first place. She gladly accepted the Colombian citizenship documents given to her, plus the work permit and job she was given. She posted on Facebook under her new identity, never showing any signs of distress. Even if she distrusted or feared the authorities, she could have messaged a friend or family member for help... but it's clear that she CHOSE not to.

As for not speaking Spanish, she could have made up a believable story to back this up, like: she was brought to the country as a baby, then her mother got deported, murdered, or simply abandoned her and she was cared for by friends/relatives who wanted her to "fit in" and not speak Spanish, etc.

Any person, even one who had been mistreated by authorities in the past, would have appealed the deportation and maintained their innocence (she was given a free lawyer to which she lied to as well). All this makes me feel like she WANTED to get a free vacation in the first place. During her time there, she got a second citizenship, learned some Spanish, made new friends and earned some legitimate work experience. Plus she has now has the coolest "ran away from home" story of all her friends...

WCG said...

Toby, you make some good points. And the fact is, I wouldn't have written the same post if the first news stories had included those details. It does sound more and more like she wanted to be deported.

Of course, that "believable story" you suggest to explain how a Colombian doesn't know Spanish just reminds me of what I dislike about our immigration policies.

If she had been brought to America as a baby and raised in this country for years, I wouldn't be too happy to see her dumped back into Colombia - a foreign country to her, where she didn't even speak the language - and without even a family for support.

We seem to have lost our minds in our hysteria about illegal immigration, and - around here, at least - it's all wrapped up in racism and bigotry, too.

Well, that's a different matter. And you're right, that CNN article gives a completely different impression of this from the first story I read about it.

I must also admit that I'm terrible at judging a woman's age. And even the difference between 15 and 14, which was the age given in the first news stories, can be significant, sometimes.

So I think you've convinced me to change my mind, Toby. (I assume that was you posting before, too?) Thanks for the comments!

Toby said...

Thanks! But actually I'm not the same guy than before.

--"If she had been brought to America as a baby and raised in this country for years, I wouldn't be too happy to see her dumped back into Colombia - a foreign country to her, where she didn't even speak the language - and without even a family for support."

I partly agree with that, however there's a few things that need to be considered:

- The person whose identity she assumed had warrants. Usually, immigrants who commit certain crimes in the US (whether they're legal immigrants or not) are subject to a higher priority for deportation.
- She had a free lawyer and the opportunity to appeal the deportation on humanitarian or compassionate grounds for the reasons you mentioned. Such requests are sometimes granted, especially if the person would be in real and verifiable danger if returned to their homeland. She never opposed herself to deportation in court.
- The Colombians took good care of her by giving her a job and place to stay. They asked her if she knew of any relatives in the country. I know plenty of expats who live alone in a foreign country with no family, it's not the end of the world, as long as you have means of support, a safe place to stay as well as the ability to adapt to the new environment (learn the culture, language, etc), plus socialize and make new friends (which the girl did very well).

"We seem to have lost our minds in our hysteria about illegal immigration, and - around here, at least - it's all wrapped up in racism and bigotry, too."

There is a certain racist element to it too. But I'm pretty sure a Dutchman or Swede that commits crimes in the USA and overstays his visa would be treated the same way than a Colombian when caught.

WCG said...

As I noted before, most of that came out after my original post. At least, it wasn't in the news article I read then.

The article did say that she'd been caught shoplifting, which is a crime, true, but only a misdemeanor.

And Toby, you may know plenty of expats who live alone in a foreign country and have no family support, but I doubt if they're only 15 (and not just without a family, but without money, either).

And I suspect that they were expats by their own choice, too. (My comment above was hypothetical - if she had been brought to America as a baby and deported against her will.)

Knowing what I do now about this particular case, I agree that my original post was wrong. But it was wrong because the facts of the case were not as I'd been led to believe at first.

Obviously, wrong is wrong. I have no problem admitting being wrong. But when we start talking about hypotheticals, my general position hasn't changed.

So I stand by that first statement. I'm not happy about our treatment of illegal immigrants who had no choice to come here and who grew up here. Dumping them back into a foreign country, without family support and without their even knowing the language (again, this is just a hypothetical situation), would be a disgrace.

And there is a racist element to "our hysteria about illegal immigration." Sure, we might deport a Dutchman or a Swede, but the immigration of Swedes is not what's causing such hysteria in our country (and wouldn't, not to this extent).

m1nks said...

Wow, this girl seems a real piece of work.