Skip to main content

Colombia: Texas teen mistakenly deported will be handed over to U.S. officials

By the CNN Wire Staff
January 6, 2012 -- Updated 0316 GMT (1116 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "I flipped out. I can't wait," the teen's grandmother says
  • Colombia's foreign ministry says the girl will be handed over to U.S. officials
  • She is a U.S. citizen but gave authorities a fake name
  • Her family had been looking for her since the fall of 2010

(CNN) -- Colombia is preparing to hand over to U.S. officials a Dallas teenager who was mistakenly deported after she ran away from home more than a year ago, the South American country's foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday night.

Jakadrien Turner will be turned over to diplomatic officials Friday so she can be transported to the United States, the statement said. But the foreign ministry did not say when -- or how -- that will happen.

The U.S. Embassy in Bogota is working with Colombian authorities but cannot provide additional details "due to privacy considerations," said a U.S. State Department official who asked to remain anonymous per department policy.

Jakadrien somehow wound up deported to Colombia after U.S. authorities mistook the girl, who lacked identification, for a Colombian national.

Family members said Thursday night that they were thrilled at the news that the 15-year-old would be returning home.

"It's a giant step. I'm relieved, but I won't be completely relieved until I get her in my arms again," the girl's mother, Johnisa Turner, said. "A weight has definitely been lifted."

Grandmother Lorene Turner said U.S. Embassy officials called with the news that her granddaughter would be turned over to U.S. officials.

"When I heard those words I didn't hear nothing else. I flipped out. I can't wait," she said.

But Jakadrien's family was still demanding to know why immigration authorities deported the teen -- a U.S. citizen with no knowledge of Spanish -- and why they simply took her at her word when she gave them a fake name.

The teen's family had been searching for her since she ran away in the fall of 2010. Her grandmother scoured Facebook looking for the girl, viewing Jakadrien's friends' pages for any information.

"There's no words," Johnisa Turner told CNN of the ordeal. "It hasn't been easy at all."

The Colombian Institute for Family Welfare confirmed Thursday that Turner is in its custody, is pregnant, and entered the country as an adult. The institute said Colombian authorities learned about the case a month ago.

U.S. teen mistakenly deported to Colombia

After Jakadrien went missing, the family managed to track her to Houston, where she worked at a DJ club under a different name. They tried to get help from authorities there, to no avail.

Then, to the family's surprise, they learned their teenage daughter was in Colombia, partying with men and smoking marijuana. They later learned from a detective that Jakadrien was pregnant.

How Jakadrien got to Colombia is a mystery to the family. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency maintains she was arrested in Houston for theft and told them she was an adult from Colombia.

The agency says authorities believed her story because she maintained her false identity throughout the process. They handed her over to an immigration judge, who ordered her removed from the country.

"At no time during these criminal proceedings was her identity determined to be false," the agency says.

It says criminal database searches and biometric verification revealed no information to invalidate Jakadrien's claims.

The family's attorney, Ray Jackson, says it doesn't make sense.

"They dropped the ball," he said.

He says the immigration agency took Jakadrien's fingerprints but failed to match them to the name she gave. The name matched a woman wanted by Interpol, Jackson says, so they "shipped her on through."

The agency says it is taking the allegations very seriously and is "fully and immediately investigating the matter in order to expeditiously determine the facts of the case."

For months, family members said they frantically searched for signs of the missing teen.

Jakadrien had run away once before, two weeks earlier, her mother said, and Jakadrien told her the family didn't give her enough freedom. Her good grades at school had dropped off, something Turner blamed on the normal problems of teenagers. In addition, Jakadrien's grandfather, her mother's father, had recently died.

Turner said she contacted Dallas police, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Dallas transportation authorities. Nothing ever came of it, she said.

Grandmother Lorene Turner said she then started following Jakadrien's best friend on Facebook. She eventually tracked her granddaughter to Houston, where she worked at a club under the name Tika Cortez. Johnisa Turner said she saw Jakadrien's face on the marquee on her birthday.

"Oh my god," the mother said when she saw it. "Is this really happening? Is that my child?"

A picture on Cortez's Facebook page further confirmed for the family that the girl with the different name was their daughter. The picture had been taken of Jakadrien with her grandmother. Though her grandmother had been cut out of the picture, her hair still showed on the edge.

Her mother said she told Dallas authorities what she had found.

Then, Jakadrien's Facebook page suddenly said she was in Colombia. The family later learned she had been arrested in Houston for shoplifting, but they say they had no idea how she wound up in Colombia after the arrest.

The family's concerns grew when the detective told them that Jakadrien is pregnant, her mother said.

Johnisa Turner said she believes her daughter was coerced along the way, with someone promising her something that led her to maintain a fake story about who she is.

Jackson says he believes something more sinister is going on.

"There has to be something behind this 15-year-old girl ending up in Colombia, besides the fact that ICE dropped the ball," he said. "Of all the nicknames ... to pick one that's of Latino descent, for that to be a name that sticks and gets you deported, that doesn't make sense."

Pictures of Jakadrien in Colombia showed her sitting on men's laps smoking marijuana, her grandmother said. But Jakadrien, she said, seemed to be reaching out for help, listing on Facebook the names of everyone at parties, perhaps so she could be traced.

Jackson says he doesn't believe Jakadrien was trying to fake her way out of the country by using the false name throughout the process.

"I don't buy that she had the wherewithal to be able to bamboozle the government," Jackson says. "You know, kids are scared when they get around authorities. ... To think that you could bamboozle them to create a new identity, it just doesn't make sense."

Colombia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday that Jakadrien first arrived in Bogota after she was deported on May 23.

The ministry said it was investigating what sort of verification its consulate in Texas requested before giving the girl an expedited provisional passport as part of deportation proceedings, and how Jakadrien received work authorization for training at a call center as part of the government's "Welcome Home" program.

Attorneys with the program made a sworn declaration in front of a notary with "inexact information" that allowed her to receive work papers, the foreign ministry said.

"Those lawyers are no longer providing services to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," the statement said.

The teen was placed in a protection program by the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare on December 1 after officials learned of her situation, the foreign ministry said.

Ed Lavandera, Jorge Asdrubal Garcia Romero, Luis Carlos Velez and Nick Valencia contributed to this report for CNN.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT