The troubled 15-year-old girl who was “accidentally” deported to Colombia last year is now safe at home in Texas with her mother and grandmother as of Friday night (Jan 6), the Associated Press reports.
Jakadrien Turner reportedly arrived in Dallas via the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport last night shortly before 10 pm and was escorted through the international gate by her grandmother Lorene Turner and her mother Johnisa Turner.
“She’s happy to be home,” the family’s attorney Ray Jackson said, adding that the family was “ecstatic” to have Jakadrien back in Texas so that they can “do what we can to make sure she gets back to a normal life.”
Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin said that contrary to numerous reports in the media, Jakadrien, who is 5 months pregnant, was living at a home for expectant mothers in Bogoto, Colombia, and not being held in a foreign prison.
Jakadrien was accidentally deported to Colombia in April 2011 when she was 14 years old after she gave Houston police a fake name following an arrest for shoplifting.
The name she gave to police, Tika Lanay Cortez, apparently belonged to a Colombian woman who was in the United States illegally, and had multiple warrants out for her arrest.
Immigration experts admit that while cases of mistaken identity are rare, people can slip through the cracks, especially if they don’t have legal help or family members working on their behalf, which is very similar to Jakadrien’s situation.
Still, the question remains as how to how immigration officials allowed a 14-year-old American girl to be briskly shipped off to a foreign country.
Houston police said in a statement that her name was run through a database to determine if she was wanted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement but the results were negative. She was then turned over to the Harris County jail and booked on the theft charge.
The county sheriff’s office said it ran her through the available databases and did the interviews necessary to establish her identity and immigration status in the country, with negative results. A sheriff’s office employee recommended that an immigration detainer be put on her, and upon her release from jail she was turned over to ICE.
U.S. immigration officials insist they followed procedure and found nothing to indicate that the girl wasn’t a Colombian woman living illegally in the country.
An ICE official said 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.
Standard procedure before any deportation is to coordinate with the other country in order to establish that person is from there, the ICE official said.
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.
Jakadrien was issued travel documents at the request of U.S. officials using information they provided, the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. Colombian officials are investigating what kind of verification was conducted by its Houston consulate to issue the temporary passport.
The girl was given Colombian citizenship upon arriving in that country, the ICE official said.
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.
“If she looked like an adult, and she told them she was a 21-year-old Colombian citizen, and she didn’t show up in their databases, this was inevitable,” said Albert Armendariz, an immigration attorney from El Paso.
Jakadrien’s family says they have no idea why she ended up in Colombia. Johnisa Turner said the girl is a U.S. citizen who was born in Dallas and was not fluent in Spanish. She said neither she nor the teen’s father had ties to Colombia. Jakadrien’s grandmother, Lorene Turner, called the deportation a “big mistake somebody made.”