EL PASO, Texas— The grandmother of a 15-year-old Dallas girl who was deported to Colombia after giving immigration officials a fake name is questioning why U.S. officials didn’t do more to verify her identify.
U.S. immigration officials said they’re investigating the circumstances of the case involving Jakadrien Lorece Turner. But they insist they followed procedure and found nothing to indicate that the girl wasn’t — as she claimed — a woman from Colombia illegally living in the U.S.
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 U.S. officials.
The Colombian government said late Thursday that the U.S. Embassy had submitted the necessary documents for Jakadrien to return to the U.S, though it was unclear exactly when she might be back.
Her grandmother, Dallas hairstylist Lorene Turner, said she’s hoping Jakadrien will soon be home.
U.S. immigration officials deferred questions to the State Department about when the teen might return. The State Department 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 U.S. citizen, it put her under the care of a welfare program, the statement said.
Her grandmother called the deportation a “big mistake somebody made” and said U.S. 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, 2011, for misdemeanor theft in that city and claimed to be Tika Lanay Cortez, a Colombian woman born in 1990.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement official told The Associated Press 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 due 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 in order 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 U.S. National Security Agency and with information submitted by U.S. 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 upon her return for falsifying her identity in a criminal process.
Dallas Police detective C’mon (pronounced Simone) Wingo, the detective in charge of the case, explained 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.
Wingo said the girl was located in early November through her use of a computer to log into Facebook. Relatives were then put into contact with the U.S. Embassy in Bogota to provide pictures and documents to prove Jakadrien’s identity.
Lorene Turner said she has spent a lot of time tracking down Jakadrien, whose family nickname is Kay-Kay.
“In between customers I’d get on the computer looking for Kay-Kay, I was obsessed,” she said.
She and the teen’s mother, Johnisa Turner, said they did not contact Jakadrien through Facebook and plead for her to come home because they were afraid.
“I didn’t want to scare her or get her in trouble with those who had her,” Lorene Turner said, adding that she feared the girl might have been caught up in human trafficking. “I don’t know. I’m just going crazy. She didn’t have any reason to leave. She lived in a nice home (with her mother and stepfather). We were very close. I don’t know why she left.”
Johnisa Turner was reluctant to go into any details about the deportation, saying she didn’t know anything. She referred calls to her attorney, Ray Jackson, but he could not be immediately reached.
“I was devastated,” she said. “When your child doesn’t come home from school, of course you go to the worst end of the spectrum. I was just hoping that she was alive and well.”
Johnisa Turner said her daughter, a freshman at a new Dallas high school, was experimenting with different hairstyles and clothes but “wasn’t a problem kid.” She said the teen was a good student but when her grades began to slip, her parents took away some of her privileges, including closing down her Facebook account and limiting the time she could listen to music.
Johnisa Turner said she was relieved that Jakadrien has been found and wants her back in Dallas.
“Whatever it is, the past is in the past. I want her home so we can move from this day forward.”