Diane Williams has had a pretty rough life. Over the past 20 years, the 34-year-old black-haired, olive-skinned Cajun of partial Native American ancestry has been arrested numerous times here and her native Louisiana on ticky-tack drug and prostitution charges.
At some point, she started resorting to aliases, the better to throw authorities off the track of her total number of convictions.
According to the Thibodaux (Louisiana) Daily Comet, in January of this year, Williams was serving a prostitution sentence in Harris County jail under the alias Donna Baquiel. While in custody, she was heavily medicated: According to psychiatric records furnished by Williams's Houston immigration attorney Lawrence Rushton to the Daily Comet, Williams was being medicated for insomnia, depression, bipolar disorder, and epilepsy.
On January 18, she was released from Harris County's custody and turned over to officials from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, who identified her as one Angelique Bethany Cortez Rodriguez, a native and citizen of Honduras and an illegal alien. Rushton says he doesn't know how his client was identified as Rodriguez, but that Williams told him that she believed an ex-boyfriend concocted the story to get her in trouble.
"We think it was an anonymous tip from a disreputable individual," he tells Hair Balls. "We're not sure if that's true, but if it is, it would be very disturbing."
Indeed it would. Who wouldn't want to ship their ex off to Central America in irons? And with ICE more eager than ever to oblige with a deport-first ask-questions-later approach, this could be a promising and fun new method of domestic revenge.At any rate, despite Williams's constant protestations in her heavy South Louisiana accent, she was ordered deported, and thanks to prior drug convictions, that deportation was allowed to be fast-tracked. Meanwhile, Vinh Ho, an immigration lawyer, had heard of her plight and ordered up a copy of Williams's birth certificate from her native Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. In stereotypical laissez les bon temps rouler Louisiana fashion, it arrived two months later, long after it could do her any good.
At about the same time, while in ICE custody, Williams signed a document waiving away rights to judicial review. Through that document, she failed to contest her "deportability," according to Rushton.
Why then did she sign it?
Let's just say she might not have had all her wits about her. Williams dropped out of school in the sixth grade, is documented to be both mentally ill and to have been under heavy medication around the time she was pressured to sign these documents; what's more, she says she did so under duress. "They didn't read nothing to me," she told the Daily Comet. "They just told me to sign." If she didn't, ICE officials threatened her with years of jail time and then deportation.
Ordinarily, deportees are screened through the local consulate to verify that they are in fact from the country they are being deported to. An anonymous official at Houston's Honduran consulate told the Daily Comet that these screening sessions don't always happen, and Williams herself claims that it did not. "I never talked to nobody," she told the Daily Comet. "I was just sent."On arrival in Honduras, Williams was promptly arrested and detained as an illegal alien. Rushton tells Hair Balls that she spent most of her time in Honduras in detention. Which was probably as good a place as any for her there, as she speaks almost no Spanish, had no money, knows nor is related to anyone in Honduras, and had a hard enough time making ends meet in America.
Her family in Louisiana sent her birth certificate down to the US Embassy in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, and the Embassy issued her a provisional passport and told her she was free to go back to America. On her own dime -- Williams's mother Juliette Dufrene told the Daily Comet that she paid the $500 airfare herself.
Williams is now living in New Orleans, and according to Rushton, is still occasionally hassled by ICE officials, pending his final establishment of her American citizenship. Rushton says this is the first case in his experience in which an American citizen has been deported.
"American citizens are detained fairly often, and that's understandable," he tells Hair Balls. "Maybe their parents are from somewhere else, or they were born somewhere else. But this is the first case where a citizen has actually been deported that I have ever seen."
And whether or not Williams is the most sympathetic figure is immaterial, Ruhston says. "Whether or not a U.S. citizen has a criminal record, the punishments don't include kicking you out of your own country," he told the Daily Comet.