Deported Dallas teen spending time with family

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on January 7, 2012 at 7:17 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 9 at 5:10 PM

DALLAS — The 15-year-old Dallas girl who was mistakenly deported to Colombia is finally back at home.

Jakadrien Turner spent her first full day with family members since 2010 Saturday at an undisclosed location.

The teen's family didn't return calls for comment on Saturday. No one answered the door at her grandmother's house.

Jakadrien's attorney said the teenager is adjusting to life back in Dallas after spending eight months living in South America.

Exclusive video obtained by News 8 showed the runaway hugging her family in a private area at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport late Friday night. She emerged from the gate with her mother and grandmother shortly before 10 p.m.

"We're eager to get to the next step, and that is to make the people responsible pay for the civil rights violations Ms. Turner has had to go through," said Jakadrien's attorney, Ray Jackson.

Her family is questioning why U.S. officials didn't do more to verify her identity before she was sent overseas. Her grandmother, Lorene Turner, told News 8 earlier this week that the teen didn't speak Spanish and had no ties to Colombia.

"They didn't do their work," Turner said. "How do you deport a teenager and send her to Colombia without a passport... without anything?"

News 8 first broke the story about the missing teenage runaway who was mistakenly deported. Jakadrien's family said she ran away from her Oak Cliff home in November 2010 after her parents divorced and her grandfather died.

Her grandmother recently discovered the teen was in Colombia after searching tirelessly on the Internet.

"It was worth it," Turner said after she heard her granddaughter would be returning to Dallas. "All the wrinkles under my eyes, it was worth it! I look 80, but it's all right!"

Authorities deported Jakadrien in May 2010 after she was arrested for shoplifting in Houston. U.S. officials said Jakadrien gave police a fake name, Tika Lanay Cortez, and repeatedly claimed during lengthy interviews that she was a 21-year-old woman from Colombia.

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. A sheriff's office employee recommended that an immigration detainer be put on her, and upon 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 United States.

An ICE official said the teen claimed to be Tika Cortez throughout the criminal proceedings in Houston and the ensuing deportation process, in which an immigration judge ultimately ordered her back to Colombia.

Immigration experts say the system puts a lot of emphasis on the assumption people don't want to be deported.

"If they lie through the process, this kind of thing can happen," said Dallas-based immigration attorney Michelle Scopellite, who is not connected to the case. "If there's no fingerprints, no pictures, no records, it’s the person’s word."

It is unclear if the fake name Jakadrien provided, Tika Cortez, was associated with any database that had fingerprints attached. If so, the teen's prints clearly would not have matched.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) has asked for a full investigation. "The question has to be asked: 'How did it happen?'" Lee said. "The reason we have to ask that is: Are there any others?"

Once deported, Jakadrien Turner was given Colombian citizenship and enrolled in the country’s "Welcome Home" program. She was provided with shelter, psychological assistance, and a job at a call center, according to a statement from the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"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.

Facebook postings show Jakadrien was adjusting to her new life. Photos show her eating out with friends. She even said she had a boyfriend and her family says she is now pregnant.

Stephen Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell Law School, said hundreds of U.S. citizens are wrongfully detained or deported each year.

"There are a variety of legitimate reasons why somebody might not appear to be a U.S. citizen at first glance," he said. "It's the duty of the U.S. federal immigration agency to make sure that we do not detain and deport U.S. citizens erroneously. And this, unfortunately, happened in this case."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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