DeMarcus Jackson, Jr is a 17-year-old male, high school senior who currently lives with his 65-year-old grandmother, Denise, who has been battling Type 1 diabetes since she was a child. In 2012 her health dramatically worsened, although more severe symptoms such as blurred vision and weakness first became apparent after she migrated to the United States in 2001. At the age of 14, DeMarcus Jr migrated with his parents, Majorie and DeMarcus Sr, to Maryland from St. James, Jamaica, to care for and pursue a better quality of life with his aging grandmother, Denise.
The Jackson family was very happy in Maryland. Despite facing many challenges adapting to American adolescent culture, DeMarcus Jr was quite successful his freshman year. He maintained good grades while becoming the captain of the varsity basketball team, and even found time after school to volunteer at a local nursing home, where his grandmother also worked as a nurse practitioner. But after a year of hiding in the shadows, one afternoon, while DeMarcus Jr was in school, DeMarcus Sr. and Majorie were deported back to Jamaica, leaving Denise as the sole guardian of DeMarcus Jr
Under then-President Obama’s immigration policy, DeMarcus’ parents were two of the thousands of residents classified as illegal immigrants from Jamaica. They were deported from the United States because neither parent could demonstrate they were brought into the country before the age of 16 and currently under 30 years of age. Unlike DeMarcus Jr ’ parents, his grandmother Denise was able to show proof of employment and residency (assisted by her green card) over a minimum of the last five years. Since DeMarcus Jr had just turned 15 years of age and was attending high school, authorities never questioned his right to stay in the country.
If I was a social worker…..
Soon after his parents’ deportation, Denise was let go of her job because of deteriorating vision, physical weakness, and the inability to remember patient details. Although she had worked there for nearly one decade, the best option for Denise was to retire but in reality, working was Denise’s only way to maintain guardianship of DeMarcus Jr and to ensure his safety and residency in the United States; which by immigration standards includes him having no criminal record and graduating from a high school. Little did DeMarcus Jr know, his world would soon turn upside-down, jeopardizing his future in high school, in his local community, and in the United States.
When DeMarcus Jr was 15, his parents were deported, and Denise was hospitalized for the first time in a year. Because Denise now spent sometimes days or even weeks in the hospital or rehabilitation, DeMarcus Jr was eventually assigned his first social worker, a woman named Annalise Riley of the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services, to assist the family with community resources, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), disability payments, and potential foster care placement for DeMarcus Jr.
When DeMarcus Jr turned 16 years of age, he took it upon himself to begin contributing financially to the household to keep up with the growing hospital bills. He started working part-time jobs after school as a waiter and cashier. Typically, DeMarcus Jr would work over 5 hours per night, from 3:40 pm to 9:00 pm, as a busboy, or 8 hours on Saturdays and Sundays, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, as a cashier. Because of the mounting stress from working two jobs while simultaneously tending to his grandmother’s care, DeMarcus Jr missed school throughout his junior year in high school so frequently that he was considered legally truant. He began showing signs of depression, affecting his motivation to work long hours.
Together with both salaries, DeMarcus Jr makes just enough to afford the pair’s rent and living expenses, leaving no room for any extracurricular activities like basketball or volunteerism. DeMarcus Jr is forced to make a choice between either survival or self-sabotage. Meanwhile, Social Worker Riley is also faced with her own set of ethical dilemmas.
Annalise Riley was a 26-year-old woman of South African descent who emigrated from England. She was a former foster care recipient from childhood to adolescence while her biological parents were incarcerated. Riley chose social work as a career because she empathized with youth and those impacted from the system. Sometimes she took on cases that related to her personal experiences. While she was assigned to DeMarcus Jr and his grandmother, many of the cases she worked on had a personal connection for her.
Lee is a 32-year-old Asian American man who is very outspoken on many of the issues that plague minorities from lower incomes. Coming from a low income family himself, Lee knows firsthand the difficulty in navigating the economic and legal landscape in America. In his younger years Lee made some poor decisions that led him down a path of petty crimes and a couple misdemeanors. Until one day he was caught and risked the possibility of spending time in a juvenile detention center. If it wasn’t for an amazing Public Defender he was assigned to at 16, his life would have taken a different turn.
On September 24, 2019, at midnight, DeMarcus Jr arrived home from a late shift as a busboy. As part of his nighttime routine, he usually falls asleep until around 12:45 am, but this night was different. DeMarcus Jr wakes up to his grandmother in visible distress. She tells him that she needs her medication; however, the remaining vial of insulin was empty. DeMarcus Jr knew he had only one option to save his grandmother’s life. At 8:16 am, DeMarcus Jr decided to drive his family’s black Chevrolet into the nearest CVS with the last bit of cash he has saved for times of emergency, taking a shortcut through a predominantly white neighborhood.
Upon entering the store, a pharmacist greets DeMarcus Jr at the counter. The pharmacist denies him his grandmother’s prescription medication because of insufficient funds; his grandmother’s prescription is not covered by insurance because of her immigrant status, so she has to pay out-of-pocket. Denise has been prescribed the newer, rapid-acting Insulin analogs that go for $280 a vial without insurance. DeMarcus Jr, however, only had $110 saved. Before leaving the store at 8:42 am, DeMarcus Jr sneaks behind the counter after the pharmacist runs to the back room. DeMarcus Jr then proceeds to run out of the store.
At 9:06 am, on the drive back home, Officer Bruce Mackey stops DeMarcus, who he suspects is the perpetrator of an armed robbery that happened earlier that day at around 7:55 am. The armed robber was described as a black male with a low fade and neck tattoo. Officer Bruce Mackey demands that DeMarcus Jr step out of the vehicle, but as DeMarcus Jr tries to pull out his ID from his bag Officer Bruce Mackey forcefully slams him on the front of his police car demanding that DeMarcus Jr comply. Handcuffed, DeMarcus Jr is left in the backseat of Officer Mackey’s police car while another officer called in, saying he found a man matching the description of the suspect to the armed robbery Officer Bruce Mackey then takes it upon himself to search DeMarcus’s car for any mean of evidence to use against him and finds nothing. Until he finds a bag tucked under the driver’s seat. The protruding vials from DeMarcus’s bag capture Officer Bruce Mackey’s attention. He quickly correlates this to DeMarcus’s jittery behavior and assumes they are drugs Officer Bruce Mackey never reads DeMarcus Jr his rights. When Officer Bruce Mackey gets back to his police cruiser, DeMarcus Jr is in tears, pleading with the officer to send help for his grandmother. Taking pity on the boy, Officer Bruce Mackey complies and an ambulance is rushed to Jackson’s home. The hospital tries to contact DeMarcus Jr, but received no response. They then contact Ms. Riley, who rushes over to see Denise. At 9:27 am, DeMarcus Jr is held in custody; Officer Bruce Mackey questions him, after verifying his age. Despite having a clean record without any past arrest or altercations with the law, Officer Bruce Mackey continues to yell and scream at DeMarcus Jr to confess to the robbery, making DeMarcs Jr believe the best option was to plead guilty and pay a fine.
Officer Mackey’s suspicion of DeMarcus Jr grew when a fellow officer investigated the stolen insulin found in his possession. Upon further investigation, video surveillance footage of DeMarcus’ encounter at the CVS is revealed. With this new information, Officer Bruce Mackey is given enough reason to hold DeMarcus Jr in juvenile detention. By late afternoon, officers confirmed that DeMarcus Jr matched the description of the suspect in the theft incident at the pharmacy, shortly after questioning him for robbery. DeMarcus Jr was allowed a phone call and decided to contact Riley, where he learns about his grandmother and is unresponsive. Riley then leaves the hospital and rushes to the police precinct.
Public Defender Joseph Lee is assigned as DeMarcus’s legal defense. He advises DeMarcus Jr to plead guilty and face any penalty according to the law, but DeMarcus Jr objects. This Defender then quickly builds a case in favor of DeMarcus Jr where any evidence presented after the arrest was unlawful, yet still risking Demarcus’ immigration status.
Following DeMarcus’s arrest, Riley is notified he is in custody and is given news of Denise’s condition. Denise had suffered a stroke and is recovering in the ICU. Riley questions if Denise is in a stable enough condition to continue as DeMarcus’s sole legal guardian in the United States. Riley also questions if Denise has the resources to aid DeMarcus Jr in any further legal matters. In the rise of this unfortunate circumstance Riley voluntarily assigned herself as DeMarcus’s case manager, which was outside of her Division at the Department of Social Services. Fully aware of DeMarcus’s financial situation and the health condition of his grandmother, she meets with Attorney Lee, a long-time associate of hers, on behalf of the Jackson family.
After making contact with law enforcement, Riley noted glaring indications of poor conduct with the case. Although she was stunned by DeMarcus’ actions, which were in sharp contrast to what she had observed and experienced with him previously, she recalled that he had gradually been sharing less information about his life. Nevertheless, she feels compelled to intervene, and is thinking of becoming his temporary guardian while the court proceedings are underway.
Knowledge Begins Here…
The following resources will assist you in making meaning of classroom materials. We will look for depth of engagement as well as level of critical thinking and inquiry.
Competency #2: TBA
Competency #3: What is Justice? (Fania Davis)
Competency #3: The UN Agency for Children
Competency #5: Juvenile Interrogation Protection Act
Each student is expected to participate on the weekly discussion boards. Each competency of the week you will work with a small team to facilitate the discussion at the end of the week.
For the most part, instructors will partly take part in these discussions; however, they will reserve the right to join in the conversations.
- You will be evaluated on the consistency and quality of your posts to the weekly discussion board.
- Each student group must post at a minimum of 3 minute video highlighting your group’s answer via Instagram.