A 15-year-old Texas girl is back home this weekend after she was mistakenly deported to Colombia more than eight months ago.
Jakadrien Lorece Turner, who is pregnant, arrived in Dallas late Friday night, and was met at the airport by her mother and grandmother. She was deported to Colombia after she was arrested in April and claimed to be an illegal immigrant from the South American country.
In fact, Turner does not speak fluent Spanish and has no connection to Colombia.
Turner did not speak to reporters upon her arrival at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. However, the Turner family’s lawyer, Ray Jackson, said they are “ecstatic” to have the teen back home.
“She’s happy to be home,” Jackson said.
He added that they plan to “do what we can to make sure she gets back to a normal life.”
Turner’s ordeal began in November of 2010, when she ran away from home amid the emotional turbulence of her grandfather’s death and her parents’ divorce. On April 2, 2011, she was arrested in Houston on a misdemeanour theft charge, and told police her name was Tika Lanay Cortez, a 21-year-old from Colombia.
In a statement, Houston police said the name was checked in a database to determine whether she was wanted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but the search came back negative. The teen was then booked on the theft charge.
According to the county sheriff’s office, officials followed all necessary protocols to confirm the teen’s identity, but all results were negative. She was turned over to ICE on an immigration detainer at the suggestion of a sheriff’s office employee.
Officials at ICE claim the girl maintained that she was Cortez throughout both her dealings with Houston police and with immigration officials, and was ordered deported by a judge.
An ICE official who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press that the teen was interviewed by a representative at the Colombian consulate and was issued Colombian travel documents.
Colombian officials say the documents were issued based on information provided by U.S. authorities. They are now confirming how officials at the Houston consulate verified the information about Turner.
The Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Turner was placed in the country’s “Welcome Home” program, and was provided with shelter and medical help. She then landed a job at a call centre.
The girl posted a status update to Facebook about her new life, which caught the eye of her grandmother, who had been actively searching for her granddaughter for months.
The girl’s mother said Turner is a U.S. citizen who was born in Dallas. Johnisa Turner said neither she nor her daughter’s father have any connection with Colombia.
Despite her granddaughter’s successful attempt to flee the U.S., Lorene Turner said she’s “not mad” at the girl.
“I love her,” Turner said. “And children make mistakes.”