Colombian officials had a change of heart and have now released 15-year-old Jakadrien Lorece Turner, the Dallas teenager who was mistakenly deported to the country after she ran away from home in November 2010.
No concrete explanation has been given as to how the non-Spanish-speaking African American girl was sent to the country, regardless of her claim to be Tika Lanay Cortez, a Colombian woman born in 1990.
Houston police said in a statement that the name was run through a database to determine if Tika was wanted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) but the results were negative. She was then turned over to the Harris County jail and booked on a 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 then recommended that an immigration detainer be put on her, and upon her release from jail she was turned over to ICE. According to U.S. immigration officials, they followed procedure and found nothing to indicate that the girl wasn’t a Colombian woman living illegally in the country.
“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.
An ICE official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Jakadrien was interviewed by a representative from the Colombian consulate and that the country’s government issued her a travel document to enter Colombia and she was given Colombian citizenship when she arrived. According to the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jakadrien was enrolled in the country’s “Welcome Home” program where she was given shelter, psychological assistance, and a job at a call center.
Since her return, Jakadrien hasn’t said much about her experience, but according to an attorney for the family, “She’s happy to be home.”
As outrageous as this story sounds, Stephen Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell Law School, said it’s not all that uncommon.
“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.”
According to Jakadrien’s family, they simply plan to “do what we can to make sure she gets back to a normal life,” while their attorney pursues answers as to how this incident occurred.
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