The grandmother of a Dallas teen who was deported to Colombia said she hoped the 15-year-old could come back soon and that US officials should have done more to identify the girl after she gave a fake name and claimed to be an adult.
US immigration officials said they were investigating the circumstances of the case involving Jakadrien Lorece Turner, but that they followed procedure and found nothing to indicate she was not who she claimed to be — an illegal immigrant from Colombia.
The girl, who ran away from home more than a year ago, was recently found in Bogota, Colombia, by the Dallas Police Department, with help from Colombian and US officials.
The Colombian government said the US embassy on Thursday submitted the necessary documents for Jakadrien to return, but it was not clear exactly when she might be back in the US.
US immigration officials deferred questions about when the teen might return to the US Department of State, which said it was aware of the case, but declined to comment further, citing privacy reasons.
According to the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the girl was enrolled in the country’s “Welcome Home” program after she arrived there. She was given shelter, psychological assistance and a job at a call center, a statement from the agency said. When the Colombian government discovered she was a US citizen, it put her under the care of a welfare program, the statement said.
Her grandmother, Dallas hairstylist Lorene Turner, called the deportation a “big mistake -somebody made” and said US officials need to do better.
“She looks like a kid, she acts like a kid. How could they think she wasn’t a kid?” Lorene Turner asked on Thursday.
Jakadrien’s family said she left home in November 2010. Houston police said the girl was arrested on April 2 last year for misdemeanor theft in that city and claimed to be Tika Lanay Cortez, a Colombian woman born in 1990.
A US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official said on Thursday that the teen claimed to be Cortez throughout the criminal proceedings in Houston and the ensuing deportation process, in which an immigration judge ultimately ordered her back to Colombia.
The ICE official, speaking on condition of anonymity owing to not being authorized to discuss additional details of the case, said the teenager was interviewed by a representative from the Colombian consulate and that country’s government issued her a travel document to enter Colombia. The ICE official said standard procedure before any deportation is to coordinate with the other country to establish that person is from there.
The girl was given Colombian citizenship upon arriving there, the ICE official said.
The Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Jakadrien was issued travel documents at the request of the US National Security Agency and with information submitted by US officials. Colombian officials are investigating what kind of verification was conducted by its Houston consulate to issue the temporary passport.
It was not clear if the teen might be charged with falsifying her identity in a criminal process.
Dallas police detective C’mon Wingo, the detective in charge of the case, said that in August she was contacted by the girl’s grandmother, who said Jakadrien had posted “kind of disturbing” messages on a Facebook account, where she goes by yet another name.