U.S. teen deported to Colombia may return soon

Jakadrien Turner KHOU

EL PASO, Texas — The grandmother of a 15-year-old U.S. girl who was deported to Colombia after giving immigration officials a fake name is asking why officials didn't do more to verify her identify.

U.S. immigration officials said they're investigating the circumstances of the case involving Jakadrien Lorece Turner. But they insist they followed procedure and found nothing to indicate that the girl wasn't — as she claimed — a woman from Colombia illegally living in the U.S.

The girl, who ran away from home more than a year ago, was recently found in Bogota, Colombia, by the Dallas Police Department with help from Colombian and U.S. officials.

The Colombian government said late Thursday that the U.S. Embassy had submitted the necessary documents for Jakadrien to return to the U.S, though it was unclear when she might be back.

Her grandmother, Lorene Turner, said she's hoping Jakadrien will soon be home.

U.S. immigration officials deferred questions to the State Department about when the teen might return. The State Department said it was aware of the case but declined to comment further, citing privacy reasons.

According to the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the girl was enrolled in the country's "Welcome Home" program after she arrived. She was given shelter, psychological assistance and a job at a call center, a statement from the agency said. When the Colombian government discovered she was a U.S. citizen, it put her under the care of a welfare program, the statement said.

Her grandmother called the deportation a "big mistake somebody made" and said U.S. officials need to do better.

"She looks like a kid, she acts like a kid. How could they think she wasn't a kid?" Lorene Turner asked Thursday.

Jakadrien's family said she left home in November 2010. Houston police said the girl was arrested on April 2, 2011, for misdemeanor theft in that city and claimed to be Tika Lanay Cortez, a Colombian woman born in 1990.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday that the teen claimed to be Cortez throughout the criminal proceedings and the ensuing deportation process, in which an immigration judge ultimately ordered her back to Colombia.

The ICE official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to not being authorized to discuss additional details of the case, said the teenager was interviewed by a representative from the Colombian consulate and that country's government issued her a travel document to enter Colombia. The ICE official said standard procedure before any deportation is to coordinate with the other country in order to establish that person is from there.

The girl was given Colombian citizenship upon arriving there, the ICE official said.

The Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Jakadrien was issued travel documents at the request of the U.S. National Security Agency and with information submitted by U.S. officials. Colombian officials are investigating what kind of verification was conducted by its Houston consulate to issue the temporary passport.

It was not clear if the teen might be charged upon her return for falsifying her identity in a criminal process.

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