'Excited' family awaits return of runaway teen from Colombia
A 15-year-old Texas girl deported to Colombia in May after reportedly concocting a fake identity was headed back to the United States on Friday -- with her family anxiously awaiting her arrival, according to staff at her family's lawyer's office in Dallas.
Jakadrien Lorece Turner left Colombia on Friday and was on a flight to Dallas expected to arrive at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport about 7 p.m., according to staff at the office of Dallas lawyer Ray Jackson.
Office staff were in contact with the girl through the U.S. Embassy in Bogota early Friday, and learned she was eager to reunite with her family.
The feeling is mutual, according to Jackson's staff.
"They just want to hold her," paralegal Crystal Cienfuegos said.
The girl's mother, Johnisa Turner, told the Associated Press she'll be meeting her daughter when she arrives in Dallas and said she has "a gazillion questions" for Jakadrien.
"I am very excited," Turner told the Associated Press. "I feel like a weight has been lifted. But at the same time, I won't just feel really, really good until I'm able to touch her."
Jakadrien's family has questioned why U.S. officials didn't do more to verify her identity, but U.S. immigration officials insist there was no sign the girl wasn't a Colombian woman who had immigrated illegally.
The teen ran away from home more than a year ago. When she was arrested in Houston on April 2, 2011, in connection with a misdemeanor theft, she reportedly claimed to be Tika Lanay Cortez, a Colombian woman born in 1990 -- an identity that turned out to be fabricated.
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official told The Times 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.
"Never during that criminal proceeding did she purport to be someone else, or say she was a U.S. citizen," said Barbara Gonzalez, an ICE spokeswoman. "There was nothing to invalidate her claim. This is someone who’s under oath in a criminal proceeding. The criminal justice system did not know she was a minor."
Gonzalez noted that a Colombian consular official interviewed Jakadrien and issued her travel documents before she was deported.
"The U.S. cannot deport someone without a country issuing travel documents,” Gonzalez said.
The Colombian consulate in Houston did not return calls about the case Friday.
Gonzalez said ICE worked with the U.S. State Department to facilitate Jakadrien's return home.
It was not clear if the teen might be charged upon her return in connection with falsifying identity in a criminal process.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston
Photo: Jakadrien Lorece Turner, a Texas teen who ran away more than a year ago, posed as a Colombian illegal immigrant and was deported. She was located in Bogota last month by Dallas police, with help from Colombian and U.S. officials, and due home late Friday. Credit: WFAA-TV/Associated Press.