Mistakenly deported U.S. teen gets closer to home

Jakadrien Turner

EL PASO, Texas — A 15-year-old Texas girl who was deported in May to South America after claiming to be an illegal immigrant will return home Friday, a Colombian official said.

The high-level official in the ministry of foreign affairs in Colombia who spoke on condition of anonymity because ministry policy does not allow employees to be quoted by name told The Associated Press that Jakadrien Lorece Turner was turned over to the U.S. embassy Friday morning and was scheduled to leave Colombia quickly.

It was unclear where she was heading. The State Department did not comment, and immigration officials did not immediately return messages. Turner's mother, grandmother and their lawyer did not answer calls.

The girl's family has questioned why U.S. officials didn't do more to verify her identify.

U.S. teen deported to Colombia may return soon

U.S. immigration officials have said they were investigating, but 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 teen, 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.

According to the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the girl was enrolled in the country's "Welcome Home" program after she arrived there. 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, Dallas hairstylist Lorene Turner, 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 on 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 in Houston 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.