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American teen mistakenly deported to Colombia returns to Texas

By the CNN Wire Staff
January 7, 2012 -- Updated 1104 GMT (1904 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jakadrien Turner, 15, returned to Texas on a flight Friday evening
  • She was the last person off the plane and was met by police
  • U.S. authorities mistook the girl, who lacked identification, for a Colombian national

(CNN) -- Jakadrien Turner has arrived back in Texas, eight months after she was mistakenly deported to Colombia, the pilot and a flight attendant on a Dallas-bound flight told CNN.

The 15-year-old girl was the last person off the plane Friday evening, according to CNN's Jason Morris, who was on the flight. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport police officers escorted her off the aircraft.

Turner wound up being deported to Bogota, Colombia, in May 2011 after U.S. authorities last year mistook the girl, an apparent teenage runaway who lacked identification, for a Colombian national.

The Colombian Institute for Family Welfare confirmed Thursday that Turner was then in its custody, is pregnant and entered the country as an adult. The institute said that Colombian authorities learned a month ago that this female may in fact be a 15-year-old American citizen, after which she was placed in a protection program there.

She left Colombia at 10:30 a.m. Friday, according to U.S. State Department spokesman William Ostick, who noted that the U.S. Embassy in Bogota worked closely with Colombian officials as well as authorities in Texas to bring Turner's case to a resolution.

The girl who called herself Tika Cortez

Deported runaway to return to U.S.
Colombia to hand over deported teen
U.S. teen mistakenly deported to Colombia

"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 said. "A weight has definitely been lifted."

Johnisa Turner has not yet talked with her daughter, who ran away from home in the fall of 2010, but said she is relieved to know she is located. So, too, is the girl's grandmother Lorene Turner, who 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.

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

They later learned she was in Colombia, partying and smoking marijuana, and a detective told them she was pregnant.

Jakadrien's family is 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 family's attorney, Ray Jackson, told CNN on Friday the family believes the girl's civil rights were violated when authorities allowed her to be deported. He said that lawsuits against the agencies who dealt with her case are in the works, he said.

"Somewhere the ball was dropped," Jackson said.

The U.S. 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 her claims.

Jackson says it doesn't make sense, explaining that the immigration agency took her fingerprints but failed to match them to the name she gave.

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."

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

Her family's lawyer says he doesn't believe that the girl was trying to fake her way out of the United States by adopting a false identity 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 foreign ministry said Thursday 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, as well as how she got 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 pointing to "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.

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

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