Stupid Is as Stupid Does

By W.D. Reasoner on January 5, 2012

Forrest Gump, quoting one of his momma's homey aphorisms, tells us that life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're gonna get. How true. Here's proof:

A Texas television station is reporting that an American teen runaway took on the identity of an illegal alien from Colombia who was wanted on criminal warrants from that country. The teen, Jakadrien Turner, got picked up by the local cops in Houston, who alerted federal officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which took her prints but according to the news account did nothing with them. (Huh?) They did, however, put her through deportation proceedings where, anonymous ICE officials tell us, she steadfastly maintained her assumed identity, so they obtained an order of removal and forthwith sent her back to Colombia. If that excuse is supposed to give ICE a pass on this, I'm not buying it.

Immigration enforcement officers with any seasoning and experience at all know that humans are complex creatures with a host of motives for what they do. It's not uncommon at all, for instance, for illegal aliens to turn themselves in for a free ride home during the holiday season. They, and the officers they surrender to, both know they fully intend to return promptly after the holidays are over, so that they can resume their jobs and lives here. Sometimes even legal aliens try that scam, in the hope they can get over on ICE or the Border Patrol, although in that case they usually take on a fake identity so that they're not going to be removed in their real names with all the adverse consequences that would entail. And, it's not completely unknown for U.S. fugitives to want a way out of the country, at which point they claim to be illegal aliens who just want to go home.

That is why it's part of an immigration enforcement officer's job not just to effect removals with horse blinders on, but to effectively screen who they're dealing with. In today's technological world, that includes conducting careful fingerprint checks, and following up any other leads needed to verify identity and nationality – especially of a person who's allegedly wanted in the country they're claiming to be from. Doesn't look like any of that happened here, does it?

There are a whole bunch of other things that don't add up in this account. It's entirely possible that a Colombian could enter the country across the southern border, never be encountered by ICE, and therefore not have any fingerprints on file in their database. It's even possible that said alien could be wanted by Colombian authorities without their having a full set of her prints on file; after all, this person was a wanted fugitive.

But what is puzzling is that before ICE could deport this young lady to Colombia, they would have had to obtain permission – and a travel document – from Colombian consular officials in this country to repatriate her. How did she manage to "pass go" through that stage of the process without being detected? After all, Colombia maintains a national registry for all its citizens, who are issued national identity cards called "cedulas". Those cards would have the person's picture and a thumbprint for comparison purposes. How is it that neither ICE nor the Colombian government checked that out thoroughly? One would think that the Colombian national police would also have exhibited enough interest to follow through, but apparently not. According to the girl's grandmother, she was located via Facebook exchanges, and not in a Colombian jail, where one would assume her to be if she were taken into custody pursuant to the warrant when she arrived from the U.S. Or, alternately, that on arrival at the Colombian airport, their police and immigration officials would have realized she wasn't the person they wanted, at which point they could have turned her around.

While I grant that not all the facts are yet in – and that not all teens are innocent naïfs (we don't know, one way or the other here, although she's got to be at least somewhat street-savvy to have been able to latch onto fake identity documents) – it sure looks to me like nobody performed up to even minimal expectations in this matter. Which, of course, brings us back to Forrest and his momma: "Stupid is as stupid does."