Deported teen masqueraded as immigrant, became Colombian citizen
U.S. Immigration officials said they were investigating the case of Jakadrien Lorece Turner, who ran away from her Texas home more than a year ago -- and was deported to Bogota. Turner was recently found there by Dallas police with the help of Colombian and U.S. investigators.
Turner was to leave Bogota on Friday and fly home. No other details were immediately available, according to an official from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“ICE is facilitating her return to the United States in coordination with the U.S. Department of State and local authorities,” Barbara Gonzalez, media secretary for the immigration agency said in a telephone interview from Washington. She gave no other details.
The Turner case has ignited a furor over how a 15-year-old could be deported, even if she claimed a false identity. In media interviews, her relatives have said that officials should have done more to make sure of the identity.
Her family has said that Turner left home in November 2010. Houston police have said she was arrested for misdemeanor theft and claimed to be a Colombian national.
ICE said it has confirmed those facts, but insists it followed procedure in such cases.
“Preliminary information suggests that after being arrested on state charges for theft by the Houston Police Department, the minor provided a false identity, representing that she was an adult from Colombia with no legal status in the U.S.,” according to an ICE statement of the case. “She maintained this false identity throughout her local criminal proceedings in Texas where she was represented by a defense attorney and ultimately convicted by the State criminal court.
“At no time during these criminal proceedings was her identity determined to be false,” ICE notes.
“Upon her conviction, she was referred to ICE where she continued to maintain a false identity during immigration court proceedings. As is standard protocol, criminal database searches and biometric verification were conducted and revealed no information to invalidate her claims. She was ultimately ordered removed from the U.S. by a Department of Justice immigration judge.”
After arriving in Colombia, the girl was given Colombian citizenship, according to ICE.
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, the agency said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press.
When the Colombian government discovered she was a U.S. citizen, it put her under the care of a welfare program, the statement said.
-- Michael Muskal
Photo: Jakadrien Lorece Turner ran away more than a year ago, her family said. Immigration officials say they're investigating the circumstances under which Turner was deported to Colombia after providing a false identity. Credit: Associated Press / WFAA-TV