Deport Justin Bieber?

Story highlights

  • Justin Bieber was arrested for racing under the influence of drugs, alcohol
  • Ruben Navarrette: Bieber has an extraordinary knack for getting into trouble
  • He says Bieber's star status doesn't mean he should get special treatment
  • Navarrette: If Bieber is convicted, he should get a one-way ticket out of U.S.

Canada's most valuable export? Oil. Its most problematic? Justin Bieber.

You know it's going to be a strange week when the hashtag #DeportBieber. is trending on Twitter.

Guess what? Nineteen-year-old singer and teen heartthrob Justin Bieber -- who was arrested this week in Miami Beach for street racing in a $250,000 Lamborghini while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, driving without a valid license, and resisting arrest -- is not a U.S. citizen. Rather, Bieber is a citizen of his native Canada.

Lucky Canada.

Bieber is in the United States on an O-1 work visa that was designed to retain foreigners with "extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics."

What Bieber has is an extraordinary knack for getting into trouble. Far away from Miami, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is investigating whether Bieber was involved in an egging of his neighbor's home in a gated community in Calabasas, California.

While other teenage celebrities might aspire to be crowned "America's sweetheart," Bieber -- given his childish, narcissistic and self-destructive antics -- seems to be angling for a more dubious title: "America's brat."

Bieber isn't known for doing smart things, but the one smart thing that Team Bieber did is what the rich and spoiled often do when they land in jail in South Florida. Bieber's manager hired Roy Black, the Miami-based celebrity defense lawyer who is as skilled in front of a television camera as in front of a jury.

Black said this week that he hoped the case against Bieber would proceed "as any other case would."

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C'mon, Roy. Really? If this case had proceeded like any other -- or at least, like many others -- your client might be in Calgary by now. The immigration enforcement apparatus does not look favorably upon non-U.S. citizen foreigners who commit crimes and get arrested.

You can have a green card or a visa that allows you to live in the United States legally while you work or study, and you can still get deported if you get crossways with the law. Think of it this way: The U.S. government grants permission to some people to stay in this country, and it can revoke it, too. It happens every day, especially here in the Southwest and along the U.S.-Mexico border, for crimes ranging from shoplifting to drunk driving to selling ice cream without a permit. Americans either don't hear about these cases, or they don't care because the person being removed from the country isn't rich and famous.

Of course, Bieber hasn't been convicted of anything yet. In fact, according to published reports relying on a source close to the investigation, Bieber's blood-alcohol level was below 0.08% in two breath tests administered by authorities. The 0.08% mark is the legal limit for most drivers in Florida. For drivers under 21, the state has a lower threshold for proving one is intoxicated: 0.02%. A source told CNN that Bieber blew .011% and .014% in the two Breathalyzer tests. However, police say Bieber admitted to them that he had been drinking, using marijuana and taking prescription pills.

The point is that, in many cases, when dealing with foreigners who find themselves in police custody, we wouldn't even have gotten this far. Again, back in the real world of law enforcement, there are police stations -- for instance, in Southern California -- that allow federal immigration agents to sit at a desk in the squad room. And when a police officer walks in with a suspect in handcuffs who looks like he might just be undocumented (read: "Mexican"), the catch of the day gets passed on to the immigration agent before he is even fingerprinted. So there's no record of the transaction. And if the agent determines that the person in custody is in the country illegally, he takes possession and immediately transports him to a nearby Border Patrol substation to begin deportation proceedings.

It's all very efficient, and journalists like me wouldn't even know it was happening if we didn't have helpful sources within police departments telling us that it's happening.

In Bieber's case, he was not handed over to immigration agents and hustled out the back door of the police department to begin deportation proceedings. Instead, Bieber was released from jail after he made a brief appearance through a video link before a Miami judge, who set a "standard" $2,500 bond.

Bieber has an estimated net worth of about $130 million.

I bet that, right about now, many of those Mexican immigrants who were deported because they came to the attention of local police officers for a burned-out taillight, or for not making a complete stop at an intersection, are wishing that they had been a rich, white kid with marginal music ability and too much money. If so, things might have gone differently for them.

Meanwhile, Congress seems to be getting ready to debate how to fix the immigration system. The major question will be what to do with the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. But along the way, lawmakers must also revisit and revamp the unfair O-1 work visa program. There is enough favoritism in the immigration system as it is. If people come from certain countries or have certain skills, they're more likely to get in. We don't need more of that brand of preferential treatment for singers, actors or ice skaters.

Just like we don't need a certain Canadian import. If Bieber is convicted of the alleged crimes in South Florida, he should get what many other foreigners have already received for less serious infractions: a one-way ticket out of the country.

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