A timeless hypothetical: would you rather go to India or prison? In the case of Ottawa-born Deepan Budlakoti, the Canadian government would like to sentence him to both.
After hundreds of alleged break-ins, drug charges and an attempt to sell a hunting rifle to an undercover cop, Deepan Budlakoti was imprisoned in 2010 for three years. As he was released in 2013, the Canadian government placed Budlakoti on “removal-ready” status to be deported back to India.
But Deepan wasn’t born in India. He’s never even been to India. His parents were born in India and Deepan passes the Arizona immigrant test (if you look like an immigrant you must be one), but that’s basically as far as the connection goes. Deepan Budlakoti was born in Ottawa and raised in Ottawa (albeit not very well) before becoming a drugs-and-arms-dealing home-burglar. He’s got an Ontario birth certificate, a Canadian passport; he’s as home-grown-Canadian-bacon a criminal as any, so why send him to India?
Deepan Budlakoti’s parents came to Canada as gardeners for an Indian diplomat in 1985, four years before Deepan was born, and according to Canadian provisions, if you give birth to a child while working for a foreign government in Canada, that child would adopt their employer’s citizenship, and not Canada’s. This is the argument the Canadian Immigration Ministry is giving for the deportation. Deepan’s parents were working for India, therefore Deepan is Indian.
India, however, is not having it. Last year after Canada notified the Indian government about their incoming deportee, India’s high commissioner released documents alleging that Deepan’s father stopped working for the Indian diplomat in Canada several months before Deepan was born, effectively rejecting him as an Indian citizen.
Still, Canada maintains that Budlakoti deserves deportation, and today, after a widespread campaign for his freedom, Deepan stands before the federal Supreme Court to plead his case. If he wins, he gets his citizenship and the government apologizes. If he loses, Budlakoti will live as a stateless person, with the constant fear of getting arrested by the feds, and put on a plane eastward to spend the rest of his days in an eternal black hole of aloo gobi and naan bread.
What’s most appalling is Canada’s seeming new policy of “three hundred strikes and we revoke your citizenship,” which, while a creative policy decision, perhaps doesn’t do all it can to protect individual liberties.
That’s a photo the Globe and Mail posted of Deepan taken on May 27 in Ottawa, apparently just before he released a dove from the sleeve of his blazer and healed a decrepit child with his bare, angelic touch. In that same article, Deepan’s wrongdoings are never referred to in any specifics but rather are glossed over as ambiguous “serious crimes,” and Deepan as a man who made some “big and criminal mistakes.” Like hundreds of burglaries. It could happen to anyone.
In Canada we believe in rights for all our citizens, whether straight-shooter or criminal, but please don’t skew the story to make this guy seem like a pious saint because he’s really not. He committed crimes that he deserved jail time for, and the press should put enough faith in their readers to trust that we can decipher right from wrong even in cases that aren’t simply black and white.
Despite Deepan’s criminal history, it’s clear that he doesn’t deserve deportation and let’s hope that Canada avoids an international human rights uproar and lets him stay. Because just like the cuisine of the country our government wants to deport him to, Deepan will hurt Canada a lot more on the way out.