Sunday, August 31, 2008

Honduran drug suspect gamed San Francisco's juvenile system

Immigration: Read as the leftist paradise of San Fran got played by a 25 year old who claimed he was 16 then 18 year old crack dealer.

When he was caught selling crack in San Francisco's Tenderloin in April, the Honduran immigrant who called himself Javier Martinez first told police he was 18. Then he said he was 16.

Because he insisted he was underage, police were duty-bound to take him to Juvenile Hall, where he would be shielded from deportation under the city's long-standing policy of not reporting juvenile offenders to federal immigration authorities. He was soon put up in a $7,000-a-month group home in Southern California at city taxpayer expense.

In short order, he became one of the eight offenders who walked away from unlocked homes in San Bernardino County, escapes that contributed to a national outcry over San Francisco's policies and prompted Mayor Gavin Newsom to announce that the city would no longer afford juveniles a refuge from deportation. Four of the offenders are now back in custody - and Martinez is one of them, arrested in San Francisco for allegedly dealing drugs.

Martinez now says he was 25 all along, and that his true name is Jose Mendoza Cerrato. On Thursday, he pleaded guilty in adult court to drug dealing and is expected to be transferred to immigration authorities for possible deportation as soon as next month.

The case raises questions about how diligently San Francisco's juvenile justice system works to confirm that immigrant suspects with little or no documentation are who they say they are. Despite apparent inconsistencies in what Cerrato told authorities, he had little trouble persuading the courts to treat him as a minor who did not belong behind bars.

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