Colombia to hand over American teen mistakenly deported


Has No Life - Lives on TB
By the CNN Wire Staff
January 6, 2012

Family members say they are thrilled the 15-year-old will be returning home
U.S. authorities mistook the girl, who lacked identification, for a Colombian national.

A Dallas teen mistakenly deported to Colombia after she ran away from home in 2010 will be handed over to U.S. diplomatic officials Friday, authorities said.
Jakadrien Turner wound up deported to Colombia after U.S. authorities mistook the girl, who lacked identification, for a Colombian national.

In a statement Thursday, Colombia's foreign ministry said it planned to hand her over to diplomatic officials so she can be transported back home, but did not say how it will happen.

The U.S. Embassy in Bogota is working with Colombian authorities, but cannot provide additional details "due to privacy considerations," said a U.S. State Department official who asked to remain anonymous per department policy.
Family members are thrilled the 15-year-old would be returning home.

"It's a giant step. I'm relieved, but I won't be completely relieved until I get her in my arms again," her mother, Johnisa Turner, said. "A weight has definitely been lifted."

Grandmother Lorene Turner said U.S. Embassy officials called with the news that her granddaughter would be turned over to U.S. officials.

"When I heard those words I didn't hear nothing else. I flipped out. I can't wait," she said.

But the teen's family was still demanding to know why immigration authorities deported the teen -- a U.S. citizen with no knowledge of Spanish -- and why they simply took her at her word when she gave them a fake name.

The teen's family had been searching for her since she ran away in the fall of 2010. Her grandmother scoured Facebook looking for her friends' pages for any information.

"There's no words," her mother said. "It hasn't been easy at all."

The Colombian Institute for Family Welfare confirmed Thursday that Turner is in its custody, is pregnant and entered the country as an adult. The institute said Colombian authorities learned about the case a month ago.

After she went missing, the family tracked her to Houston, where she worked at a DJ club under a different name. They tried to get help from authorities there, to no avail.

They later learned she was in Colombia, partying and smoking marijuana. They later learned from a detective that she was pregnant.

How she got to Colombia is a mystery to the family. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency maintains she was arrested in Houston for theft and told them she was an adult from Colombia.

The agency says authorities believed her story because she maintained her false identity throughout the process. They handed her over to an immigration judge, who ordered her removed from the country.

"At no time during these criminal proceedings was her identity determined to be false," the agency says.

It says criminal database searches and biometric verification revealed no information to invalidate her claims.

The family's attorney, Ray Jackson, says it doesn't make sense.
"They dropped the ball," he said.

He says the immigration agency took her fingerprints but failed to match them to the name she gave. The name matched a woman wanted by Interpol, Jackson says, so they "shipped her on through."

The agency says it is taking the allegations very seriously and is "fully and immediately investigating the matter in order to expeditiously determine the facts of the case."

Pictures of the teen in Colombia showed her sitting on men's laps smoking marijuana, her grandmother said. But she appeared to be reaching out for help, she said, listing on Facebook the names of everyone at parties, perhaps so she could be traced.

Jackson says he doesn't believe she was trying to fake her way out of the country by using the false name throughout the process.

"I don't buy that she had the wherewithal to be able to bamboozle the government," Jackson says. "You know, kids are scared when they get around authorities. ... To think that you could bamboozle them to create a new identity, it just doesn't make sense."

Colombia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday that she first arrived in Bogota after she was deported on May 23.

The ministry said it was investigating what sort of verification its consulate in Texas requested before giving the girl an expedited provisional passport as part of deportation proceedings, and how she received work authorization for training at a call center as part of the government's "Welcome Home" program.

Attorneys with the program made a sworn declaration in front of a notary with "inexact information" that allowed her to receive work papers, the foreign ministry said.

"Those lawyers are no longer providing services to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," the statement said.

The teen was placed in a protection program by the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare on December 1 after officials learned of her situation, the foreign ministry said.