Deported teen returns to US. How many Americans are mistakenly banished?
Jakadrien Turner's deportation has shined a light on an immigration system in which mistakes can and do happen. Experts worry that the rate of mistaken deportations is on the uptick.
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In Jakadrien's case, her family and lawyer blame US government officials for failing to pick up what they say were obvious clues that the girl was an American. "She looks like a kid, she acts like a kid. How could they think she wasn't a kid?" Lorene Turner, her grandmother, asked on Thursday.Skip to next paragraph
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Partly to blame could be the confusing nature of immigration proceedings, although US authorities says Jakadrien – who gave her name as Tika Lanay Cortez, 21, of Colombia – waived her right to an immigration attorney.
“Often in these situations they have these group hearings where they tell everybody you're going to be deported," Jacqueline Stevens, a political science professor at Northwestern University in Illinois, explained to the Associated Press. "Everything is really quick, even if you understand English you wouldn't understand what is going on. If she were in that situation as a 14-year-old she would be herded through like cattle and not have a chance to talk to the judge about her situation."
US authorities regularly coordinate with foreign consulates when completing deportation proceedings. After a judge signed Jakadrien's deportation order, she received a provisional passport from Colombian authorities and was subsequently accepted into the country's “Welcome Home” program for expatriates, where she was supplied with counseling and a job. She was eventually spotted by her family via a Facebook page. Dallas police, with the help of US and Colombian authorities, located the girl in Colombia and began her repatriation proceedings last last year.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials told ABC News on Saturday that it's not uncommon for people who enter the US illegally to have no documentation whatsoever to show authorities. In Jakadrien's case, she “maintained [the] false identity throughout her local criminal proceedings in Texas, where she was represented by a defense attorney and ultimately convicted,” ICE said in a statement. “At no time during these criminal proceedings was her identity determined to be false."
In Facebook posts that are presumed to be hers, Jakadrien noted details such as "familia, me happy 4 once in the mountains," but also laments in another post, "I'm having to many problems in mi life, just found out I can't even go bak to the states in another 5 years...."
Washington legal expert Ted Frank, writing on the PointsofLaw.com blog, argues that, given safeguards like appeal rights of deportation orders, it's hard for the US government to accept blame for what happened to Jakadrien.
“It seems very improbable that authorities would knowingly deport an American citizen,” he writes. “As it is, illegal aliens can use the legal process to delay deportation for years, and there are 1.1 million unenforced deportation orders,” many of them held up on appeals.
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